30 August 2023

Checking in with David Merry and Switched at Death

We had the opportunity to check in with David Merry and learn more about his soon to be released film, Switched at Death.


Switched at Death movie poster


Who inspires you from outside the magic community?

I lived in Las Vegas in 1981 playing blackjack for a living, while I was there I went to see many comedians as that was what I truly loved when added to my magic. I saw Johhny Carson, Bob Hope, George Carlin and finally Don Rickles. Bob Hope, Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield had the biggest impacts on me. Eventually I went on to become a joke writer for Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. I wrote jokes for Leno at the Tonight Show but not enough to say I wrote for him. I also love Apollo Robbins known as the world’s best pickpocket. He came to me and asked me to write a bunch of material for him… he’s off the charts good!

What is your first memory of magic?

The very first recollection of any magic I have was at a birthday party I went to as a child and watched the amazing Johnny Giordmaine.

I can’t put an exact date on it but I would guess I was 7 or 8 years old. I was mesmerized instantly. After that a friend who was quite a card guy even at 13 showed me tricks he could do with an ordinary deck. He actually is our last mayor’s younger brother, Michael Tory. He became very accomplished, very early (he attended several Tannen’s Magic Camps) and that got me hooked on close-up. Not a lot of people know I’m a hard core close-up card guy! I took private lessons from Ariel Frailich, Howard Schwartzman, and Derek Dingle.

Who from the magic community inspires you?

Doing comedy magic I had two people I looked up to, one was The Amazing Johnathan and the other was Mac King. Both became friends over the years and I truly respected their work as comedy magic performers. The difficulty with comedy magic is the extremely fine (and hard) line that needs to be found that brings the two disciplines together. I spent many years trying to figure out a way to blend the two together without having one overpower the other. I never wanted to be a magician that started one trick and after finishing it implied OK here’s my next trick. My lifelong pursuit has been to understand the importance in the subtleties of transition between the two. I have only seen a handful of people who grasp the concept. Mike Hammer is a great practitioner today as are a few others. I take my hat off to anyone who has studied the difficult process. Ali Bongo was a good friend who was excellent and of course Terry Seabrooke.

Doug Henning obviously had a huge influence but I think the man who made me want to try doing it for a living the most was Peter Reveen. After watching him many times years ago at his Toronto run as a kid I realized that’s what I wanted to dedicate my life to.

You've previously been on screen as part of the show Too Much Information and served as director and EP for the TV show Off The Hozzle.  What prompted you to make the transition from live comedy magic to television?

I had an idea for a short comedy video and asked a friend of mine who was a producer and cameraman to help me shoot it. We shot the video, had it edited and I put it up on my newly formed YouTube channel. I went out to perform at a corporate event that night and worked in front of 300 people. A couple days later I checked out the views on the comedy video and 80,000 people had seen it. I feel like I was given the gift of laughter and after 35 years of making people laugh at live shows I thought I should try creating more on screen comedic content. I’m trying to make the world laugh and if I can do it on a greater scale and leave a body of work behind when I’m gone that would have a bit of a legacy. I took shooting courses, editing courses, writing courses and finally directing courses. I stopped reading books almost altogether as I had to watch how content was shot and ultimately brought to life. I opened my production company Home Invasion Studios Inc. the following year. One thing that I always did on my “road days” was make use of my waking hours. Some comics would get up at 11 am and not be diligent in writing or creating. While I worked on cruise ships for about 10 years and had so much spare time I wrote everyday. When I got off the boats I had written 9 feature films and pilots and bibles for 6 television shows which I am very proud of.


Switched At Death logline: After his wife kicks him out, a self-centered computer analyst moves into the retirement home of the only person he hasn't pissed-off, his wife's grandma. As he starts learning how to play well with others, he uncovers a sinister enterprise, forcing him to try and save his marriage and his new friends without getting himself killed.


The Switched At Death logline and synopsis suggest a wildly entertaining plot!  The screenplay was a finalist in at least four international film festivals and it won Best Screenplay at the 2019 Canadian International Film Festival.  Where did the story idea come from?

My writing partner on this project is the very funny prop comic Marty Putz, an old and dear friend. We have written several screenplays together and have another in the works. We were spitballing ideas on a phone call one day (he lives in LA) and he said to me ‘How about a young guy gets kicked out of the house and moves into an old folks home.” That’s all I needed to hear, I loved the idea! Over the next eight months (on and off of ships) I hacked out the first draft which was originally called Senior Management. When I was done I sent the draft to Marty as he had forgotten the original concept. He couldn’t believe I had written the screenplay. This would have been about 8 years ago which gives you an idea how long it takes for an idea to come to the screen. Over the next 6 years we tweaked, re-wrote and morphed that first draft into what is now our movie called Switched at Death. We sent it off to the Canadian International Film Festival in Vancouver and basically forgot about it. Out of the blue I got an email saying it had won the screenplay festival. Immediately I sent it to several others and it did so well at all of them (placing in all) some of which had 1400 scripts we realized we needed to make it. By then I had already shot my TV show Off The Hozzle on CBS and A Little Sketchy here in Canada that I reached out to my two partners and we raised the funds needed to shoot it! CMF came up big for us which is the TV arm of Telefilm Canada. I’d like to thank them for their support as it’s not an easy feat getting a movie made anywhere.




Are there similarities in the work of writing a screenplay and putting together a comedy magic stage routine?  

Absolutely. I would say the greatest similarities are format and of course creativity. They both have to be formed in a way that follows some format conventions but also have no outer boundaries. In both scenarios we are telling stories really. Both a screenplay and live show typically need a beginning, middle and end. In screenplay writing it’s a little more complex. You need to hit certain notes by a certain page. You need to state your theme of the movie in the first few pages, you typically need your inciting incident (quite often around page 8) that is the moment that puts the story in gear. Next in both live shows and movie writing is the “middle” part. Some say the typical structure for film writing is three stages some say five. In either case the middle is the meat and potatoes of the story, as well as your act. In movie writing you are expanding on the inciting incident and plot point one to take the viewers on the story “journey” which will eventually resolve the conflict or issue at the centre. The last stage is the resolution (again quite often with stage shows as well). I have three pieces in my show that I do in the middle of my show that are called back at the very end as the climax to the evening. When I landed on this my shows had way more impact!

Here’s a golden rule of script writing, “Show, don’t tell” in other words if you have successfully written and shot a movie, you should be able to watch the movie with the sound off and still understand what you’ve seen. If the entire script has very little action and is all descriptive dialogue, it isn’t typically very good story telling. Magic quite often is the same, certainly an act to music with no verbiage tells its story visually, however, someone who only describes the action of what they are doing usually doesn’t connect with their audience. Example, "here’s a ball that I’ll put under this cup, it will now move to this cup.” If the trick does just that, don’t describe what they are about to see as it’s bad “storytelling.” With an act like mine (comedy magic) I use a combination of visual and the written word. I am a joke writer so I need the verbal aspect firmly ingrained in the backbone of my act hopefully heightening the visual optics.



Principal photography wrapped March 31st.  Where are you in the production schedule?  Where and when will we be able to see the final product?

The first process was seeing a full linear version of my film edited by my amazing editor (the editor’s cut). I then step in as the writer and director to make the changes needed from a comedic timing and (scene take) choice. I have final choice as to every aspect of what will eventually be seen on screen as I wrote, produced, and directed it. It then went to be colour graded. When you shoot the film it’s shot on very expensive cameras that capture everything in 4 K. The files are huge but when you review the scenes shot daily (dailies) they look uncoloured and drab. That process was done and I now see the vibrant colouring! The music score is being done now (we need) 59 individual pieces of music and so far 52 have been written. The composer is a friend of mine who went to Alert NWT with me a hundred years ago performing on an Armed Forces tour. The audio is being mixed by audio engineers so the entire film’s dialogue, sound effects and foley are constant all the way through. We are doing ADR (automated dialogue replacement) with a few lines from some actors that were not perfect in playback on the "picture lock" final cut. After that the visual effects will be added and I’ll go into the studio to see the final cut. We will make last changes as needed and can start shopping the movie! We are looking at a release date of Aug 31st downtown at the Royal Theatre if everything goes well. Then it will be sent to distributors, film festivals, and streaming services for worldwide sales.




Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers about you or your film Switched at Death?

The movie took 15 days to shoot in and around Toronto. I had an amazing crew of 30 and an equally amazing cast of 45 talented actors. The web site is SwitchedAtDeath.com and I’ll send further details as they come in!

I have been green lit for my next film THE CAGE which is like the movie SAW. A nasty revenge type thriller that basically takes places in one location! More details to follow, should go to camera this fall or next spring!.



Thank you David, for making the time to answer our questions, and for giving us a peek into the fascinating world of filmmaking! 

To learn more about Switched at Death visit SwitchedAtDeath.com.

Learn more about David at his website DavidMerry.com and follow him on Instagram









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