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Meet Chris Gongora of Chris Gongora in Highland Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Gongora.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The way I look at it, there are three events that really helped shape what I am doing now with my life. The first happened when I was seven years old. It was around that age that I told my parents that I wanted to be an actor. My folks tried to figure out exactly how to go about doing that but they didn’t really know. I didn’t know that they started looking into it. Apparently to 7 year old me, they weren’t taking my request seriously so I went up to them again, frustrated, and said that if they weren’t gonna help me, that I’d have to find an agent myself. To this day I don’t know what that spark was that initiated my interest in acting. Hell, I’m not even sure how I knew that actors have agents. My parents, ever supportive, found a local theater group and signed me up. My first role was Peter from the Diary of Anne Frank. From there I was a dwarf from Snow White and then Hansel from Hansel and Gretel. The entertainment bug took a big ass bite out of me and there was no cure. My folks placed me in a bunch of classes ranging from acting, piano, guitar, and dance. That moment of wanting to become an actor led me to want to perform which led me to explore other creative art forms, which is what I’m still doing to this day.

The second event happened when I was 11 years old. My dad, out-of-the-blue, took me to the Hollywood Magic Store and told me that I could get one trick. The magician behind the counter showed me a few things including a sponge ball routine. Basically, the magician can manipulate a few red sponge balls so that they appear and vanish seemingly at the will of the magician. They even transport to the spectator’s hand. I was floored! That’s the trick that I wanted. The guy working there told me that the sponge balls were not for beginners and suggested I get something else. That’s all I needed to hear. I asked my dad if he could buy me the sponge balls that day. He did and for a week straight I was in my room, constantly working on the sponge ball moves and techniques. I finally showed my folks and was able to fool them. Side note: you may see a reoccurring theme throughout all these stories – supportive parents. I have two of the most supportive, loving, and caring parents that a child could ask for (my dad passed away from cancer in 2004 but my amazing mom is still here). Anything that I wanted to try and anything that I wanted to do, they were 100% behind me. My biggest cheerleaders! With all that support from the two most important people in my life, I really felt like I could do anything. Anyway, once I was able to fool my folks, I was a sponge. I read magic books. I practiced. I came up with routines. At the age of 13, I auditioned for the World Famous Magic Castle Junior Group. It was Hogwarts before Hogwarts was even written about: a place for young magicians to get together and study the craft of prestidigitation. I was accepted. It was there that I met a fellow junior magician by the name of Enrico de le Vega. While still junior members, Rico and I formed “Magic X”, which was a collective of young magicians looking to push magic forward. It was basically all of our friends in the group. We’ve done a lot of awesome things with Magic X including getting booked at one of the early Coachellas and selling two television shows that featured the group to NBC and MTV. To this day I’m still performing magic, consulting, and creating and developing both television concepts and live shows. I’m in the process right now of starting my own business in the world of Children’s Entertainment and I can trace all of this to that first visit to the Magic Store.

The last event that helped shape what I am doing now happened in High School. I went to the LA County High School for the Arts. It was basically like the movie “Fame”, a bunch of high schoolers that either excelled in Acting, Music, Dance or Visual Arts. It was pretty inspiring. Going to school every day and getting to create with kids your age, all with something in common was amazing. I went to school for acting but it was there that I was inspired to start a band. I had played music starting in the 3rd grade when I took sax lessons. I had also taken piano and guitar lessons as well but it was High School that really made me want to take it seriously. There were so many fantastic musicians at the school that was starting their own bands and they were astounding. Out of all those amazing musicians that were there and there were a lot, I got a group of actors together and we started a band. I was the bass player. I was the opposite of good but over the next three years, I improved and so did the group. That little high school band ended up playing all over town, and some of the members are now in pretty successful music projects. Out of everything that I do, I enjoy playing music the best. I’m in two projects right now. One is called Ward, a high-energy rock and roll band that loves playing live, making videos, and recording. We’ll be doing a lot of shows in the future, so definitely be on the lookout. The other is Strangely Attractive which kind of takes a lot of what I do (music, magic, variety arts) and puts them all into one night of all-around entertainment. It’s like a rock and roll circus. We put on monthly events (the third Thursday of every month) at a place called Mal’s Bar which is in between DTLA and USC. My love for playing music can be traced back to my LACHSA days and starting that high school band.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been anything but smooth. Anybody in the entertainment industry knows that rejection is just the nature of the beast. I’ve heard more “noes” than “yesses”. I have way too many “what ifs”, “almosts”, and “close calls”. Auditions where it’s between me and another guy and they choose the other guy. I even went into a network pitch meeting on a project that they passed on and a year later, I re-pitched the project because I had a pretty big production company behind me this time, and in the room the network execs told me that they remembered me pitching the project because according to them, they took my idea, made it better, and then brought in a team that they wanted to work with. To this day, I can’t believe they told me that in the room. Each one of these stories has definitely tested my will but also made me stronger. I’ve always liked that drawing of the guy who’s digging for treasure. He’s dug such a big hole but gives up and walks away. You can see though, if he would have kept digging just a couple of inches deeper, the treasure would have been his. That pic reminds me not to quit. I know if I do, tomorrow is when I will hear that one big “yes!” It’s also why I try to do things on my own where you don’t have to wait for anybody. The business I’m starting, the live shows I put together, the short movies that I make all don’t require another person to give me permission to do them. The only requirement for those projects is me getting off my ass and getting them done.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Chris Gongora – what should we know?
Everything that I do either falls underperforming or producing. As a performer I’ve been on many different stages (rock clubs, TV sets, theaters, the Magic Castle, hell, even on the streets) doing many different things (jumping around with a bass strapped to my neck, playing a young thug on General Hospital, performing Shakespeare, producing 50 live flies from my mouth). I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities present themselves but I’m most proud of the opportunities that I’ve had to create myself, which leads me to the producing side of things. As a producer, I love the idea of making something that wasn’t here before. The TV shows that I’ve created, the live shows that I put together, the children’s business that I’m starting were all just little ideas that had to be brought into existence. What do I do? What do I specialize in? I am a performer. I am a producer. I am a creative.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
For me, a quality that is important to success is the confidence in yourself to start an idea and the determination to see that idea taken from start to finish. The road from taking a concept in your mind and turning it into something tangible is not an easy journey. All the obstacles that get in your way, all the unforeseen bumps in the road, all the sleepless nights and stress-filled days can sometimes make you question your sanity but it’s all that stuff along the way, the highs and the lows, that make reaching your goal all the sweeter. I think this little story exemplifies what I mean – one of the things that my buddy Rico and I wanted to do with Magic X made a TV show. We didn’t know the first thing about how to go about doing something like that. We didn’t have an agent. We had no real connections. All we had was an idea and a determination to get it on the small screen. We asked the family if they knew of anybody that could lead us in the right direction. We asked friends. We talked to random people at parties. No luck. We thought about giving up. Finally one day, a friend had a friend that was doing some stuff in TV. He liked our concept. The first domino was about to fall. He had set up a meeting with an agent and along with many other concepts, he pitched our idea. The agent liked our concept. The agent introduced us to a small production company. They liked our concept. The agent set up a pitch week with all the major networks on the calendar. The first was NBC. Rico and I had never been to a network pitch meeting, so why not get our first one in at one of the major networks? We pitched our concept then we went to lunch. While we were eating our Bob’s Big Boys, we got a call. NBC wanted to buy our show. They were so serious that we ended up canceling our other pitches. After negotiating and signing contracts (a process that I dislike very much) it was pre-production, production, post, delivery. We had never produced a TV show before, so you can imagine all the highs and lows that we encountered making the show. We made a half an hour of television. It tested well so NBC wanted more. It was production all over again. We gave them another half an hour. The night that NBC aired our hour-long primetime special, we had a viewing party with the Magic X gang, the crew, our friends, and family. Watching my mom’s face that night is a highlight of my life. We had crossed the finish line and that little idea that was in our heads was now being watched by millions of viewers across the world. It took us years, but we saw a goal through from start to finish. I would call that a success.

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Image Credit:
Warren Difranco

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