Actor 101 – The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors

Actor 101 LogoHollywood Survival Guide Cover

The following is a review of the book The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors by Kym Jackson. It is billed as, “Your handbook for becoming a working actor in L.A.”

Here’s the TL;DR version: If you are an actor in Los Angeles or coming to Los Angeles you should own this book and read this book. In the 30+ years that I have been working in this business, this is, truly, one of the best books on being an actor in the modern entertainment industry I have ever read. I cannot give it a higher recommendation, it is brilliant!

Here’s the full review: When I started working professionally in the entertainment industry in 1985 things were very different from how they are now. First and foremost I was a child who was plucky, had done some amateur acting and wasn’t shy. I had a very supportive family and parents who were willing to do the leg work and driving. My dad was able to locate a reputable child manager who helped me get really good headshots and also referred me to one of the top agencies for children at the time. I had a charmed start to my professional career. I went on my first audition, to be the voice of Schroeder (the piano playing kid in the Peanuts cartoons) and booked it. Because I was small for my age, I was older to play younger for a long time, eventually playing a sixteen year old until I was well into my twenties. Because there were very few bumps on my road to early success I’m not sure that I had a real sense of just how tough this industry can be… until 2005.

In 2005 I was told, very plainly and without any malice, “I just can’t see you as a virgin anymore” by a casting director when I was auditioning to be what I had hoped would be another in a line of geeky teens that, until that moment, had been my bread and butter. In 2005 I went from “regularly working actor” to  “barely auditioning actor” and my relationship to the industry changed. I’ll be really open about this, I don’t think I was capable of appreciating how good I had it. I look back now on those first twenty years and they really were amazing! I don’t wanna’ rest on the laurels of an old resume, but I’m still very proud of what’s on my IMDb page even if most of it is over a decade old. But I took it for granted. Mistakes were made. It’s easy to slip into the old refrain of, “if I knew then what I know now…” but regrets never got anyone anywhere and the past is a terrible place to live. Since I didn’t have to struggle when I got started I was horribly ill equipped to get my acting career back on track.

Enter the producing years!

What does every actor want to do after they’ve been acting a while? The correct answer is “direct” but I never really connected to that so I decided to be a producer. The original goal was to make things that I could be in, after all why not cast yourself in the movies you make? For the first project I wanted to just focus on one job, so I did not cast myself (a decision I’m still 50/50 on). There was plenty of work to do as a producer, especially on our small independent project. The budget was tight, down to the last dollar, so I was constantly managing something. This trend continued for the next several projects over the next several years. While my intentions to cast myself were good, a combination of workload and no appropriate parts conspired to take me, essentially, out of the acting world. I still do the occasional commercial here and there and do parts in friend’s projects, but no major theatrical work whether it be my projects or anyone else’s. What I was doing, though, was seeing the job of being an actor from a whole new perspective. In setting up casting sessions I saw that you’d probably only see about 60-75% of the people you scheduled for your audition – especially if it was non-union. That everyone is hustling for that “next gig” even agents and studio heads. The whole town essentially runs on moxie and bravado as opposed to contracts and handshakes (although those are important too). I learned more about the crew than I did in twenty years of working with them including how they are hired, how they are paid, and what it means when talent is late. I learned how the sales process of different projects works, including films, documentaries and television shows. Doing the hands-on work and being a part of every facet of the production process became a better education than proper film school. After a decade of fighting tooth and claw to get things made I came to the conclusion that producing was not the right thing for me and it was time to get back to what I really loved.

Back in the saddle.

At the end of 2014 I was just coming off a very successful turn as a board member of the Big Bear Film Festival and the first year of Fun Size Horror but I was ready to be done. Producing was lots of work and satisfying on a business level, but I really missed being an actor.  After a decade of being committed to making things people had forgotten that I used to be in front of the camera and that kinda’ sucked. I didn’t like the idea of being the guy who “used to be an actor,” being one has always been part of my identity. So in 2015 I decided it was time to rejoin the ranks completely and get back to being a full time working actor…

…turns out that’s a lot harder than it used to be.

No longer the adorable eight-year-old, it has not been as simple to just “jump back in.” Now-a-days you are required to have a demo reel to be considered for even the smallest parts. Agents won’t even look at you without a strong referral or a good list of credits. Booking the jobs I used to get is a lot harder now since much bigger actors are now taking smaller parts in films and T.V. shows.

What I’m getting at with all this preamble is that I have had a very full and complete experience in the Entertainment Industry School of Hard Knocks. I’ve been up and I’ve been down and I’ve seen some shit. It’s taken me thirty years to learn all of this.

You can get it all in one book.

The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors

Kym Jackson has succinctly and efficiently placed all of the knowledge that a new actor in Los Angeles needs in one very easy to read book that covers everything from moving to L.A. to booking the job. I have often run into people that are ready to tell you “how it is” in Hollywood but never have I read something that I both agreed with and was able to learn something new from.

This isn’t a book you just read and put down, it is a resource. The chapters are laid out in an easy flow that makes sense as you go along. I found myself trying to come up with questions rookies might ask as I went through it. Each time it felt like the next chapter was answer to at least one of those questions with the remainder not far behind.

The best part about this book is that it is CURRENT. When I first started acting in the 80’s this business was very different and I’ve seen more change in the last five years than in the last thirty combined! All of the information in this book is up to date and looks to remain relevant for years to come.

It is a book I recommend to my acting students and one that I would recommend to any one even thinking of giving L.A. a try as an actor.

Get it, read it. You’ll be happy you did.

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Entertainment 101 on August 2nd

entertainment 101 Logo Studio 105

 

The Entertainment 101 Seminar coming to Studio 105 on Sunday August 2nd from 2pm-4pm.

Lead by instructor Curtis Andersen (that’s me), this seminar covers all the how-to’s of getting started in the entertainment industry. It’s 30 years of information crammed into 2 hours!
Perfect for the new actor and parents of child actors, we cover:
  • On-Set expectations & responsibilities.
  • Common vocabulary.
  • People and positions to know on set.
  • The audition process.
  • And for parents – requirements & laws for young actors!
This is one of our most popular seminars – Call or email the studio to reserve your spot!
 
$50 for current students $75 for the public

 

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Fun Video Friday – Shia LaBeouf, Murderer

Fun Video Friday Update

There are things a person can say about Shia LaBeouf. If you were a fan of Even Stevens then perhaps your memories are warm and fuzzy. If you are a Transformers fan maybe you forgot he was in those movies because explosions (although this “montage of no’s” is pretty funny).  He did some very good work in the Sia video for “Elastic Heart” and there have been some real legs on the student film project that has become Shia LaBeouf’s Inspirational Speech, but this piece from Rob Cantor has been stuck in my head since I first watched it.

I now pass this earworm on to you. Share it with those you love.

 

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Thank You Original New York Seltzer!

Curtis with ONYS

As some of you may recall, I wrote a blog about my excitement that New York Seltzer was coming back. You can find that HERE. Well, the folks over at Original New York Seltzer saw my post and were excited about my excitement! They generously sent me a care package that included a whole bunch of New York Seltzer. I did a unpacking video which you can see below:

Want your own New York Seltzer? Visit their website at DRINK NEW YORK SELTZER and let them know Curtis sent you. I don’t think you’ll get a discount or anything, but tell them any way.

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Fun Video Friday – Bats vs. Crocodiles!

Fun Video Friday Update

I don’t know that I have a lot to say about this other than BBC nature documentaries are far more exciting than I thought.

For more you can visit the creators at their YouTube channel: Blackhawk

Enjoy!

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New York Seltzer is BACK!

onys-black-cherry-soda-840x840

For those of you that grew up in the 80’s you may remember the bottle above. New York Seltzer was the Snapple of the time; a little independent drink company that had hardcore fans, but not a major national following. I found out that New York Seltzer is coming back and I’m really excited about it! It may be a bit silly to be excited by the return of a drink, but New York Seltzer has a special place in my heart. It is the first thing that I remember drinking when my family first moved out to California.

Before 1985 I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – home of cheese, Green Bay Packers fans, and terrifyingly cold winters. I have memories of not being allowed outside during the coldest ones because there was a concern that the lungs of children and the elderly would freeze. The door handle to my mom’s car snapped off in her hand once because it was so cold. Automatic doors to get into the grocery store would fail in the winter. It was damn cold. That being said I also have memories of awesome snow forts that took up most of our backyard and how my dad and I dug really long tunnels in the snow drifts.

Then in February 1985 my dad got transferred to California and we moved from Milwaukee to Brea. It was a drastic difference! We went from snow and heavy coats and boots to sunshine, swimming pools, and shorts. I wore my moon boots for the first month just because that’s what I was used to wearing (I was a fashion plate).   When we first got to California there were all kinds of things to check out. Suddenly we were in spitting distance of Disneyland, there was a beach that was against the ocean and not a giant lake, and new kinds of food – like avocados and salsa!

During one of our jaunts to explore the neighborhood we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall deli. It’s not there anymore but I remember it vividly. It was dark, mostly by comparison because it was so bright outside, it had white walls and black and white checkered tile floors. There were framed pictures of New York on the walls and little bistro tables. I got a B.L.T. and my mom got me my first New York Seltzer. She thought it would be fun to try since they didn’t have regular soda there.

It wasn’t just fun, it was a revelation!

I had never tasted anything like it before. It was black cherry flavor and it was clear and crisp and tasted like California. That’s honestly the best description I can give. It was the taste equivalent of all the cliche romantic imagery of California wrapped up in a bottle that told you it was from New York City. Palm trees, beaches, smiling pretty people, surfing – it was in the bottle. It was like a movie montage of Southern California in your mouth.

It came in 4-packs and we bought them in a variety of flavors although peach and black cherry were my favorites. My friend, Tommy, used to have burping contests with me spurred on by the carbonated power of the seltzer. When we got really desperate we’d even drink the cream soda. When we were really desperate.

Then, in the early 90’s, the magic died. A competitive soft drink market killed New York Seltzer and all this nation was left with was a fading memory of flavor joy. I moved on to Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, but the memory of New York Seltzer always haunted me…

…until now!

New York Seltzer is coming back! It is available online and hopefully soon in stores! I haven’t tasted it in, wow, over 20 years but I’m really looking forward to it. If any of the New York Seltzer folks are reading this: I’ll happily plug the product for a few 4-packs! You can check out their website below and order all the black cherry soda you can drink!

Drink New York Seltzer

 

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Last Weekend to see me in Avenue Q!

Ave Q Logo

This weekend ends my run as Brian in Avenue Q at The Maverick Theater. There are four more performances:

For tickets dial (714) 526-7070 or visit the Online Box Office.

It has been a lot of fun doing a musical again and getting to play with a very talented cast. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a real musical. The last thing I sang in was the Christmas show last year, but those were holiday standards. It’s easy to forget that Broadway musicals actually have some very complicated harmonies! Nothing makes you realize how out of shape your voice is then pushing out tenor notes you haven’t had to reach since you were in your twenties. I don’t know if I’ll be hired for any national tours any time soon, but it’s been great getting back into swing of things.

While we were rehearsing we shot a series of promo videos to help advertise, I’m sure you’ve seen the one of me if you follow my Twitter feed or are a friend/fan on Facebook. In case you haven’t, here are all of the promos in one spot!

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Fun Video Friday – It’s a Laser Gun!

Fun Video Friday Update

Real Genius was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up. It was in rotation with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension, and Clue. The primary McGuffin for Real Genius is that they are trying to make a super laser that, unknown to our heroes, will be used by the military to assassinate foreign targets from space.

In the 80’s that was science fiction.

Now kids are building the proto-version of that laser in their garage.

I present to you, on this fine Friday, a demonstration of a laser weapon that may not be powerful enough to fill a house with popcorn, is powerful enough to strike fear in the hearts of balloons everywhere.

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Fun Video Friday – REDNECK AVENGERS: TULSA NIGHTS

Fun Video Friday Update

It’s been a rough week post Memorial Day week so I’m glad to post something that can make people laugh. I’ve featured videos from Bad Lip Reading before – but it never hurts when you add Iron Man to the mix.

Enjoy!

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May 29, 2015 · 8:00 am

A Death in the Community

Curtis Jerome

A man named Curtis Jerome has died. He was a director, set-builder, costumer, actor, dancer, singer, and all-around performer. He was a tent pole at The Maverick Theater in Fullerton, CA. He was in a terrible car accident and did not survive. His death was as shocking to our little theater community as it was tragic. He was a man who meant a lot to a lot of people and I am sad that he is gone.

I really didn’t know Curtis, other than how he and I were often confused in conversation for sharing the same first name. He did most of the musicals at the theater and I did only plays, usually, if I wasn’t doing Shmimprov. I’m sure that he and I were in the same room more than once, but we never quite got introduced. While our paths never crossed, his reputation preceded him.  Many people credit him with giving them their first chance at something, whether a role or a new skill, and for being very supportive in his direction. He was known as a work horse who got things done. He was good people.

Theater, when it comes down to it, is a community more than anything. It’s made up of people who come together for the shared goal of telling a story, live, in front of a group of strangers. It doesn’t require a special location or crazy technology – as long as you have free space and people who will watch you can put on a show. It’s the quality of the people who come together to tell that story – the community – that dictates how well things work. When that community grows it depends on each person to help it run. And when you lose a part of that community the ripples of that loss are felt throughout.

I didn’t know Curtis, but I miss Curtis.

I feel for everyone who had the benefit of knowing him personally, but I’m also grateful for all of the lives that he touched and people that he helped to mentor while he could.

Thank you, Curtis. You will be missed.

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