Last summer Rene and I shot a movie called East of Jesus.
It comes out this spring! Here’s the first trailer:
Like it, share it, enjoy.
It is November 2nd, officially one year ago today I made the deliberate decision that I was going to get myself back on TV again. It was a re-energizing of my commitment to what has always been my primary career and it lit a fire under my ass to take the steps that I really should have taken a while ago.
A lot has happened this year, which I talk about more in the video, but these are the two big points that I came away with after I thought about the past year:
Check out the video for all the details!
Rene and I are here on the Oregon Coast filming East of Jesus and I actually have a free day today which means I can catch up on some of the stuff that you may have missed that I’d like to pimp out.
First off, here is the short I Hate Mondays from the folks over at Fun Size Horror. It’s a bizarre little tale where I’m an obnoxious office manager. I know, I’m really stretching my abilities #sarcasm.
And, my bad, I promised in my last video to post all of the updated playlists so people could catch-up. From the absence of people clamoring for those to be posted I’m probably fine not posting them, but I said I would do it so I’m going to. They are below.
TL;DR? No problem, watch this video:
One of the hyphenates that I place in my CV is that of consultant. Usually this takes form as an acting coach for my students, but on occasion I also do career and marketing consulting. No matter the topic I like to drive home the principal of the Authenticity Economy. If you are honest about yourself and your intentions people are attracted to that and are more inclined to want to work with you or buy from you. I like to say that people will buy you a lot quicker than they’ll buy what you’re selling.
This is not a new concept, people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Jeffrey Gitomer have been selling books and producing videos and live events based around this idea for years. It’s a simple idea, but one that people don’t necessarily come to on their own. In my experience people try very hard to please others. They look for expectations and then follow them to what they hope will be success. This can work, if it didn’t people wouldn’t do it, but it isn’t what sets people apart. Giving people what they want seems like a good idea, but here’s a fun fact: people (read: your audience) rarely know what they actually want. They have expectations, but rarely know what they truly desire. When you try to deliver “what the people want” you don’t necessarily share you or what you’re good at. There are times that these crossover, but that is rare – otherwise you’d see nothing but superstar office workers in every workplace. Shockingly people tend to be very nervous about sharing themselves, even though that is typically a powerful source of success.
This is where The Monkees come in. Just in case you didn’t know, The Monkees was a very popular television show in the 60’s that was designed to be an American version of the Beatles – something the network figured the audience wanted. They made the show, played it, and it FAILED! According to a documentary about the show, it was one of the lowest testing shows of all time. Normally this would spell the end of a television show, but the producers and network really felt they had something special. They had a great deal of confidence in the talent they had cast and felt that if the audience knew them as well as the production team knew them that they’d warm up to the show. All four Monkees were featured in screen tests that showcased their personalities, you can still see these on YouTube. These were played before the pilot for a new test audience and the change was immediate – the show was a success! People were ready to connect to these guys who they felt they knew as opposed to some mad capped actors that were being put upon them.
Connection is a major goal for actors. We need to connect to our audiences and to our fellow actors. In an esoteric way we need to connect to the the characters that we play. Connection cannot be made by “faking it” it needs to be genuine. It’s the difference between being just an actor and being a good actor.
The posts that I’m making on YouTube, my Operation: Television’s Curtis Andersen vlogs, are part of my effort to make a genuine connection to my audience. It’s the secret to YouTuber success that networks and old model entertainment professionals fail to recognize. Audiences are created and drawn to YouTubers because they connect to their authenticity, and likewise turn on those YouTubers that lie to them, even if it’s just the appearance of a lie.
I’ve watched a lot of people in Hollywood do their best to try and “give them what they want,” I’ve done it myself, and it never gets you where you want to be. I see this way too often with starlets who think their way into the industry is bikini photos and playing “the sexy baby” (30 Rock did a great episode on that). Can it work? Sure, but the shelf life is very short and the chance of you being able to leverage that into a different career is small.
That doesn’t mean authenticity is a golden ticket to success, people might not connect with you at all. Not much you can do about that. But if they do then it is much easier to maintain.
Do you have questions about The Monkees Effect? Ask them in the comments.
See you next time!
My name is Curtis Andersen and I have been an entertainment professional for over 30 years.
I started working professionally when I was 8 years old and haven’t ever stopped, but some years were definitely better than others.
From eight through my mid-twenties I made my primary living as an actor, you can see a list of most of what I did at IMDb. But then in 2005 I thought I’d have more control over my career if I tried producing. It went fine, made some movies; sold some TV shows; and made a lot of music videos, but something was always missing. It was not creatively satisfying, at least not in the way acting is for me, and a majority of the job was hunting for financing. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried independent film financing, but I don’t recommend it. It takes a lot of time to get a “yes” and then there are a thousand ways that are beyond your control where that “yes” can suddenly turn into a “no.” In 2012 I lost the funding for three projects on the same day – it was the next six months worth of work – and I started thinking that being a producer was probably not the path I wanted to follow.
At the end of 2014 I was ready to be done with producing. I was very pleased to be a part of the first year of Fun Size Horror, but found myself having a lot more fun being in the shorts than being behind the scenes. That’s when the final decision was made – I needed to be a working actor again!
That being said, becoming a working actor in Hollywood, even when you were one for over 20 years, is not easy. It takes dedication and persistence and a lot of hard work. I’ve decided to chronicle my path back both here and on my YouTube channel. I’ve created a playlist of the videos I’m shooting, you can see it down below:
I’d love to hear your comments as this keeps going either here on the blog or on the videos.
Let’s see if we can make the nickname “Television’s Curtis Andersen” a reference to me in the present instead of the past.
Ad Council wants you to know that getting your high school diploma or GED is important, so they made a series of PSAs on the subject, including one featuring your truly! Directed by Matt Piedmont, see what drama can unfold in a barber shop:
Early in the year Rene and I were invited to participate in a secret music video shoot.
It was for a new television show whose first season was just ending.
The video was for the special features on the DVD.
We were sworn to secrecy…
Above – an image of our costumes for the shoot.
Below- the video itself.
Side note: This is the only thing in history where I purposely have facial hair and might be the only thing that ever does.
Also, my wife’s dance moves are pretty slick.
And yes, that’s her in bed with Matt McGorry.
And I was in the room… watching.
Special shout out to director Charlie Visnic for including us!
Here’s the video:
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.
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.
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!
I recently had a conversation in the comments of my post Actor 101: The Actor, The Art & Advertising where the question came up about actors in a show who were asked to make changes in their performance that they were, for personal reasons, uncomfortable with. While you can see the full conversation at the link above, I wanted to post my initial response as a post because 1) this may happen to a new actor and it’s important that you maintain your personal integrity and 2) when collaborating it is essential that everyone is on the same page.
I actually cover this a lot in my acting class because if we, as actors, are going to do good work then integrity must lie at the center of that. It’s the kernel that a good performance sprouts from. There are a few things that must be considered in this answer:
1) The show itself: Tone and final objective for the audience is the biggest factor to consider here. Are they supposed to enjoy themselves? Should they have a visceral reaction for or against? Should they be shocked? Assuming that you are doing a standard version of South Pacific it’s a pretty solid romantic musical. The audience should be happy when the relationships culminate. However, if this is an avant garde take then perhaps another goal is trying to be reached?
2) The director: They are in command of the overall vision of the show, which can include adjusting the tone of the show as a whole. While actors see individual “strokes,” the director is responsible for the completed “painting.” Based on your description it sounds like he is trying to put his own stamp on the show? Maybe making it grittier? My default reaction is to have trust in the vision, but it’s also his duty to make you, as performers, understand what that vision is and what part you play in that vision. Based solely on your description it sounds like this may not be very clear.
3) The actor: You have a responsibility to deliver the character that you have been hired to play that matches the tone of the show and the vision of the director. To that end it is entirely possible that there will be 11th hour changes that may need to be integrated into a performance, but these changes, whatever they are, need to be applied as they would work for the character. They need to be defensible if you are asked where they came from. There needs to be a motivation behind them. There’s a reason why the phrase, “what’s my motivation” exists – it’s a legitimate thing for an actor, it just sounds really pretentious. If the actors being asked to change behaviors that don’t match their personal beliefs then the performance may come off either contrived or poorly done – neither is good for the show. But the people are not their characters so if the character displays different behaviors then the actor that is something the actor should be prepared for. I don’t like the phrase, ” to be a good actor you must be willing and able to substitute your moral upbringing…that’s acting 101″ I disagree with that, but characters do things that actors as people would never do and sometimes the most powerful performances are the ones that challenge the actor to really think and maybe even question why they feel the way they do about something.
I’m not sure how vulgar they are asked to be, but in my opinion the best solution is a director/actor meeting where each side comes open minded and the reasoning for this change is discussed. That way a compromise can be made that follows character and place in show versus “I say do this!” “But I don’t want to do this!”
I hope that helps and that you guys have a great show!
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a story about being asked to do something you were uncomfortable with? Let me know in the comments.
See you next time!