Category Archives: career

Storytelling Discussion Highlights

We had a great conversation on Sunday talking about storytelling, how we do it, and what it takes to make that your career. I’ve trimmed down the over hour long conversation into about twenty minutes of just the most advice dense parts. And there’s a little bit of Skelly in there too.

Below is the full discussion if you liked what you saw above and want to see a bit more:

Don’t forget to check out our panelists where they do their work:

Jeff Garvin at JeffGarvinBooks.com

Erin Stegeman at her Twitter

And Zeke Pinheiro at FunSizeHorror.com

And of course check out the Andelon Productions Patreon. You get exclusive access to content and material there and it only takes a dollar a month to be a patron!

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Acting 101: Serve the Story

There are some fundamentals that are always worth revisiting. Film, television, theater, even commercials are all forms of storytelling. They all have a beginning, middle and end. They all have characters that go through changes. They all have a conflict and resolution. This applies to all consumed media and you notice if any of these things are missing – that’s when we call something a “bad movie” or show or book or whatever. Storytelling has been around for as long as humans have  smeared berry pulp on cave walls and not much has changed about the process except the technology and number of people telling the story.

Working in the modern entertainment industry, both old and new media, requires collaboration. The story needs a writer. The director is there to interpret the writing. The actor is there to give life to the story’s characters. None of these jobs can tell the story alone, they all need to work together to create the final product. Yes, there may be differences in status between the roles during the course of creation, but in the end all participants at all levels have one job: to serve the story.

Speaking on actors specifically, we end up being the primary face (literally) of this process and therefore we are the focus of a lot of the scrutiny of a final product. When we do our job well even the most ridiculous stories can seem “good” and be enjoyed by the audience. And if we don’t do our job well even the best material can suffer. Serving the story is the most fundamental requirement of all entertainment professionals. Yes, technique is important but those who can serve the story will always win against those who only focus on technique.

And I guess “serving the story” for many would be considered part of some people’s technique, but I think you get what I’m saying so let’s not quibble on technicalities.

To serve the story it is important to realize what your character’s place is within the story. While in the real world we are all heroes of our own stories, in a script each role is laid out clearly and deliberately. There are our leads, the protagonist and antagonist. There are the supporting players, their friends and associates. And there are the atmosphere, the extras that make the scenes feel “real.” Just as there may be differences between the status of a writer, director and actor there are also different strata for the actors with leads on top and extras at the bottom. It’s important to remember that while their status may be different on set all of them are required to effectively tell the story. Each one is a cog that must work with the rest to make the machine operate correctly.

In that working together it is important to maintain the function of your place in that story. It’s an issue that I see most often with actors that are new to the business. Often that are coming to it with stars in eyes and visions of fame in their heads. For them any role they portray is a chance to be the star of the show, even to the detriment of the show itself. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you are doing a show to perpetuate your own glory then you are working against the show and you are not serving the story. Worst of all, your attempt to shine actually draws the wrong kind of attention to you and will tarnish your reputation making it harder for you to achieve your initial goal in the first place.

What the naive actor does not realize is that the best way to shine is to do your specific part the best that you can within the parameters of the role. This is demonstrated regularly in the characters that we fall in love with who may not be the overall “star” of a piece. Characters like Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone or Jennifer Coolidge’s Paulette in Legally Blonde. These were supporting characters that stood out, in a very strong way, in films that were not missing plenty of star power in general. They did not make an effort to steal the show, they were just doing what they were hired to do so well that the quality of the work could not be denied.

In my personal opinion, and I’m confident that I’m not alone in this, this is what we as actors and performers should strive to do. All stories are bigger than the single performer. We all have our place, some larger than others, but when everything works together, when the collaboration is effective, then we get the kind of art and entertainment that people not only enjoy but return to over and over again – a classic!

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments.

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New Movie Trailer – East of Jesus

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.

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Day 430 Operation: Television’s Curtis Andersen – Phase 2 & Your Headshots

Happy New Year!

If you didn’t see my last video, I was able to achieve the primary goal of booking a job on TV at the end of the year! In case you missed it, here it is:

The show is a new show that has an NDA the length of my arm so I can’t say a bloody thing about it, but I promise I won’t shut up about it once I can. So now that I can unironically call myself “Television’s Curtis Andersen” again it’s time to move on to Phase 2 – getting on a genre show! What’s a genre show? Watch the new video to find out.

Also, to add a little actual advice to this blog after a long stretch of just me talking about myself and auditions, I talk a little bit about the importance of getting a good headshot – because I’ve seen a lot of BAD headshots lately.

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Day 249 Operation: Television’s Curtis Andersen East of Jesus Shoot Update

IMG_3555

It’s Day 249 and we are still on location shooting East of Jesus in Oregon. I always have high hopes about my abilities to post and generally “social media” when I do things like this. In my head I know I only have one job to focus on and so naturally that means that I’ll have all kinds of extra time to be able to commit to maintaining everything else that I like to do like this site, my Twitter feed, and my Facebook page, but that’s never how it turns out. Regardless of what may be perpetuated by conventional wisdom it takes a lot of work to make a film at any level. It’s a lot of hard work in a very short amount of time. You are dominated by factors that you cannot control, like the weather and unexpected technical problems, and even in the best case scenarios getting it done right means being focused and and dedicated. Distractions like this site, my Twitter feed, and my Facebook page all start to feel pretty small when you have a whole set of people relying on the ability to be on set, memorized, and good. I’m not very good at doing both jobs. Rene really has a better handle on that. Sometimes I think I should just make her the Andersen Family documentarian and photographer. We still have some shooting to do, but we got an unexpected day off today due to rain so I forced myself to catch up on all my stuff – hence this post.

Below are some select images from the shoot and an exclusive video of Rene from the beautiful Oregon Coast when we hiked up the side of the sand hill. Enjoy! And if you like these then you can see even more over at my Facebook page.

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Operation: Television’s Curtis Andersen

Picture by Molly Hawkey

Picture by Molly Hawkey

Hi.

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.

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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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Creativity on the Daily – The Highlights

Andelon Discussions Creativity

Back in February we held our first Andelon Discussion video roundtable. I got together my oldest friends, who all happen to have varied and diverse careers, and we talked about being creative. It was a really good discussion, if I do say so myself. We covered a lot in an hour.

Admittedly, we did have a few technical troubles (namely the sound for the first 10 minutes) and an hour can be a long time to ask people to watch on the internet, so I edited together what I feel are the best 13 minutes of our discussion that will hopefully help to inspire the creativity in your life.

I want to thank Dan, Dean, Jeff and Scott for participating. If you want to learn more about them see their links below. Also, Jeff wasn’t wrong, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is amazing! I’ve provided a purchase link down below.

Scott Sanford – IT specialist for the financial industry.

Dean Ethington – Graphic Designer and web developer for Oakley.

Dan Zarzana – Manager at an entertainment payroll company.

Jeff Garvin – Author and musician.

What do you think about being creative? Did anything the panel said strike a chord with you? Let me know in the comments.

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Net Neutrality – The Fight is Getting Bigger

Photo: Act.Watchdog.Net

Photo: Act.Watchdog.Net

On February 5, 2015 the new rules proposal for broadband will be circulated for review. Later this month, February 26th, the FCC will vote on these regulations. They are reported to go the direction that Net Neutrality activists have hoped, and that’s a good thing, but the new Republican congress who benefits from an average of $350 million dollars a year in campaign contributions from the communications industry is attempting to derail all the progress that has been made. As described in the article linked to above, opponents to the idea of true Net Neutrality (personified by Sen. John Thune R-SD and Rep. Fred Upton R- Michigan) oppose the idea of reclassification and are proposing a separate bill that neuters the authority of the FCC thereby opening a backdoor to the kinds of actions that Net Neutrality activists were hoping to see squashed, like internet fast lanes.

In case you need a reminder of why reclassification is essential and why communication companies cannot be trusted to “self regulate” just check out this article which shows what happened when Netflix was forced to negotiate with Comcast.

On top of the big internet providers attempting to charge content providers, other businesses have been getting crafty as well.  A large penalty was just levied on Marriott Hotels because they were blocking private wi-fi hotspots, the kind offered by carriers like Verizon and Sprint, and forcing people to purchase the wi-fi through the hotel. Although they were caught and fined, this is likely just the first of many such attempts as large companies try to find a way to grab market share on internet service as it becomes part of people’s daily lives more and more.

Even though true Net Neutrality is so close, the fight is still on and it is important not to stop making our desire for an open and free internet known.  If you enjoy things like Netflix, Facebook, YouTube and even online dating then this effects you and your life.

You can follow THIS LINK to learn how to have your voice heard. Contact your representatives and let them know that you like your internet just fine and want it to stay free and open.

Keep up the fight!

 

 

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Serve The Mission

Startup Post Art

Rene and I have a mantra for this year: Only Do What Serves The Mission.

Pretty simple, really, when you boil it down. We have come up with a series of goals that we want to achieve. These goals combined are The Mission and all the things we do, public and private, need to help advance The Mission.

This mind set has kept us very focused, which hasn’t always been the easiest thing for us the last few years. Personally speaking I’ve been professionally scattered since 2006. At the time I was a year into my producing career and wasn’t really pursuing acting. There were some major changes in my personal life and these things converged into a reactive state of mind instead of me being proactive. To that end I followed the money, since I needed it, but it was money without passion or drive so it wasn’t satisfying and really only paid enough for it to barely be enough. Some good things came out of that time, mostly friendships and a few projects here and there, but a majority of that time was spent with the career equivalent of a headache. Who wants that?

The worst thing is, I know what it’s like to do things the other way. For most of my career I was a “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” kind of guy. My head was down and I charged forward. I knew what I wanted and didn’t let anything get in the way.  I quit jobs, didn’t worry about advancement, didn’t let anything get in the way of the bigger goal – The Mission – and I had a lot of success doing that.

But then the fear came.

It’s really easy to keep doing what you know you should when you are experiencing more success than failure. But eventually that scale is going to tip and that’s when you start second guessing yourself. Am I doing this right? What if people don’t like it? Where’s my next paycheck coming from? A whole bunch of questions that spawn from fear. Don’t get me wrong, fear can be valuable. It can be a motivator, keep you out of hazardous situations, and heighten your awareness, but if you let it control you then you’ve lost track – you’re not serving The Mission.

In order to serve The Mission you must identify what The Mission is. Companies do this with Mission Statements. I have a mission in the acting class I teach for the actors in it (come on in to learn about that).  You can have a Mission too as long as you have specific goals. My friend, Jeff Garvin, has a FANTASTIC video about this process. See it below:

6 Secrets of Creative Goal Setting

Check out the rest of the blog too. And, if you get a chance, tell him that 7k needs to do a reunion tour.

Once you have your goals you need to make sure that your whole team is on the same page. This is really important. Nothing can derail a plan like conflicting ideas on where you’re going. I’ve watched this, more than anything else, destroy so many strong projects. And it isn’t always obvious that you aren’t on the same page until it’s too late. It takes some very honest introspection to see if things are all going the same direction or if you’re just hoping that they are. But when you are on the same page it hits you in the face, metaphorically, to remind you that it’s happening. Rene and I have repeatedly remarked to each other how relieving it is to be on the same page together. It’s made things so easy. Even hard decisions seem to just naturally fall into the right answer. That’s a very freeing advantage.

Asking the question, “does this serve The Mission” also gives you the greatest power in all business – the ability to say, “no.” If used right, “no” is the the single most powerful word in any language. It is a definitive negative and doesn’t allow for any mis-reading. It might be ignored, but your intention is never in question. Knowing what to say no to is a skill that can be learned and should be practiced.

What we’re doing isn’t new and it isn’t a secret, lots of very successful people do this all the time. What we have done is identified the process in a way that works well for us – and so far it’s working beyond expectations.

Do you have a Mission? Is there anything you’d add to the process? Let me know in the comments.

See you soon.

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