Category Archives: education

First Oregon Acting Workshop: Improvisation at The Red Octopus Theater Co.

Now that Rene and I are a little more settled into our new city I’m starting to do workshops, classes and coaching again. The first workshop will be held August 5th at noon in Newport, Oregon. It is an adorable resort town with a thriving theater scene.

Details can be found on the FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE and just in case you don’t use Facebook here are the basics down below:

Those of all skill levels are invited to come experience the crazy, creative world of “Improv” in this fun-filled workshop, led by television’s Curtis Andersen.

The event will include a broad range of topics, exercises, and games, including (but not limited to): building trust, warm-up games, how to listen, building a scene, ending a scene, comedy improv vs. dramatic improv, and more.

Curtis Andersen spent the last decade as a member of the nationally-acclaimed improv troupe Improv Shmimprov, performing live improvisational comedy on Friday and Saturday nights. He also conducts a seminar titled Think Fast, which trains business professionals to use improvisational techniques to increase their performance and solve problems creatively.

Andersen has guest starred on many television shows, including That 70’s Show, Malcolm in the Middle, Party of Five, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Veronica Mars, The Gilmore Girls, and Feud: Bette & Joan. He has had recurring roles on Saved by the Bell: The New Class, 7th Heaven, and is often recognized as Gordie from Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

In addition to his television work, Andersen can also be seen in many films, including The Rules of Attraction, and Michael Bay’s Oscar-winning film, Pearl Harbor.

Red Octopus Theatre Company is excited to welcome Andersen to Newport. For over a decade he has helped artists do the work that has lead them to network television shows and major feature films – in the form of private coaching, or in his role as head of faculty at the McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts.

This event is appropriate for those aged 13 and up, and is free (however, there is a $5 suggested donation.) The Newport Performing Arts Center is located at 777 W Olive Street in Newport, Oregon.

The Red Octopus Theater  runs workshops all the time and if you’d like more information on them please visit their Facebook page HERE.

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This, this, all the this!

If you are a creative, this video will sounds very familiar – but it’s a universal message. Lord knows I’ve been down this road a few times. Determination, persistence and touch of naivete is usually enough to win the day – it’s just the “day” in question usually lasts for years.

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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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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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Filed under acting, actor 101, actor stuff, audition technique, auditions, behind the scenes, blatant plug, books, business, career, casting, education, getting started, Hollywood, how-to, reviews, teaching, The Business

Fun Video Friday – The Fermi Paradox: Animated

Fun Video Friday Update

Are we alone in the universe?

That’s a good question. Probably not, but there’s no evidence for it even though the math says that it’s possible. This is known as the Fermi Paradox and this week I’d like to share a great animated video from Kurz Gesagt – In a Nutshell.

So, what do you think? Will we ever make contact with intelligent life? Drop your thoughts in the comments.

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May 8, 2015 · 8:00 am

Actor 101: From the Trenches

Actor 101 Logo

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!

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Video Friday – The History of Piracy

 

piracy

Piracy.

It is the bane of the modern entertainment industry.

It has completely changed the paradigm of the music industry and altered the business of television and film distribution in ways that have yet to be realized.

For many consumers, media piracy is thought of as a new thing. Something that the industry has to cope with in a world full of modern marvels that allow for quick duplication and distribution. But that isn’t actually true. Piracy is something that is as old as the entertainment industry and CineFix has done a great job explaining it in their latest Film School’D video.

Another lesson from this video? Edison really was a prick. An industrious prick, but a prick.

How do you feel about piracy? what do you think the industry can do to combat it? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time.

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March 6, 2015 · 8:00 am

Actor 101 – Marketing: 5 Best Practices

 

Actor 101 Logo

Back when I first started Actor 101 I posted an article about basic marketing for the actor. In fact it was called…

The Actor and Marketing

It is really basic, truly a 101 as far as marketing goes. If you are just getting started with how to market yourself in the entertainment industry I highly suggest giving that post a look before you continue with this post.

I was a guest speaker at a friends acting class the other night and we did a short Q&A about the changes in the industry and ways that an actor, especially a new actor, can market themselves. The conversation started with social media, websites, and online presence in general. Everybody had the accounts they need, but when it came to content it was all blank stares and mouths agape. That was a pretty big clue that it might be a good idea to cover some best practices specific to the new actor. The things I talk about in this article are best practices, which is to say that, all things being equal, these are things everyone should be doing. That being said all things are not equal so use what works for you.

  • Don’t Post Just To Post: Let’s start with a biggie – NO POST SPAM! Some people, especially when they are starting out, will post non-stop to their social media. This is how we get things like pictures of food and the “I’m bored, talk to me” posts. These posts are the kinds of things that get made fun of and do not help your social media presence at all. As an actor or other creative storyteller your goal is to connect with an audience through the telling of a story and a good story has a point which is why it’s worth telling. That’s how you should think of your marketing posts, they need to have a point. It could be as on the nose as “I have a new video up!” or as open as “Does anyone ever feel like Meisner technique makes them feel too vulnerable?” but it should be relevant and poignant to your intended audience. So if you go a day or two or a week without posting anything don’t panic. Likewise if you have a bunch to say that’s OK too, but you may want to consider scheduling some of those posts to spread the wealth.
  • Let Technology Help You: While I’m thinking about scheduling, there is some great technology out there to help you schedule where and what you posts to different social media sites. While most social networks have good cross posting abilities, you may not want to same message going out across all of your platforms. What you post to your private Facebook page may be very different than what you post on your LinkedIn page. Here are two solutions that I like. I have no affiliation with either of these companies, they just happen to be solutions I have used and like and they work well for entertainment professionals. Remember that regular posting helps build an audience.
    • Hootsuite: This is a personal favorite and the solution that I use daily. While they really push the idea of signing up for their paid services, most folks doing DIY social marketing will only need their free service. It allows you to set-up for five social networks and those can be changed at any time. My favorite part about Hootsuite is that you can either schedule your posts manually or allow it to auto schedule. I use the auto schedule option the most and it has increased my audience engagement dramatically. They also have a web extension call Hootlet that allows you to broadcast web content across your networks as you find it with the click of a button. They’ve recently added a YouTube feature that, admittedly, I haven’t played with yet but that addition is another reason why my gut instinct is to recommend this platform. There is also an easy to use smart phone/tablet app.
    • Buffer: I was first introduced to Buffer three years ago when a director at a touring show company we were working with showed it to me. The service has changed a bit since then and for the better. Buffer operates primarily as a web browser extension and app. With it you write a bunch of posts in advance and let the system space them out at appropriate times or time you select. Like Hootsuite they are looking for users to sign up for their paid service (their’s has the fun name “The Awesome Plan”) but their individual plan is still available. It covers Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, App.net, and Google+. It is a bit more structured about what social networks you can add and how many of each, but since most people only have one of each network I doubt you’ll miss any functionality.
  • Share Your Personality: The mechanics of regular posting are fundamental, but just like we want our posts to have a point they should also share your personality with your audience. Social media is an electronic medium, but people don’t want to read posts from robots, they still prefer to talk to people (even if that means that sometimes there’s a computer screen between them). Identity is important, I mean you’re an actor after all, and if you’re using your social media to market yourself then you need people to get to know you. Define and refine your online voice. Unlike the financial advisors I speak to during the day, actors are allowed to have opinions no matter how unpopular. To be clear: this does not give you carte blanche to be an asshole but don’t be afraid to state your opinion. Did you recently discovered a film that you think people should see? Talk about it and why you liked it. Are you excited about The Razzie Awards? Name your picks! That being said, remember performer rule #1 – KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! You want them to enjoy your posts and follow you, not turn on you. Ideally you’ll engage with a community that will interact with you which will increase your reach online and the farther you reach the better you’re doing.
  • Interact: Just like you want to have people engaged with your posts, other people want you to engage with their posts too. Social media is “social” by definition and the only way a community works is if people participate. If you are a performer marketing yourself on social media then participation in the community is a requirement. Think of it as joining in the conversation at a party – it’s just that this party is, literally, hundreds of millions of active people large all the time and everyone has something to say. Remember the first rule, though, NO POST SPAM! Don’t interact with a post unless you have something to contribute. Always go for quality over quantity when it comes to engagement. Going back to our party metaphor, no one wants to be the guy that clears the area around the punch bowl with his bad Christopher Walken impression. If you’re going to say something make sure it’s worth saying.
  • Make Sure Your Posts Benefit You: As an actor in this town, with all the changes that are happening to the business and with all of the competition, your primary goal is to use all of the tools at your disposal to benefit yourself. The goal of all the bullet points above are to get people to pay attention to what you have to say and, ideally, help you build a brand that might get your signal recognized above the noise. That means that you need to always remember the basics we discussed – know your audience, be relevant to your audience,  and be conscience of how you are perceived in your chosen community.

Do you have thoughts on this list? Feel like I missed something? Let me know in the comments – engage in my community ;).

See you next time!

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Fun Video Friday The First Andelon Discussion: Creativity on the Daily

Fun Video Friday Update

We conducted our first Andelon Discussion last night LIVE via Google Hangout on YouTube where we discussed Creativity on the Daily, how people use their creative muscles in everyday life. It was a lively discussion that covered creativity for problem solving, trying to make a living creatively and what it takes to get your creativity going.

This being the first one we had a few technical issues with the sound at the beginning (my bad), but those stop about 10 minutes in.

The participants are some of my oldest friends who work in varied industries and had a lot to say on the matter. Check it out and let me know what you think!

This was a very male heavy discussion, so we’re doing an all female panel of this topic at the end of March hosted by my wife and partner at Andelon Productions, Rene Bordelon. If you’d like to check out more from the panel check out the links 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.

See you next time!

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February 20, 2015 · 8:00 am

Come Watch Andelon Productions Discussions: Creativity on the Daily

Startup Post Art

We’re starting a new program series later this month. Round table discussions about using creativity and performance skills in other businesses and daily life. I’ll be inviting friends of mine that work in a variety of industries to participate and we’ll be taking questions from you, the audience, as well. Afterward the video will be available on my YouTube channel so you can watch it whenever you want. Not subscribed to my channel yet? Click below:

Curtis Andersen’s YouTube Channel

The first discussion will be on

Thursday February 19th at 8:30pm Pacific Time LIVE!

It will cover Creativity in your Daily Life and will feature my oldest friends from high school and college who have gone off to the four winds when it comes to careers:

  • 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.

All of them have very different perspectives on how they use the creative sides of their brains and I’m looking forward to a lively conversation.

We’ll be doing these roundtables once a month in the 3rd week of the month so stay tuned for more!

See you next time!

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