Category Archives: insight

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

Erin Stegeman at her Twitter

And Zeke Pinheiro at

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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Imposter Syndrome – A Live Discussion

Yesterday I had a conversation with Author Jeff Garvin, Singer/Actress Rene Bordelon, Singer/Actress Jessica Hayes, and blogger Dan Zarzana about how feeling like we are imposters in our careers has actually helped to be a motivating force moving us forward. You can see the whole video down below:

If you would like to find our panelists online see the links down below:
insta: @jeffgarvinbooks
twitter: @jeffgarvinbooks

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Am I a Startup? Part 2: The “Don’ts”

Startup Post Art

In part 1 we covered what a startup is and the four best practices to help get that startup moving, with definitions tweaked to work for the entertainment industry (although those tweaks may work for other industries as well). Having an idea of what to do is important and positive and helps get all the work off on the right foot. That being said, it is nice to also know what pitfalls to avoid so you can do your best not to fail on accident. Just like articles on what to do to help your startup succeed there are as many, if not more, articles about what makes a startup fail.

Thinking about it, that makes sense since, by definition, a startup has no guarantee of success so many of them (most of them even) fail. Entertainment careers are no different. In this life you hear “no” a lot more than “yes.” You can have a series go to pilot and then not get picked up. You can be edited out of a commercial after you’ve already shot it. For resilience we all say that it’s, “just part of the biz” but, part of the biz or not, that much rejection can be draining. So the following are four mistakes that can kill your startup inspired by and paraphrased from this article: The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups. Why are there not 18? Because not all of the mistakes really apply to my topic. Sure, I could shoehorn in a few descriptions and get all symbolic with the language, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is to have strong points that are easy to identify and avoid to keep things moving in a positive career direction. But if you want to read all 18, and I suggest you do, go to the link.

Before we get started with the actual four mistakes, I’d like to point out a overarching general mistake that the author Paul Graham points out that also makes very good sense in an entertainment career:

“In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want. If you make something users want, you’ll probably be fine, whatever else you do or don’t do. And if you don’t make something users want, then you’re dead, whatever else you do or don’t do. So really this is a list of (sic) things that cause startups not to make something users want. Nearly all failure funnels through that.”

In his explanation let’s trade out the word “user” for “audience.” Entertainment exists to be experienced by people, there isn’t any way around that. As a general rule of thumb: make and do the things you believe in and have passion for. Those are the things that have the best chance of taking off and if they don’t you can at least feel good about the attempt.

Now on to the mistakes:

  1. Bad Location. The internet and prosumer equipment have really allowed people to make high quality content just about anywhere, but if you want to work on the bigger shows and films (hell even the big online stuff) you need to be in one of the major entertainment hubs: Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta or New Orleans. Although theres also North Carolina, Chicago, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and the occasional shoot in Hawaii. And Canada. Puerto Rico is offering some really nice tax incentives so some productions are moving over there… All kidding aside, even with this expansive list there are still very few cities that can actually handle and support a large amount of filming. If you are ok just shooting with your friends and putting it up online then more power to you. Hollywood is decentralizing and I predict that we’re going to see more migration away from Southern California over the next five to ten years, but there will still be industry hubs where the camera crews live and where you can find a guy who can record decent sound. You want those people so you should be where they are.
  2. Derivative Ideas. Don’t just copy. I know Hollywood does it all the time, but those are the things people make fun of Hollywood for doing. I’m not saying that you can’t have your own spin on an existing idea, but don’t just straight up copy. Here’s an example: Zombies have been the dominate movie monster for over a decade now. There has been zombie everything, but the ones I remember: The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, and Shaun of the Dead all had unique takes on the genre. You don’t need to be the first person with an idea, but you do need to have a way to make it your own.
  3. Choosing the wrong platform. This literally came up in conversation today and it seems like something that I talk about with people all the time. There is both a literal and a figurative meaning to “platform.” The literal has to do with distribution of content that you and your team may be creating. When you decide how to get it out to the audience you either need to build to the distribution you have access to or hustle to get the distribution you feel the content requires. For example: I spoke to a buddy just today about their new project that, in my opinion (which happened to be an opinion he shared), needs to be a web release. It is built in tight little vignettes that are great for online audiences and the pieces all combine together into one big narrative that he could release as a stand-alone product and/or send to film festivals. But there is talk about converting it to feature length and trying to get the funding to do a movie version. In my head, at this time with the options available to them, online seems like the no brainer. Doing this project as a television show wouldn’t work, the premise wouldn’t last beyond a season. Doing it as a movie might work, but it would require a heavy rewrite and a massive investment. Right now they have a completed product ready to launch and it would be a shame not to release it. The figurative meaning of “platform” is for the actor. We can trade out “platform” for “type.” One of the biggest complaints that I hear from my casting director friends is that people submit for things that they have no chance of getting. As an responsible auditioning actor you need to be honest with yourself about your type. If you happen to be a strawberry blond skinny guy who does prat falls and makes faces you should not submit yourself for roles where they usually cast Ian Somerhalder. I promise you, Ian Somerhalder is going to get that part. Overall I think the lesson here is to play to your strengths. Swinging for the fences is great and all,  but you still need to be smart about it.
  4. Not wanting to get your hands dirty. This is probably the biggest crime in all of the entertainment business, especially for people new to it. As great as this job is, there is nothing easy about it. If it were easy everyone would do it because it’s awesome. A lot more people could do it, but most are not willing to put in the amount of work that it takes to do it right. Hell, even thirty years later I’m still finding ways that I’m deficient in my efforts. It’s an ever changing business that requires constant effort. If you’re not up for that find something else to do with your time.

Did I miss anything? Are there any best practices that I could have added to part 1? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time.

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Am I a Startup?

Startup Post Art

For the last year or so I’ve been looking at my career and trying to make decisions about which way to move it in the future. Even though I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 30 years now it hasn’t been one long smooth ride. Over those three decades I’ve actually had several “careers.”

  1. When I first started out as a kid doing commercials and voiceovers mostly.
  2. My awkward phase, around 13-15 when I exclusively played “nerd” characters.
  3. Late teens to late 20’s – the Sabrina the Teenage Witch years.
  4. Post 2005 – the producer years.

After this last decade of working almost exclusively behind the camera, with a few on-camera moments here and there, it’s time to start career number five – The “I-don’t-have-a-name-for-it-because-it-has-yet-to-be-defined” Years. For most of my working life many of my opportunities have depended a lot on other people saying “yes” which bred a bit of a reactionary response to the decisions that I’ve made in my work life. I would get a call for an audition, do my best at that audition, and then wait to see if I’m selected for the job or I would pitch an idea, put down a bid for the production, and then wait for the green light. After being beholden exclusively to other people it feels like it’s time to take as much control of my career as I can, especially since 40 is a lot closer than it used to be.

To this end I started thinking about how to make this paradigm shift. Up until now being proactive and taking control meant meeting people in the industry, participating in social media, being caught up on marketing materials like headshots and reels, etc. But this whole process needed to change if I was going to have any real control over what I wanted to do. My brain latched onto the idea of “startups.”  You hear all about startups everywhere, it has become a common term in the business vernacular. Just cruise LinkedIn or business circles on Twitter and you can find all kinds of reports, news and advice about “startups.” But nearly all of those articles and reports refer to tech startups, new apps or other tech that supposed to change our lives for the better; it was hard to see how I could fit my goals into the idea of startup structure. So I did some reading.

What is a “startup”?

Before I could really get down to business I needed to know what I was getting down to, so I hit the Internet. I did a search: “what is a startup.” This is what you find. Assuming that you exclude the results that are about creating a startup disk for your computer, there are hundreds of pages of results. After narrowing it down to about a dozen articles, there were three in particular that helped me to define what it is to be a startup and the dos and don’ts that go along with starting one. Of all the articles that defined a start up, the one that worked best for me was this article from FORBES.COM. In it “startup” is defined by Neil Blumenthal, co founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker as:

“A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”

This sounded to me a lot like my current situation where the problem Rene and I are trying to solve (my career direction) did not have a clear solution (because I didn’t have one) and success is not guaranteed (because it’s not). They had other technical definitions as well, directly out of dictionaries, but I don’t want to get off track.

The article also discusses how the idea of “startup” is cultural currency. The concept in the zeitgeist is that startups are exciting and innovative and ready to tackle problems in new ways so other industries adopted the phrase even though they technically aren’t startups. Posers aside, this along with the definition presented by Mr. Blumenthal cemented my resolution that I would approach this year as if I, myself, were a startup. Here comes Curtis 5.0!

So what does one do?

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. A lot of people like to fancy themselves as one, but few can actually back up the claim. Fortunately when you’re a new startup, like myself, there are lots of places where you can get a nickel’s worth of free advice and one of those places is I found a lot of advice here about all kinds of things related to starting a business.  A lot of it was retreading well known ideas, but some of the lists were good reminders of the basic principles that are easy to lose track of. The article that was most relevant to me was 4 Best Practices to Avoid Startup Failure. These practices are remarkably applicable to the modern professional actor with just a few minor tweeks to the explanations. I’ll let you go to the original article to read the unaltered breakdowns, but here are my thoughts on the 4 Best Practices:

  1. Maximize your resources. While all of us in the entertainment biz may want high powered agents and PR firms backing us, that’s not always option and since my plan is all about what I can control maximizing the power of my personal resources is key. All of us, I don’t care who you are (and if you want to fight about it I’ll see you in the comments below), have some resources at our disposal. Maybe it’s a supportive family. Maybe you happen to be really good with Final Cut or other editing software. Maybe you just give good “chat” at parties. Whatever you’re good at and have access to is what you should be using.  Not sure what you’ve got? Sit down and write down what you know how to do and what is available to you. And get really basic: a reliable car, a cat that does tricks, an old tuxedo that still fits. You never know what can come in handy and it might be right under your nose.
  2. Leverage your network. I’m really bad at this. I have great friends and family and they are spread all over this fine globe in a variety of different industries. I always feel guilty about asking them for anything, but anytime I don’t they have always, to the person, told me that I should have said something. You probably have these people in your life too (unless you’re, like, a big ol’ mooch). It’s time to reach out. But the key is not to reach out to just anyone, seek out the people who you would like to emulate or who can encourage you on the course you’ve picked. Don’t ask them to just “hook you up,” but let them be a source of advice or even referrals to people you might not otherwise have access to. For example: I would like to do more Think Fast seminars, a seminar that teaches people how to think on their feet using interactive exercises. A resource available to me is a group of friends who work in the corporate sector in H.R. and training. Speaking to them can let me know what materials I need to have to be able to pitch the seminar and, if it makes sense for their industry, maybe even a shot to do one for their employees.
  3. Build a learning culture. Pride. Ego. Asshole. These are all traits that may pop up as you are struggling to get things going – especially if you’re a stubborn son of a bitch who really only changes his mind once he’s figured it out and not when his lovely wife tries to save him some trouble by suggesting it earlier. But I’m not speaking from personal experience or anything…

    …anyway. It really is important to keep an open mind and to be ready to steer the ship in a new direction when the situation requires it. Also, be open to new skills. With YouTube tutorials and a little elbow grease you can learn just about anything. For example: With Think Fast it became obvious that I would need a website dedicated to just that seminar, which Rene had mentioned about a year ago. I finally got around to it and, in order to be able to make it do look the way I wanted it to, I needed to really expand on my Photoshop skills. Am I ready to be hired out as a graphic designer? No, but that wasn’t the goal. In the end I was able to learn what I needed to to get my the website built in a way I liked and that was the goal.
  4. Have an MVP. This is not a Most Valuable Player, this is a Minimum Viable Product. Actually their breakdown of what that means is pretty relatable:

“No, not an individual. A minimum viable product is the least amount of product or service you can bring to market while achieving two objectives: maximizing value to the customer and minimizing costs.

Good judgment only comes from experience, and experience typically comes from bad judgment. The toughest lessons to learn are usually the most costly in terms of resources and capital, so the best practice for you is the one that keeps your business unique.”

So how does this work for the performer? Focus on what makes you unique or sets you apart and really go for that. For example: you probably recognize a few different commercial actors by defining physical characteristics. The next time you’re watching TV pay attention to the people in the commercials, you’ll see the same people over and over and many of them have defined hair or beards or a general “look” that is clearly their trademark. If we look at the Think Fast example: There are a lot of team building and “outside the box” seminars out in the world, Think Fast is different because it uses interactive exercises that are easy to pick-up and challenging. Take an honest stock of yourself and pick out what sets you apart – then commit to it 100%.

These have all been the “do’s” of treating yourself as a startup, but there are some “don’ts.” Unfortunately I think we’ve reached the point of TL;DR. So next time we’ll look at the don’ts. In the mean time, if you would like to fight me in the comments then get to swingin’ down below.

See you next time.

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Op Ed: The Future of Entertainment

Image from

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The entertainment industry is changing faster now than it ever has before. The last decade has seen an exponential change in how audiences consume content, where content is created, how content can be monetized, and what that means for the people who create all of this content. I see this from the perspective of the “working class” trenches: no development fund, need to maintain employment, still keeping up a hustle. For people like me (and there are a LOT of us) we have seen this change in a very real way for a long time and, as much as I hate to admit it, haven’t been as proactive as we probably should have been to be on the front of that wave.

Instead the younger set, those without the idea of “this is how things work” found their place. YouTubers are doing very well for themselves and Hollywood is taking notice, ready to monetize on their popularity. Fan films get national attention and have their own festival circuit. The biggest name in horror for the last seven years has been Paranormal Activity – a series that started with a movie made for about $11,000 in a dude’s house with After Effects.

For those with vision and a camera the future is open and ready…

…that being said, the old model is far from dead.

A lot of talk happened the Monday after the Golden Globes when Netflix and Amazon both walked away with coveted trophies about how the nature of television is changing and that the very business is already inexorably changed. And it is, but not completely. Not yet.

Here are two articles that, for me, were kind of the yin and yang of the future of the business, at least for the next few years especially in the context of wide public distribution, like television.

A Few Caveats About The New World Of Television from Monkey See from NPR

The Golden Globes Tell Us Everything About the Entertainment Industry in 2015 from IndieWire

I’m a “new model” guy who’s ready for the wild west, but it’s hard to pass up the money that can come with “old model” companies.

What do you think? Comment below.

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First of the Year Dash!







I would be lying if I didn’t cop to having these feelings. Every January is the beginning of a new year, it feels like the slate gets wiped clean, and since most people have time off it is really easy to start new things or try to make new habits. This leads to gym memberships, hobbies, playing musical instruments, writing, the list goes on and on. Just last week I posted a half assed resolution post about getting re-focused (which I’m totally sticking to, by the way).

But here’s the problem, by March a lot of resolutions and plans all fall apart, or at least show signs of cracking. After I wrote that post about focus I started thinking about what that was going to mean for the rest of the year. 2015 is kinda’ spoken for as of now. Fun Size Horror 2015 is going into early prep, there are shows to do, and I’m mapping out my teaching/speaking schedule. That doesn’t even include any acting opportunities that may pop up. If I’m 100% honest with myself, that means that I have very little that I can safely commit to and the new year is just starting. First World problems for sure, but I’m the kind of guy who is going to be upset about having to say “no” even when it’s the responsible thing to do. So I had to take a pretty hard look at myself and what I know I want to accomplish this year and examine why my best intentions in previous years always seemed to drift into trouble.

I am not going to speak on how this affects people in a general sense, I don’t have the qualifications for that, so everything that I talk about in this post refers to me personally. Looking at my past, you don’t even have to go that far back to see good ideas and habits get dropped – perfect example: 52 in 52. Not managing to stick with this actually upset me quite a bit. It’s an idea that I was/am really excited about. I was pleased with how things were going, but a story a week ended up just being too much. To be fair, the things I gave it up for; Fun Size Horror and all the shooting we were doing; were absolutely worth it, but it still stings.

I won’t lie, my gym membership has been pretty useless for a while now too. I just don’t make the time for it. I should (who shouldn’t?) especially since I spend so many hours in a chair, but my discipline is bad when it comes to the gym. And eating better. I still eat like I’m in college. Rene has made some noble in-roads and had some effect, but I still love me some cheeseburgers.

So how does it come to this? What gets in my way to keep me from achieving the desired goals? Goals that pretty easy to achieve in a practical aspect when it comes down to it:

  • Rene is willing and able to prepare better food for me.
  • I have the gym membership – it’s even close by.
  • The work that I do to earn money is both varied and flexible so I can make the time to do the things I want to do.
  • I have an amazing network of friends and collaborators who are willing to help me achieve what I want.

These are not small resources. But then I take an honest look at what gets in the way:

  • Feeling like there is a lack of time.
  • Getting distracted by the “shiny things.”
  • Trepidation at trying something I have no experience with.
  • Lack of funds.

Most of these I can get past. Lack of time usually translates into lack of rest. Instead of doing the things I’d like to do when I’ve completed what I have to do I fall down an internet rabbit hole of YouTube videos and random Wikipedia research because my brain is tired. A quick nap is usually the best fix for this or turning in early if I can manage it. Distractions are tougher, but that’s what this year is about fixing. For example, I should have completed this post hours ago, but I got distracted by an episode of “This Week Tonight” and ended up marathoning about ten episodes. Avoiding distractions is going to take a little practice. Trepidation of trying something I have no experience with, more commonly known as “fear of the unknown” or “resistance” by Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art (which I highly recommend for everyone and have a link for at the bottom of this post) is something that I prefer to face head-on. I find that once you realize that everyone has to do something a first time it’s actually just a matter of girding yourself up and charging forward. The War of Art suggests a lot of great ways to achieve this. I can’t recommend it enough.

Lack of funds – this is the big one. Money is such a sensitive thing. There’s a certain amount of investment that you need to make into anything you do, that’s just an economic reality, but I hate parting with any funds unless I can “see” the return or a way to recoup. This only makes me pinch pennies more when  those envisioned returns don’t show up. If I had unlimited funds (c’mon lottery!) or a benefactor (c’mon mysterious uncle who won the lottery!) I would probably feel differently about this but, put on news announcer voice in these trying economic times, it’s a tough thing for me to get past.

Putting all of these things down on “paper” makes them feel manageable. Putting them out in public makes me want to take ownership of them. Knowing that this makes me vulnerable to scrutiny makes me want to be responsible. Sometimes it takes the possibility of looking like an idiot to motivate you.

…Of course you can always end up looking like an idiot anyway, but if I let that stop me I wouldn’t have had a career.

How are you doing this far into the new year? Let’s talk in the comments.

See you next time.

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Filed under Andelon, art, artist, business, challenge, commentary, Curtis Andersen, doing new things, evil plan, general, in real life, insight, inspiration, learning experience, making movies, marketing, money, musings

Project 365 10-1-2010 Dave’s Roast

When you are a member of Improv Shmimprov you get a roast after 100 shows.  Tonight was Dave Chorley’s Roast.

These are always fun for us, maybe not for the audience – although I don’t know since I’ve never seen one from the audience perspective – but I realized when I was writing the roast for Dave that I really didn’t know much about him!  I was shocked since I’ve known him for over two years now and it made me realize that even though I’m up to a lot, I don’t know that I’m really present for all of it. 

I think I need to work on changing that.

Here’s Dave as he roasted us back:

See you tomorrow!

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