Category Archives: inspiration

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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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 Entrepreneur.com. 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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Filed under business, creativity, evil plan, getting old, insight, inspiration, new projects, new year, Uncategorized

Getting to Know – Bookthump.com

Dan Bookthump

Hello dear readers.

I say readers because today I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Dan and he writes about the books that he reads.

A little back story…

Getting to Know is something new that I’m trying so that I can introduce you to other things that I like beyond the videos that I shared on Fun Video Friday. This might include people, websites, books, movies, TV shows, whatever. I’m not sure if it will have a set schedule or just be a thing that I put out as I find things I want to share, I’m playing it very fast and loose. I’m a wild man.

A little back story about Dan…

Dan and I have been friends since junior high – over 20 years. He has always been a good writer, but rarely done enough with it. He wrote a spec script for “Seinfeld” that was so good that our mutual friend, Jeff, used to reference it as if it were a real episode. If Dan drank a bit more he might be the very perfect model of the modern American novelist. Or the classic American novelist? My desire to make an Pirates of Penzance reference may have clouded that description. Regardless, Dan is a good writer who writes about what he reads. His website, Bookthump.com, is a series of book reviews that are both a comment on the book and his personal relationship to the experience of reading that book.

Unlike other reviews, the personal reflections offer a way for you, as the reader, to get a better feel for the story. I find that his reviews tend to be more persuasive when I think about what I want to add to my reading list. I’ll admit that there is a certain amount of bias; he and I have known each other a long time and we share similar interests, but I feel that his authentic approach and honest thoughts on what he reads will appeal to a wide audience.

Here are some of Dan’s favorite posts:

The Martian

Shaman

Blood River

And one that I really enjoyed:

Misery

Check them out. Let me know what you think. Let him know what you think.

See you soon.

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Filed under blatant plug, books, creativity, fiction, geek, high school, hobby, inspiration, internet, writing

First of the Year Dash!

Insanity-Wolf-Happy-New-Year

JANUARY FIRST!

NEW DIET!

NEW WORKOUT!

NEW LIFE PLAN!

THIS IS GOING TO BE THE YEAR THAT I DO IT BECAUSE IT’S JANUARY FIRST AND NOTHING CAN STOP ME!!!!!!!

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

Gratitude 2013

Hollywood, and the entertainment business in general, is tough. There’s always a hustle happening and it doesn’t ever stop, even when you’re successful – in fact it can get even hustle-ier. It’s easy for this business to get you down, weigh on you and lead you down a path to cynicism.

But it’s very important to remember that  part of the reason why it is hard is because everybody wants to do it and if you aren’t giving it your all you can be replaced before you even realized what has happened!

All that being said, I truly believe there is no other industry like entertainment and if you are working in it you have every reason to be grateful. Every entertainment project is a team effort, whether it’s a film, T.V. show, record, play, musical, book, YouTube video… no one can truly do it completely on their own. We stand on the shoulders of our supporters and teammates and lift up into the world a bit of something that couldn’t have existed without everyone’s help. From the director to the make-up artist to the casting director to the music producer to the background actors to editor to the writer to the camera man to the sound technician to the production assistant to the personal assistant… they are all a part of the process. Parts of the puzzle that makes up the final work. And we can’t forget about the accountants and P.R. reps, A&R people, managers, agents, lawyers, all the folks that help keep the business moving (even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it).

So I’m thankful that I am able to create as my job. I’m grateful for the struggle. I’m grateful for the work. I’m grateful when a project is completed and I’m grateful when a new one starts. I’m grateful for the friends that I have made in this business and I’m grateful that I get to share this with my wife. I’m grateful that I have a supportive family that was willing to help me follow my dream at such an early age and I’m grateful to my students who are letting me help them on their way through this crazy industry.

So this November as you’re dreading holiday dinners, calorie counts, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or any of the other cliched things that there are to dread I hope you will take some time out for yourself, take stock of what you do, and give thanks. Give thanks to the people who have helped you do what you do and even the people who have created obstacles to over come, after all sometimes we need a challenge to get the best possible result (just ask Steven Spielberg about Jaws).

You make things! That’s the coolest thing there is! Keep it up!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under career, holidays, inspiration, Thanksgiving

Chicago & Creativity

Over the weekend Rene and I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago. I delivered the Think Fast seminar at the National Auctioneer’s Association Conference. We had a fantastic time in Chicago, we loved so many things about it, enough for it to be a completely different post later. Today I want to talk about the conference.

The point of the conference is continued education for the benefit auctioneers who attend. They get a chance to brush up on skills and learn new techniques. I was invited to help share improvisation techniques to aid in crowd control and auction flow. We did a series of games designed to keep them from second guessing themselves and to engage the creative centers of their brains. 
These are very personable people with gregarious personalities. They have a performer’s mentality and a salesmen’s drive. They write their own scripts, interact with people constantly and do the job of being both a host and performer.  These are creative people, but many of them had forgotten that. 
When I was first approached about speaking at the conference one of the specifics that was mentioned was to help come up with snappy patter and one-liners. That’s a tough thing to do for other people in a general way. When writing comedy it’s best to write to your subject. General jokes create general results. Specific jokes create specific results, better results. The fact of the matter is that they really didn’t need my help coming up with clever or snappy patter. Every one of the people at that conference has all the ability they need, they just needed the confidence to trust themselves. 
And that’s really the point of it all. So many people forget in the course of what they’re doing that part of why they are doing whatever it is they are doing, they are doing it because they had an idea about it. Something triggered their creativity and got them to where they are at. 
Now I know what some of the more cynical of you are thinking, “What about people in menial jobs? What kind of creativity got them there?” And, ok, I’ll give you that the job itself may not be the end goal, but they got that job for a reason. They needed to pay for something and that job is going to help do that. Everybody has their reasons. And sometimes the motivation can lead down some convoluted paths that distract you from the ultimate goal. All the more reason to get refocused! 
During the exercises you could see the spark light up as they remembered that they already knew how to do this stuff. They brought their own talents out and they got excited! It was really neat to see. Tools are great but seeing people use them, effectively, is always better. 
I think that we can all forget sometimes how to use our talents, at least to their full extent. It’s easy to get caught up using them in certain ways, simple ways. Sometimes you don’t get challenged, worse we don’t always challenge ourselves. Talents are different than skills. Skills are learned, require practice and can fade from lack of use. Talents are innate. The stick around whether we want them or not. Skills can enhance a talent, but skills can never replace a talent. 
I have heard it said, and it makes a nice poetic notion, that when you teach you learn as much as you pass on. I definitely learned some things during the conference. While talking to them I was reminded that I haven’t really been utilizing my talents as much either. It was motivating. I saw what it was like for them to be making a living doing what they love. That was inspiring. And I was pointed to a Facebook group all about grilling and barbecuing. It looks delicious!
So I put it to you, use your talents. They don’t need to make you famous, but they can make a difference, even if that difference is just making you a little bit happier. 
But that’s just me, what do you think? Let’s talk in he comments. 
See you next time!

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Filed under career, Chicago, commentary, consulting, creativity, doing new things, education, getting started, happiness, inspiration

Inspiration – How Does It Hit You?

It’s easy to get distracted.

There are lots of things that can get in the way of what you really want to do and, unfortunately, a majority of those things disguise themselves as “life.” There’s the job, and laundry and grocery shopping and street sweeping day and pets and kids and a whole list of things that, while legitimate, end up taking time away from whatever it is you’d rather be doing.

Even a vacation can be a distraction.

To get specific, my vacation was a distraction. A WONDERFUL distraction and Rene and I hope to leave as soon as possible to rejoin the islands and start lives as kale farmers on a ranch with Frankie and Charlie. Frankie will look good in overalls.

After a week basking in the sun drinking (too many) Mai Tais and then a full week of playing catch-up I’m finally caught up. But being caught up and being inspired are very different things. So I’ve been struggling to get inspired, to get excited about things. Rene and I have a lot on our plate: movies and shows and live shows and jobs and…

And that’s where I hit the wall. We have things, but it’s the same stuff that we have been working on for a while. The documentary is in heavy post production where we are waiting on people outside of our production group. Pom Pom Massacre is in negotiation for funding (Yay!). Other projects have hit the back burner mostly due to a perceived lack of time. The only really active things going on are the mystery shows, Shmimprov and this blog. That definitely doesn’t seem like very much when you write it down and it definitively isn’t where I’d like to be activity wise.

Some may read this and think, “Why is he posting all this? Why would he point out his problems and when the hell is that cheerleader movie getting made?!?”

First, I hear you, nobody wants to listen to a winer. Second of all, the movie is coming!

So what am I getting at? Finding the spark that gets you out of your routine! The motivation to start something new! The thing that got all these other projects started! I’m starting to feel it again and it only took a week off and dinner with my wife and good friend Jeff to get it going. What does that mean? Hopefully lots of new content and one particularly cool idea that is still being sketched out.

But what I really wanted to do was hear about you. I didn’t even know I was in a slump until I was out side of things enough to see it. So are you feeling inspired? What gets you inspired? What is inspiration anyway?

I’m looking forward to your thoughts. Maybe we can find a way to keep that feeling going because lord knows I’m definitely jazzed about everything more right now than I was a month ago and that’s a much better place to be.

See you next time.

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Filed under general, inspiration, projects, rambling

Project 365 2-17-2010 Ray Bradbury

Today as I was e-mailing, phone calling, and doing all the things that I do to try and get movies funded, and therefore made, I cruised to Facebook to see what the rest of my friends were doing.  Robert Dagnall, resume builder and cover-letter specialist, had posted a key note speech delivered by author Ray Bradbury.  It was a speech that Robert had seen live and he has spoken about before so I was excited to see it for myself.  It is just under an hour long but, regretfully, I couldn’t listen to it all in one go.  Even in pieces I found it inspiring.

The speech is delivered conversationally with only the beginning feeling like a prepared, albeit loose, speech.  The remainder of the hour falls out of his mouth like a story from your grandfather with the flavor and weight of experience and a life well lived.  He tells of his start as a writer and how he wrote and accomplished what he did and I noticed as I listened that I had heard the story before but from different people.  There is a theme in writing called the hero’s journey.  If you’ve seen more than one movie in your life or read at least two books then you are familiar with the hero’s journey, it is literally as old as the written word (see THIS LINK if you need more).  I decided today that there is a “success journey” that actually happens in real life.  It is the path that people take to achieve greatness.  Extraordinary people, like Ray Bradbury, who, despite all the trials, tribulations and hardship soldier on to reach the goals that they set for themselves and, usually without knowing it, exceed their original vision.  It’s a thing that I aspire to.

If you are in need of a push or motivation to follow a dream or a reminder that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing, watch this.  After all, if the things that we love weren’t so hard to do everyone would do it.

Today’s picture is the screen as I watched part of the video.

And I’ve included the video in this post.

See you tomorrow!

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Filed under inspiration, project 365 2010