Category Archives: learning experience

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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Come Watch Andelon Productions Discussions: Creativity on the Daily

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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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Am I a Startup? Part 2: The “Don’ts”

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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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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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Actor 101: Picking Up The Pieces – What Happens When A Project Fails

In 2012 I had a bad July.

A very bad July. 
We were just coming off of a successful production for the plastic surgeon documentary and were heading full steam ahead into post. The next two projects were lined up and crewing up. We were knee deep in casting and then disaster struck – all but our initial financing fell through…
…on both projects…
…at the same time. 
The next six months worth of work were gone. Worse than that, being the lead producer, I suddenly had employees who were also out of work. The projects were shot and my credibility was shot. 
It was a very bad July.

Losing funding is nothing new in the entertainment industry. It, literally, happens every day. In the initial days of the financial crisis it was sometimes happening several times a day (that’s a different, less terrible, story). But the devastation caused by the loss is dependent on several key factors:

  • Type of project.
  • People associated with the project.
  • The likelihood of replacing the funding.
For big studio pictures having a project flounder isn’t such a big deal. They can repackage and attempt to get it made for years or even decades. 
If you have major stars in your project it’s a bit easier to keep interest up and entice new money.
In the end, if you have a strong track record, are a major studio and/or have the star power to put butts in seats then your likelihood of replacing funding is strong and you just need to survive the delay.
We didn’t have any of those benefits. 
What we did have was a great idea, a FANTASTIC crew and some interest from prominent distributors who were looking forward to seeing a final cut. But it wasn’t enough to get the funding back in place in time to keep our production schedule.
Working in Hollywood often means that your credibility is also your line of credit. Things can happen on a handshake, but then they better happen. Just like your credit score, it is very easy to damage your credibility and not as easy to build it back. I like to pride myself on keeping my word, especially in business, but that July the rug was tugged out and, direct fault or not, I was holding the bag and all the excuses and apologies in the world doesn’t change that.
It’s easy to find stories about success in Hollywood, it’s all anyone wants to talk about. Scoring deals, making movies, living the dream – the whole town runs on the hope and wish fulfillment popularized by the trade and gossip magazines and entertainment shows. But you can’t throw a stone in the Los Angeles Metro Area without hitting someone who’s had it all fall apart on them…
…and everyone else is scared that they’re next.
You can feel it in the casting waiting rooms, executive board rooms, and every Studio City apartment. No one is immune, but you do have a choice about how you cope and what you do. 
I decided to fall back. 
With the projects completely stranded, we used what money we had to pay out who we could (everyone who wasn’t a producer) and I went back to my desk to start shaking the money trees. For months I was pretty much locked away at home licking my wounds and looking for rent money on top of project funding. I was making daily phone calls of apology to partners, crew and fellow producers. I was working out what the tax issues would be… I was mourning the loss.
Normally this is where I’d tell you that at least something good came out of it, there’s a moral about keeping hope alive and the music swells as we get to a happy ending… but, no, that’s not really how this story ends. While my life certainly hasn’t fallen apart, I am still recovering, career wise, from the loss of these projects. We have gotten some things back on track, but not made. I have regained at least a little bit of my credibility with the people I was most worried about, but frankly I’m not sure about everyone. Even fifteen months on I carry a great deal of guilt about the whole thing. 
I don’t know that I have any good advice about how to deal with this since I’m still in the thick of it, but I did think that it was something that was worth writing about because, whether you’re a vet or noob, nobody tells you about the failure part. It happens, more than anyone wants to admit, and you aren’t alone if it happens to you. In fact, if/when it does happen, you’re in really good company. Every major entertainment player has a horrible story they never want to tell and really they are the best example to follow. Anyone who finds success in this business does so due to a combination of hard work, determination and skill. Perseverance, talent and an eye for opportunity can turn the whole thing around and, as quickly as everything was taken away, the ship can be righted and back on course. 
What I hope you take away from this is that failure is only as bad as you let it be and that it’s OK, healthy even, to be upset and mourn the loss of a project, a part or a gig. The end of a project is merely the end of a project, not the end of the world. The nice thing is that there is always something else out there. It might not be right around the corner, and you may not be ready to hear it, but it is out there. It’s up to you to get yourself collected and get back on the horse. 
I’ll see you out there.

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