Category Archives: teaching

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

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,, 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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One Of My Students Is A Meme!

I teach young actors and naturally I want them to work, and work they do, but this is the first time one of them has become a bit of an internet sensation!

That’s Ava in the picture above and she did a commercial for Google last year. It’s funny, take a look:

And now it’s been GIF’d and Tumblr’d and spread all over the internets!

Here’s a link to a Tumblr search for Martin Van Buren. She’s all over the place.

I’m very excited for her!

And a little jealous that she might get to meet Grumpy Cat.

Memes all know each other, right?

See you next time!

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Curtis Andersen at Studio 105 in Long Beach

I have been teaching people acting techniques and how to perform for about a decade. For the last six years I’ve been teaching at Kids Acting School in Lake Forest and, while I’ll still be there on the weekends for the foreseeable future, I’ll actually be teaching on camera classes at Studio 105 in Long Beach!

Studio 105 was opened last year by my friend Steven Nelson. He’s a working actor that you’ve probably seen in a few things and I know you’ve seen the commercials he’s been in. He’s also a talented screen writer and excellent instructor. Follow the upper link to see his school bio and check out his career HERE.

My classes start THIS APRIL! Wednesday April 3rd to be exact. Would you like to sign up? Well here’s how you do that!

(323) 898-3567

Follow the links for costs and times and keep an eye out for out demo spot coming to social media near you soon!
See you next time!

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More Actor Advice – This Time From Stephen Tobolowsky

Rene and I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Tobolowsky once at a meet-up for /Film and The Tobolowsky Files, the latter of which is his own storytelling podcast that is, in my opinion, some of the best audio you are likely to find. Heartfelt honest stories about his life and career that can bring you to tears as quickly as they can have you rolling with laughter. Follow the links to experience it – although the audio may not be up for long. He is starting to be syndicated on the radio and so they may have to take down many of the recordings.

In addition to being an actor, author and podcaster; Mr. Tobolowsky is also a an acting teacher and has written this article that I found at In it he talks about how to build a character and, since I’m not too proud to steal a link, I thought you might like to read it too.’

See you next time!

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Project 365 7-31-2010 The Hosting Again!

Different kind of hosting today.  I had to run the introductory seminar for the school I work at today because the owner was out of town.  It’s about 30-45 minutes of trying to explain the entertainment industry to a bunch of people who, for the most part, don’t really know much about it and then auditioning kids.

It’s enough to sap your strength.

The people are fine, and in some cases we see some GREAT, talented kids, but seeing that many people in a row is exhausting.  I can’t even imagine how the American Idol pre-screeening panel does it.

Here’s me doing the presentation:

See you tomorrow!

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Project 365 5-29-2010

Woke up.

Had coffee and an English Muffin with peanut butter.

Taught one of the strangest acting classes I’ve ever taught, eight kids of varying ages all in the same room.  Quite an experiment.

Got home and did minor shopping with Rene.

Celebrated Rene’s Dad’s birthday.

Sat down and have been in a bit of a daze ever since.

Here’s today’s picture:

It’s Frankie’s wound after a week of healing.  Looks a lot better than it used to.  He’s still our little Frankie-stein.  I missed the perfect picture this morning when I woke up of Rene and Frankie sleeping in the bed like mother and son and have been regretting it all day.  I’m hoping for another opportunity tomorrow.

See you tomorrow.

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Project 365 5-25-2010 T.C.O.B.

As you’ve probably noticed these blogs are REALLY late.  I’m going to pretend that I’m writing on Tuesday.

I like Tuesdays.  Tuesdays don’t have the stank of Mondays or the dull of Wednesdays and it gives you enough time to get more work done before the end of the week.

Zeke and I had a really good Tuesday.  We got to meet with our production partners from the East Coast, Hayden 5, and discuss Cheerleaders Must Die!  This is going to be a really fun project!

After that I had an audition and ran into an old college friend whom I haven’t seen in at least five years, we got to audition together!

Class was even surprisingly easy tonight (the five year olds were miraculously well behaved!).

Oh, but there was one little, itsy, bitsy problem.: I’m sick.

Here’s today’s picture:

See you tomorrow.

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Project 365 5-2-2010 Dog Face Fur

I run the risk of having a few too many of my blogs this year being about my dog, but the joy that we get from Frankie has been described by parents as the same that they feel for their children.  Until you meet him I think it is hard to understand the level of personality and expression that he shows in his face.  There are times when you can tell that he is communicating with you pretty clearly and I know that other equally nutty dog parents can relate to the fact that once you really know your dog you really can communicate in a very rudimentary kind of way.

Frankie knows how to let us know he’s hungry, would like a walk, that he’s ready for bed and when he doesn’t like what’s on T.V.  Yes, he does watch T.V., but not a lot.  He prefers shows that include animals, especially pet food commercials.  He also likes shows that include whistling.  While I haven’t tested this theory I’m pretty sure that the end credits of “The Andy Griffith Show” might be his favorite thing in the world.  He doesn’t have sophisticated taste, but most television audiences don’t either.

His favorite show, really, is “Looking Out the Front Window.”  It’s not on T.V., that’s what he does.  He sits on his daybed and looks out the front window at all the things going on.  He likes to watch the gardeners mow the lawn and trim things and he really pays attention when school lets out and the high school kids walk by with their purple highlights and skinny jeans.  I was with him this morning as he was watching cars pass.  Every once in a while I join him on that daybed and try to see the world the way he does.  So far I don’t find it nearly as interesting, but my senses work differently what with my color vision and significantly diminished sense of smell and hearing.  But today, as he was intently looking at things I couldn’t see, I got a chance to really look at his face in the sun.  I started looking at the detail of how the fur grew on his face and how his skin reacted to the turns of his head and the twitch of his ears.  There was a lot of action going on beneath the surface during his simple action of looking at the world.  This theme carried through to class today as I worked with some of my older students about the subtleties of multiple emotions in acting, how it isn’t just “I’m happy” or “I’m sad” but “I’m happy, but conflicted and frustrated,” or something like that.

The devil may be in the details, but so is inspiration and, if you’re willing to see it, a bit of wonder.  Being that close to Frankie and seeing all that work under the skin made me look at my face closely, see the reaction of my eyes to light, involuntary reactions of my eyebrows and the tracks of the forming wrinkles around my eyes.  It’s all like clock pieces moving together.  These aren’t new discoveries, I have memories of my teachers in school telling me to do this kind of observation but I didn’t care then or have the capacity to really appreciate it.  Today I did.

Today’s picture is of Frankie’s face when he wanted to be asleep:

See you tomorrow!

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