And thanks for reading! It’s said that you have to go through 1000 nos to get to a yes, or kiss 1000 frogs before you find your prince. The idea of rejection has been with us for a long time. This week let’s talk about rejection and how to deal with it.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. Yeah, I know I say this every week, but it falls under the heading of “The things that go without saying are the things that most need to be said”. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
We say that rejection is just a part of being an actor. Rejection can really get an actor down, and sometimes that can spiral into the “I’m not meant to be an actor, I should just find a full-time day job” thought process. While it is true that we book only a small fraction of the gigs we audition for, I do not think of the ones I don’t book as a rejection. It’s not a process of rejection, it’s a process of SELECTION. I’ll explain later.
The problem with rejection thinking is that it’s negative self-talk. Get rejected often enough and pretty soon you’re thinking you are not worthy. This thinking makes you feel defeated and tired. It drains your energy, and energy is just what you need for an audition. Pretty soon you are feeling rejected going IN to an audition and at that point your acting career is in a death spiral. Some call this “rejection fatigue”.
The problem with negative self-talk is that it is much easier to convince yourself of something than it is to convince someone else. If you are not careful, you’ll have yourself convinced you are a terrible actor. That can lead to low-effort auditions, and you have a self-perpetuating cycle. You are sure you’re terrible and won’t book a job, go into the audition already defeated, put up a less than stellar audition, don’t get selected and affirm (to yourself anyway) how terrible you are. Negative self-talk can actually damage your auditions!
Not to be confused with
Just to stop the folks thinking I am being all Pollyanna about this, don’t confuse my eleven part “You’re not getting the f*&^ing job” series with negative self-talk. There is an enormous difference between a healthy understanding of the casting process and thinking you are not good enough to book work. One is freeing, and the other is a prison sentence. Know that you can both be good enough AND not get the job.
Maybe you are terrible.
The GREAT thing about being a terrible actor is you have no place to go but up. Go back and look at or listen to your first audition self-tapes and compare them to your latest. Are you happy with that first one? If I were a betting man, I’d guess probably not. My first self-tapes make me cringe when I see/hear them! But my most recent ones? Maybe not Oscar worthy, but a WHOLE lot better than those first few.
Each no brings you closer to yes.
Every time you step in front of the camera or sit down behind the mic, you have an opportunity to improve. I mean, you ALSO have an opportunity to book a job, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. My point is, if you do happen to be a terrible actor today, every audition helps you become a little better. Like with many things in life, the more you do something the better you get at it. Acting is no different. But feelings of rejection make it tough to even GET in front of the camera or microphone (I know, I’ve been there) and that defeatist attitude negatively affects your audition!
Trying to get a job.
Here’s the thing, and it may seem a little non-intuitive. If you see your auditions as trying to get a job, you’ve already lost half the battle. Hanging your hat on the outcome of an audition is a recipe for disaster. Yeah, I know you have bills to pay and booking the job is how you pay them, but bear with me here. If you see auditions as an opportunity to do something you love (act) and to showcase your talent with a casting director instead of as a path to employment, then you’ll enjoy doing them more and be a lot more relaxed and confident.
By the numbers
And remember: There are 100 (or more) people auditioning for the same role. They will only select one of them. You have a 1 in 100+ chance of booking a particular role. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred you won’t get it. If, instead of auditioning to get a job, you audition to provide a CD with a selection of how that role can be portrayed, then not getting the role gets easier. You were not rejected, just not selected.
I like to use a menu analogy. If I go into a restaurant and want to buy dinner the first thing I do (after ordering a drink) is to peruse the menu. Odds are the menu has a selection of different foods: Beef, chicken, pork, pasta, salads…sometimes even pasta salads. Sometimes I can also choose breakfast items like eggs and pancakes. Usually there are MANY choices. If I choose chicken, have I rejected beef? Or Pasta? Or pork? NO! I just selected chicken and tomorrow I may choose beef. It’s the same with auditions.
YOU are the menu item.
When you audition, what you are doing is giving the CD a menu selection. It sucks to be beef when they want chicken, but it doesn’t mean they don’t like beef or that beef “just isn’t good enough”. Sorry to all the vegetarians/vegans out there for the meat focused discussion, the same can be said of plant-based food. Stay on the menu long enough and before you know it, they’ll be ordering chicken…or whatever you are.
Lots of reasons
The simple truth is this: There are a of of reasons you may not be selected and most of them have nothing to do with your acting ability. Maybe you are too short, too young, too old, have the wrong color hair. Perhaps you just don’t have the right chemistry with a scene partner. It could be that the choices you made for that audition are just not what the casting folks were envisioning. Great performance, just not the one they imagined for that role. It’s not rejection, it’s selection (even if the selection was someone else).
Also keep in mind that when you DO book a gig, there are 99+ people who weren’t selected. That’s both humbling and gratifying at the same time. Even big-name A-list actors are sometimes not selected for roles they want. If you don’t believe me, check this out.
Motivation is the key.
If you understand that you simply can NOT book every role, and that the selection process likely has nothing to do with your acting ability then it is much easier to stay motivated. And motivation is the key to success here. If you aren’t motivated to audition, then it’s going to take you a LONG time to get through all the no’s to find your yes. And the yes is what we really want because that yes allows us to do what we REALLY love: Perform. And every audition is an opportunity to perform as well!
At the end of the day
Every actor, the guy or gal who started acting today and the people whose names you recognize immediately ALL auditioned for roles they wanted but didn’t get. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that when we don’t book a particular role we are in good company. The trick is to not think of roles you don’t get as rejection. Rejection fatigue is real, and that feeling of despair will come across in your auditions leading to that self-fulfilling prophecy of “not good enough”.
You are good enough. You are talented enough (or on your way to being talented enough). You are just a few no’s away from that yes that will launch your successful career. You just have to keep pushing, keep auditioning and keep working till the yes arrives!