And thanks for reading! Rejection. It’s the word (and thing) people fear. Maybe it’s the word we fear the MOST…but I’m not sure, so will just stick with fear.
I actually hate this word. Especially as a performer…it’s just too negative, and to be honest I don’t believe that rejection is actually what’s happening in the industry. Of course, rejection is a verb based on the definition of the word reject, so let’s see what the definition of reject is:
verb (used with object)
- to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.: to reject the offer of a better job.
- to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.).
- to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff: The other children rejected him. The publisher rejected the author’s latest novel.
- to discard as useless or unsatisfactory: The mind rejects painful memories.
- to cast out or eject; vomit.
Pretty harsh. And most of us see what happens when we don’t get a role we auditioned for as items 4 and 5 above. It’s no wonder people fear rejection! Useless or unsatisfactory!? Vomited!? No one wants THAT!
Not just about performers, really…
While I am focusing on rejection as a part of the voice over and acting worlds, feelings of rejection are REAL and can happen in many areas of our life; it has some pretty negative side effects. Feelings of rejection are painful and, in some cases, affect not only your mental well-being, but also your physical. What follows is a discussion of how to handle what performers call rejection, but if you are feeling rejected outside of what follows as a performer, then I urge you to seek competent medical help.
Rejection makes people feel as if they are not wanted, valued, or accepted. Everyone will experience rejection at some times in their life. These rejections are usually short lived, and we recover from them quickly. Ongoing rejection, however, can have severe psychological effects.
Some effects of ongoing rejection
If you are a performer, then you may be familiar with ongoing rejection. We know intellectually that we are only going to book between 2-5% of the roles we submit/audition for, but emotionally it still stings when we are not cast. Ongoing feelings of rejection can lead to:
Not only that…
But ongoing feelings of rejection can cause anger and aggression and we often blame ourselves which destroys confidence and self-esteem. NOTE: confidence and self-esteem are crucial for performers.
Being rejected over and over again makes us fearful to try again. We turn inward and assume we got rejected because of some flaw in ourselves, which of course is impossible to identify because we rarely receive feedback (if at all) on our submissions/auditions. This fear makes it difficult to submit or audition again, because certainly those flaws still exist since they are unidentified and uncorrected.
What I am talking about here is the rejection a performer feels when they are not selected for a role. The ideas I am presenting below are not intended as any type of treatment: I am not a therapist or even a doctor (although I could play one on TV). What I am presenting below is a suggestion of a different way to look at the rejection performers feel when they are not cast. Specifically, and only this. If you are suffering the effects of long term, ongoing rejection, please seek medical help!
Selection versus rejection…
It may be subtle, but there is a difference between being rejected and not being selected. If we look at the casting process as a process of selection, and not one of rejecting all but the best submission, we may avoid some of the negative consequences. There are so many variables in the casting process that have nothing to do with you or your performance. We have no way of knowing WHY we were not selected, so there is no real reason to immediately assume it was some flaw in what you presented.
Getting the role is rare!
Not JUST for you, for EVERYone! Looking at it just by the numbers alone, you can see why my friend Michael Kostroff teaches actors that “You’re not getting the f*&%#ing job!” in his AuditionPsych 101 class. For a given role, depending on some variables, you can assume at least 100 people are submitting. Out of those hundred maybe 20-40 will be asked to audition and then only 3-5 get forwarded to production for casting. Of course, only ONE will be selected. If you’re a bookie, you can easily see your odds of “winning” the role are slim.
We need to change our focus in the casting process. We are not trying to get a job. As Bryan Cranston (Walter White in Breaking Bad) says:
(From his book A Life in Parts)
“Early in my career, I was always hustling. Doing commercials, guest-starring, auditioning like crazy. I was making a decent living…but I felt I was stuck in junior varsity. I wondered if I had plateaued. Then, Breck Costin [his mentor] suggested I focus on process rather than outcome.
I wasn’t going to the audition to get anything: a job or money or validation. I wasn’t going to compete.
I was going to give something.
I wasn’t there to get a job. I was there to do a job. I was there to give a performance. If I attached to the outcome, I was setting myself up to expect, and thus to fail. My job was to be compelling. Take some chances. Enjoy the process.
Once I made the switch, I had power in any room I walked into, which meant I could relax. I was free.”
I prefer to look at submissions/auditions as menu items and samples. When you go to your favorite restaurant, do they have more than one thing on the menu? When you select chicken instead of beef or pork does that mean you discard as useless or unsatisfactory – or even think of vomiting – beef and pork? Maybe, but not typically. It simply means chicken fit what you were looking for at this meal. We need to see ourselves, and our performance, as just another item on the menu.
Sometimes, we aren’t sure which meal is the right one, so we ask for a sample. We see these many times at the mall food court, or when wandering around BJ’s or Costco on a Saturday morning. Your audition is the sample to help them choose. Being asked to submit an audition is ALREADY a win, because they think you may be right for the role but need a sample to make a final decision.
A new perspective
Since we know the odds of getting cast are low no matter how talented we are and recognize that our submissions and auditions are there to give the casting team choices, then we can start to look at the process differently. When we are not cast, we are not being rejected; instead, someone else just got selected (and sometimes we get selected too…don’t forget!).
What can you GIVE…
If you focus on what you can give during the audition instead of focusing on the outcome, you are free to be as creative as you are capable of. You are not going into an audition to GET a job, you are going in to GIVE a performance. It may be (is likely to be!) the only chance you have to play this role, and if you do not attach the result (getting cast) to your performance, then you are free to give your best and then walk away.
The irony here is this: If you understand your job (presenting a menu item), the odds for ANY actor to get cast in a particular role (they’re low no matter how talented you are) and you don’t attach your audition to the outcome (getting cast) …you can relax and just have fun in the audition. You can be bold, give them your best interpretation of the character and then just be glad you had the chance to provide a sample of your menu item. This outlook removes all the stress and dramatically improves your confidence. Believe it or not, those two things actually make you MORE likely to book the job!
No matter what you do, chances are “You’re not getting the f&%$#ing job” anyway (just by the numbers!), so why carry around all the baggage of feeling rejected? REJECTION: It’s not really a part of this industry even though sometimes it can feel that way! Relax, have fun…and eventually YOU’LL be selected!