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In the last week or two, while reading blog posts from fellow voice artists, I was struck by both Craig Williams blog post “Are you OK With You?” and a post by Jon Gardner, “What do I Really Sound Like?”. It got me thinking about my own journey in both voice over AND screen acting about how we sound and appear differently to others than we do to ourselves.
It’s a word everyone loves to hate. It sucks to get rejected, for sure, but as a Voice and Screen Actor, it is something we need to get used to. Like everyone, especially in this (or these) business(es) rejection is a constant companion. Acceptance is in there too…but that is both less frequent and a lot easier to take, so we won’t talk about that. I mean, who struggles with acceptance anyway? If you are going to take a trip in the entertainment industry, you are GOING to get rejected and you have to both get used to it and understand what it means.
What IS rejection anyway?
I suppose everyone knows about rejection. We get rejected a lot in life, when applying for a job, asking out that person you’re attracted to, trying to get a loan…the opportunity for rejection is everywhere. I am concentrating on rejection in voice over and acting, but honestly what I want to discuss is true no matter what you are rejected from. In the end, rejection is NOT being selected for something you want, plain and simple.
What does that have to do with those other blogs?
Patience grasshopper (and bonus points if you get the reference). Those other posts relate, not really to rejection, but maybe to how we FEEL about rejection. In Craigs post he mentions:
“Whether you like it or not, you bring a uniqueness to a voiceover that nobody else can replicate easily.”
He asks; “Are you OK With You?” If you are part of this industry, you MUST be OK with you, or it will drive you crazy trying to be something you’re not! In Jon’s post, he talks about how we sound different to other people than we sound to ourselves.
“Here is a major complication: we don’t hear ourselves objectively. We really don’t know what we sound like, which is why so many people hate to hear a recording of their voice.”
Most people really don’t know…
The vast majority of people never really hear their recorded voices or see themselves on screen. When they do, either in a voice mail or maybe in a wedding video, they are SHOCKED by what they hear and/or see. These captured sounds and images do not fit with their view of themselves, and they tend to reject them.
But here’s the thing…
What you hear or see, and don’t like (usually), are what OTHER people hear and see all the time. Those are what you are projecting to the outside world. And guess what? THEY don’t hate it, it’s who you are!
Here’s the OTHER thing…
Just because they (and for this they, I am talking about casting directors) don’t hate it, that doesn’t mean it’s what they’re looking for. Honestly, and you HAVE to get used to this, the odds are it is NOT what they are looking (or listening) for. In speaking with casting directors, I have found that even when they ABSOLUTELY LOVE what you’ve done, if it is not right (in their mind – and face it, their mind is what matters) for the part, they are not going to cast you.
All that to say:
Well, two things actually: 1.) You are not the judge of whether or not your audition is “on the mark” and 2.) Just because you didn’t get cast, doesn’t mean you suck. Let that sink in just a bit. So many times, I think I have completely NAILED an audition, only to get passed over. Other times, I listen (or watch) back a day or two after submitting and CRINGE at what I sent…only to actually GET cast.
You just never know
Honestly, regardless of what the casting specs call for, it is almost impossible to know exactly what the casting director is looking for. Sometimes, regardless of what the casting specs say, THEY don’t really “know” what they are looking for, just a vague idea. Internalize that, know it for CERTAIN, and then remember: If sometimes even THEY don’t know exactly what they want, how can you know if you’ve provided it?
Which leads us back to: REJECTION!
We get rejected for jobs a lot more often than we get selected. The stats bear that out…we get cast (depending on your talent, years of experience, and relationship with the client of course) for between 2-10% of the auditions we submit. That means, for all you non-math wizards out there, we get rejected for between 90-98% of the jobs we submit.
It may be even worse for screen/theater actors.
When you get to screen acting, it could look even more bleak. THAT one’s a 2-step process where you first submit headshots and a resume, sometimes a video reel and then (MAYBE) get asked to audition. In my experience (I can’t find any stats) an actor gets an audition between 10-20% of the time, then book maybe 5-10% they audition for. Again, non-math wizards, that equates to 10% of 20% which comes out to about 2% of the roles you submit for.
Have you heard about starving artists?
I’m sure you have, it’s a cliché we’ve all heard. SO MANY people who consider themselves full time actors spend the vast majority of their time waiting tables or driving Uber or Door Dash. BTW, I think Uber/Lyft and Door Dash/Grub Hub are GREAT for actors because they only work when they want to, which leaves them free to audition and work when the production needs them to, not when they can get time off work. Anyway, I digress. There are millions of actors and VO artists in the US alone, and you know the names of maybe 2 dozen. It’s as difficult as getting into the NBA or NFL.
We work less than we apply for work
One of my coaches once said, “We audition for a living, and sometimes people give us money”. A year and a half in, and I totally agree. A submission or an audition is really nothing more than a job application and we get rejected a LOT.
You have to have thick skin
You knew I’d get back around to the title of this blog, right? It was a long road, but here we are. As a VO artist or actor, you must have REALLY thick skin. Otherwise, you should probably find something else to do for a living. But there are some mechanisms to cope with the rejection.
It’s not rejection
This, above all else, is the biggest thing you can remember to keep yourself sane. Remember that casting directors WANT you to be good, they WANT to hire you. They are not rejecting YOU, they are just SELECTING someone else. It is a process of selection, NOT rejection. If you can internalize the fact that you were not rejected, just not selected, it gets easier (and far less demoralizing) when you don’t get the job you wanted.
You don’t suck just because they didn’t select you
You just weren’t right for THAT role, or THAT gig. Your audition MAY have them thinking of you for another role they are casting for (it has happened to me) and the non-selected audition is what leads them back to you.
You have to be OK with you..
As Craig says in his blog, there is only one you and you are unique. You have to be OK with who you are, what you sound and look like, so that the authentic, original, unique YOU shines through. Someone is looking for you, guaranteed…be you and be ok with that.
Know who you are…
How can you be OK with you if you don’t really know who you are? Record your voice and listen back to it. Get comfortable with it, then you know which jobs are right for who YOU are. You’ll book more if you are auditioning for the jobs you fit, rather than everything there is.
The best advice I have ever gotten in both voice over and screen acting is this: Send the audition, then forget about it. Truth is we typically only hear back from the people who want to cast us anyway, so stop agonizing over your booking percentage and incessantly checking on auditions you’ve submitted. It ONLY serves to make you anxious, and that anxiety can affect your next audition in a negative way. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get rejected, think you must not be good enough, then give a less than awesome audition as a result and don’t get booked again. You have to get out of that loop.
In the end…
You are going to be non-selected for a lot of jobs. It’s part of the game. There are so many reasons for this, that it’s not even worth thinking about. Try to remember that people like Leonardo DiCaprio don’t get cast in everything they audition for, even when the CD is specifically asking them to audition. If he gets rejected, why wouldn’t you? Get out there, know you are great at what you do and don’t let “rejection” affect either your performance or sense of self-worth!
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