Recently, one of my Casting colleagues lamented that she wished actors knew how hard we work for them. It made me realize that there’s a whole mountain of activity we Casting Directors do that actors (and other industry folk) really aren’t privy to. NOTE: This post is not for the sake of accolades or martyrdom […]
Let’s talk about rejection. [Insert sad trombone noise.] You all know that if you’re an artist, rejection is part of the gig. And even though you may be FULLY aware of that fact, every “no” can still feel personal. At best, rejection will (always) sting a little, and at worst, will feel utterly crushing. Now […]
It’s a stressful time of year. Many of us cling to whatever form of sanity (read: wine) to help us survive until mid-April. But as you all know, the more we let anxiety and stress into our bodies, the harder it is to function. So here are a few helpful mantras or mindsets to aid […]
Let’s talk about rejection. [Insert sad trombone noise.]
You all know that if you’re an artist, rejection is part of the gig. And even though you may be FULLY aware of that fact, every “no” can still feel personal. At best, rejection will (always) sting a little, and at worst, will feel utterly crushing.
Now that we’re through pilot season, (also known as the time of year when “no” is most heavily employed,) let me help put those feelings into perspective:
“No” is not failure; it’s simply, “Not this time.”
My brilliant mother has been my #1 cheerleader and emotional guide as I’ve faced rejection in my career. (And just like you, I’ve endured PLENTY. Solidarity, people.) She recently wrote an article wherein she says, “Rejection isn’t because someone doesn’t like you. It’s because they like something/someone else.” (Emphasis mine.)
When it comes to industry rejection, this is WHOLLY accurate. If you aren’t cast in a role, it’s because the team liked somebody else more. And someday, if you work at your craft and behave professionally, YOU will be the somebody else they like more. In the meantime, you’ll face rejection. And in that, you’re never alone. Only one person can be cast per role. That is a single, solitary “yes” to a heaping pile of “no’s.”
The best way to manage the underlying negativity of that fact is to hold on to a little perspective. I’ve had actors reach out to me, concerned that they’ve been pinned/released for the same Casting office multiple times. They’re worried that because they aren’t having those pins turn into bookings that they MUST be doing something wrong, and surely the Casting office will eventually stop seeing them. But realistically, EVERY pin is a major victory. Their perspective has gotten skewed by the feeling of rejection. Celebrate all the victories (big and small) you achieve while on your path, because those are the yes’s you need to keep coming back to this crazy business.
I’ll finish with this:
Last year, Dave Annable did a pilot. The pilot got picked up to series (yay!) but Annable did not (womp womp.) He wrote a (now famously) thoughtful post about it wherein he celebrates the achievement of so many and forces himself to move on. Here’s a brief snippet, but make sure you read the full post for a true lesson of grace while facing massive disappointment:
“Learning to deal with failure is one of the most important lessons you’ll deal with in your life. Guess what? Failure is mandatory. It’s growth. It’ll never stop. It’s where all the good shit happens that makes you a better person when you are open to seeing the right perspective.”
Hold on to that perspective, my friends. It’s all part of the job.
It’s a stressful time of year. Many of us cling to whatever form of sanity (read: wine) to help us survive until mid-April. But as you all know, the more we let anxiety and stress into our bodies, the harder it is to function. So here are a few helpful mantras or mindsets to aid your sanity this pilot season, and beyond.
Remember these buzzwords: ENCOURAGEMENT, ENTHUSIASM, PASSION, TEAMWORK, GRATITUDE.
And here’s how you can apply them, (these are just a few examples. There are MANY ways you can connect these to your careers and lives):
1. ENCOURAGEMENT: “Casting WANTS me to be the one!”
- Seriously, we are ON YOUR SIDE. If you are the one, that means that A. You’ve validated our creative choice to see you in the first place, and B. Our job is done (at least on that character.) Walk in to every Casting office and remember (no matter how cranky we are,) we are ROOTING FOR YOU. Feel the love, y’all.
2. ENTHUASIAM: “I love a challenge!”
- Pilot season is hard, the audition process (any time of year!) can be stressful, things move quickly, sides change at the last minute, self-tapes are due in a matter of hours, etc. Prepare for these opportunities as if you’re running towards a hurdle; put your heart and energy into it and then fly, my friends. The immediate moment after can feel like a MAJOR “fuck yeah!! I did it!”
3. PASSION: “Every audition is an opportunity for me to do what I love.”
- Sure, auditioning isn’t the best part of being an actor, but every chance you get to sink your teeth into a new script, embody a new character and perform or workshop a scene is a big win. Enjoy the ride, my friends.
4. TEAMWORK: “Every Casting office that sees me sets the course for a new relationship or strengthens an old one.”
- It’s a business of relationship folks! If you go into a room or send in a tape and nail that read while behaving/communicating professionally, you will UNDOUBTEDLY audition for that Casting team again. Strengthen the connection, make Casting fall in love with your talent and attitude, and you will be back before you know it.
5. GRATITUDE: “I’m grateful I have a strong team that works hard to get me these opportunities.”
- In signing you, your reps have said “yes, I believe in your talent.” They’re working hard, doing their part to provide opportunities so you can go shine. Remember to acknowledge them in your heart, AND out loud.
Work hard and stay positive, my people! You got this.
As we head in to the craziest time of year, here are a few things to remember (in no particular order):
1. Practice patience with appointments and sessions. Appointments or self-tape requests may not be flooding in yet. Stay calm and read this blog post.
And please be patient with Casting when we run an hour or more behind during our sessions. We are trying to spend ample time with each actor and sometimes have to step out for various reasons. If you get in a time bind, instead of silently (or loudly) freaking out, just tell someone and we’ll either squeeze you in with the permission of others or reschedule you.
2. Be kind to the casting assistant. These amazing people work SO hard, are multitasking their brains out, are wildly underpaid, and they are always our first line of defense, often manning the overflowing waiting room. They face the abuse of cranky, restless, annoyed, late/about-to-be-late-to-another-appt actors all while trying to do their jobs. Be good to these people. They could be the future of our craft and they might have long memories for being mistreated by guests in our office. (Plus, karma yo.)
3. If you’re sick, reschedule. ‘Tis the season for the sniffles (or worse.) A sickness can FLY through a Casting office, (we work in tiny rooms, seeing dozens of people a day. Sh*t spreads FAST.) And if WE get sick during pilot season, we get zero days off to recuperate. So if you feel even a WHIFF of an illness, stay home, rest and reschedule or self-tape. Everyone will appreciate it.
4. Don’t be offended if we tell you we’re not doing one of the scenes you prepped. We don’t like having to do this… we know you spent time preparing it and we know you’ll give us sad puppy dog eyes if we pull it at the last moment. But things change RAPIDLY during pilot season. We may discover that the tone of a scene is redundant (we get the same idea from another scene,) the scene may have gotten cut and no one feels the need to keep it in the audition rotation, the character may have changed and that scene no longer reflects the role… If we pull a scene, there’s a creative/logistical reason and it’s never because you’re not a worthy-enough actor to read an extra few pages.
5. No excuses, please. We know it’s a busy time of year and you may have four auditions a day, all over town. We know you also have lives and families and day jobs, etc. We are also fully aware that sometimes we give you material only a few hours before your audition. Walk in to every pilot audition with a GOOD attitude and an open mind. If you’re there, ready and willing to play and have prepped to the best of your abilities with the time you were given, then we’re all going to have a good time.
6. A self-tape request is JUST as valuable as an in-person audition. This and many other important things can be further extrapolated from this blog post.
7. If you are given a script, read it. It has become increasingly rare for scripts, particularly drama scripts, to be sent out for auditions. (We know this is frustrating. It drives us crazy, too.) If you are the lucky soul who receives a script along with your sides, we expect you to read it. Nothing is more frustrating to have provided all of that wonderful information and have actors come in and say they don’t really know what’s going on because they didn’t have time to read the script. (Wanna know why our session is backed up? We are CONSTANTLY providing context/backstory to actors because they haven’t read or weren’t given a script.)
8. Stay in town! (Unless you book a gig/have a family emergency.) Seriously. This is 100% NOT the time to take a vacation/extended weekends in places that have bad cell/internet reception. (Sundance falling right in the midst of pilot season is the BANE of every CD’s existence.) If you need further explanation on this topic, speak to your reps. I’m sure they’ll have plenty to say.
9. It is ABSOLUTELY cool to share your passion if you love a script or really resonate with a character. Actors will often apologize for being effusive about a script/role. We LOVE that feedback! It validates OUR creative choice to be part of that project! Plus, we pass that feedback along to our writer and producers and it helps make for a very bright spot during a very stressful time. Don’t ever apologize for sharing your true passion or fighting for an opportunity.
10. It’s not ok to purposely show up several hours early for your in-person audition.
Mistakes happen, especially when you’re juggling so many appointments. But if you deliberately show up to our office two hours early because you were “close by and thought we could squeeze you in,” it can throw off our whole day. (Even TWO actors showing up for the morning session when they were scheduled for the afternoon could mean that we don’t eat lunch that day.) If you need to change your appointment time, have your reps call and we will find a time that works for everybody.
And one more for the road…
11. Pilot season doesn’t define you as an actor. Say it with me: “PILOT SEASON DOES NOT DEFINE YOU AS AN ACTOR.” Repeat as needed.
Go get ’em, pals.
My Grandmother can easily be credited with kick-starting my Casting career.
When I was 15 or 16 years old, we were watching a movie together and as the end credits rolled, I saw “Casting By Ronnie Yeskel.” I turned to my Grandma, “Are we related to Ronnie Yeskel?” (My Grandma’s sister married a Yeskel.) “Yep! Distantly,” she answered.
My interest was piqued. I had ZERO idea what “Casting” meant, what it involved, how you did it or how you became someone who had a career in it, but I had a good guess that Casting was related to actors. And through Ronnie, I sort of “knew” somebody who did it. Those two things seemed pretty awesome to me. My Grandma, ever the educator and go-getter, saw my interest, (and also saw that I was in North Dakota where I was unlikely to gain any sort of relevant experience or find any information on the career,) and set out to help me learn more about it.
During one visit to Manhattan, she bought me an issue of the Ross Reports. There was a big article listing that year’s “Top 10 Casting Directors” with interviews and the occasional (gasp!) email address. (This was the late 90s… Casting was still very much a messenger/snail mail field.) I wrote to every CD who listed an address, asking how they became Casting Directors and what I should do to follow in their footsteps. One of them wrote back. I don’t remember much about our exchange (and those emails have gone the way of my aol account,) but I do remember him saying that there’s nothing you could study in school to be a CD and that I should start interning immediately.
Thus, my NJ-based Grandma set out on a quest to find me an internship. She doesn’t have any direct connection to the industry herself, but she has friends who have friends and she’s not afraid to ask. A few months before I graduated high school, my Grandma called to tell me that she had gotten me an internship at a NY talent agency for the summer. If I wanted it, I had to call this number and say I was Marion Landew’s granddaughter and yes, I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity.
So I did exactly that. I was 18 years old, taking the train from my grandparents’ house in Jersey into Manhattan every day. After a few weeks doing all kinds of tasks from calling to release clients after a commercial hold (ugh,) to sorting head shots, to working the front desk, some kind agents asked me what I REALLY wanted to do. “I think I want to be a Casting Director,” I said. The next day, one of the assistants called to tell me that instead of coming in to the office, I should go to this other building. I was going to help out a commercial Casting Director for a day while she had a session.
I sat in that hot waiting room, (July in New York with maybe a whiff of window AC,) checking actors in, taking their Polaroids, answering phones, pointing people in the direction of the bathroom… it was a (sweaty) three hour day of work and it might’ve been the most exciting three hours of my life. After that, I had no doubt that I wanted to be a Casting Director.
Flash forward a few years… I’ve just graduated from USC and I’m trying to find a job as a Casting Assistant in Los Angeles. By now, I’ve had about eight different internships, many of them coming by way of the previous thanks to that very first Grandma-supplied opportunity in New York. Lo and behold, one day I see a notice that Ronnie Yeskel is looking for an assistant. I’m literally panting with anticipation as I shoot her an email and not-so-subtly say that “if nothing else, it would be great to meet a member of my family.”
A few days later, I go in to interview with Ronnie. She asks me some cursory questions and then after a few minutes blurts, “so, HOW exactly are we related?” I explain: my grandmother is Marion, her sister is Evelyn and she’s married to Stanley. Ronnie nods and then dials someone on speaker phone. A woman picks up and Ronnie says, “Mom… do you know Marion Landew?” “Oh yes!” her mom says. “That’s Stanley and Evelyn’s sister. You’ve met her before at so-and-so’s Bar Mitzvah.” The conversation goes on a few more minutes. Ronnie is smiling ear-to-ear by the end of the call and I leave that meeting having been given a job assisting the woman who first piqued my interest in the field.
If it weren’t for my Grandmother, there’s a decent chance I would be doing something else right now. When I was first interested in Casting, there were not many places I could go to find information. It was at such a pivotal (about-to-apply-to-college) point in my life, that I could’ve just as easily gone on and studied some other part of film (or something else entirely.) She guided my research and knocked on doors when I had no idea where or how to begin doing either.
I name-dropped the hell out of her to get my first internship and my first full-time gig. But then, I have always been proud to introduce myself as “Marion Landew’s granddaughter.”