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” from Casting 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, (AKA 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. Casting and actors are not that different. 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 an artist’s path 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.
You’re reading the trades every day, seeing what’s been picked up and drooling over the auditions that are surely coming your way ANY SECOND. Or maybe they’ll come tomorrow. Or you know, it’s Friday at 6pm, so they will probably call on Monday. Ok, it’s Monday at noon, and you’re refreshing your email every five seconds, waiting for word of an audition, ANY audition… WHERE ARE MY AUDITIONS?!?!
You get the picture.
It’s easy to go a little bananas during pilot season. You know that this is the time of year that auditions rain down like manna from heaven. And you hear about your fellow actors and how they’re getting three auditions per day, (and complaining about it, to be sure.) You also know that you’re good enough to compete against any of them, so why aren’t you getting out?
There could be a few reasons, but first, I guarantee that it’s not because your reps aren’t submitting or pitching you. They’re submitting and pitching their brains out. (Remember, if you don’t make money, they don’t. Pilot season is just as important for them as it is for you.) They often call and email to pitch, even when casting specifically tells them not to, and at all hours of the day. All. Hours. Of. The. Day. I promise you, they are trying their damnedest to get you an opportunity on as many pilots as possible.
So here are a few other road blocks that may be keeping you from getting a series regular audition:
Your reel is old and/or doesn’t show you off that well. You have 20 headshots up on your profile, and we can’t tell which of them are current, (and maybe none of them truly portray who you are.) Your website is impossible for us to navigate through to find what we need. You’re using a self-tape in place of a reel, and unfortunately, it’s just not compelling material. If we are unfamiliar with you and none of these things are working in your favor, the audition gods will not smile upon you.
2. Casting doesn’t think you’re right for the character or world:
Based on the breakdown, you believe that you are clearly SO RIGHT for this particular role, and somehow you still can’t get an audition. Remember, trust Casting. We know this project intimately. We are also serving this script, these producers’ collective vision, and this network’s commercial and artistic desires. We have a VERY good idea of who and what we need. We may adore you, but if you’re not right for whatever reason, we’re not going to waste your time or ours. (Mind you, things change quickly during pilot season. So while you could be “not right” on Monday, by Friday, you’re exactly what we need. Or vice versa. See #5 for more on this.)
Your rep may have called and/or emailed to pitch you RIGHT when we got caught up in a session/conference call/meeting/bathroom break/other deadline, and their pitch got lost in an avalanche of message slips or a deluge of emails that we can’t bring ourselves to look at until the next morning, when inevitably, something else pulls our attention and another day goes by without us seeing their pitch. It’s not because we don’t like you or your rep, it’s because there are literally 8,000 other things that have to happen at that exact moment. (Don’t worry: your reps will continue to call and email until we look at their pitches.)
4. Timing again:
We’ve actually already selected you as someone we want to read, but we can only see so many people in a day, and your appointment will go out when our uber-talented, but overworked/underpaid staff can find a slot for you. Be patient.
5. Casting SAID they would read you, but the role you are most right for is being offered out/is changing/is no longer a regular:
If an offer is out for a role, we try not to read people simultaneously (particularly if it looks like the offer person is engaging.) We will only audition that role if we are in a time crunch (or the offer person is unlikely to be interested,) and we need to have another great option. If a character is changing or sides are about to change or the prods have MENTIONED that they THINK they MIGHT want to change the character or sides, then we put a pause on that role and focus our attention on everything else. This will put people in a bit of limbo, but I promise that Casting is working their butts off to get clarity as quickly as possible. If a role changes from a regular to a guest star, then it’s priority is down graded. We will pick up reading people for it after some of our regs are set.
This may not be your year to book a pilot. Plain and simple.
Now, to overcome some of these things:
1. Don’t compare your career to anyone else’s, ever: everyone succeeds in different ways, at different times. When your friend (who is not unlike you, type-wise,) tells you about their 10 pilot auditions, do not assume you should have the same. You are unique people, individual actors with dissimilar backgrounds and likely different reps. You are apples and oranges. Take a breath and try to be excited for your friend.
2. Update your materials: it may be too late for this pilot season, but if your reps give you that feedback, make that your priority number one.
3. Practice patience: do yoga, meditate, breathe, nap. This is a life skill that most of us don’t have. Now is a good time to work on it.
4. Change your focus: sitting around, pining for an audition will almost never result in one. Get your butt to class, pick up that script you’ve been writing, read a book, take your dog for a walk. Do ANYTHING other than twiddling your thumbs, waiting for an audition notice to come in.
5. Remember that other projects are casting right now: there are a gazillion series still in production, movies, shorts, web series, theatre… make yourself (emotionally and physically) available to those projects. Booking them can be just as rewarding.
Focus on being a good, professional actor, and do everything in your power to achieve THAT goal. (Go to class, read, do theatre, etc.)
If you do, the auditions (and bookings) will come, guaranteed.