A perspective on rejection

Actors constantly deal with rejection and their issues surrounding rejection. It seems to be a frequent topic of conversation among us. I have known numerous actors who left the business because, they say, they “Couldn’t take the rejection.”

Yes, rejection is a big part of this business. Here’s a recent conversation I had with a student, Sarah (not her real name), and my in-class follow up:

“I’m quitting this business, I can’t stand the rejection,” Sarah cried before class.
“Tell me more,” I said.
“Well, actually, I had a bunch of auditions in the past month, so that was good. They were big ones, though, and I really had my hopes up. One was recurring, one a series regular, and one was playing opposite a big star. I got called back for all of them, and had two callbacks reading with the star!!”
“Well that’s great,” I said. “You’re in the game and doing well, it seems.”
“Yes, but I didn’t book any of them. I just heard from my manager and he told me I did well, but they all went in a different direction.”
“I’m sorry,” I said “That must feel terrible.”
“I don’t think I can take it any more. I put myself out there, and I get rejected over and over again,” she cried.

Sound familiar? If you’re in the game, you’re going to get rejected more often than not. That’s just the way it is.

We continued our conversation in class, and I asked the class this question:“How much time do you spend on your auditions?”

Sarah logged in four to six hours for the initial read, two hours working on her outfit, one hour of coaching, and then driving, gas, etc. for just one audition and two callbacks, over the course of three days, with all the added anxiety and rehearsing in between. She concluded she spent about 40 total hours thinking, preparing, working on lines, researching, driving, callbacks, etc.

“Forty-plus stressful hours!” she shouted,. “And all that time never knowing as there are so many other factors that I have no control over.”

Others in the class nodded in agreement, and I asked if that sounded about right. Some spent more and some less time preparing, but all agreed that they give their heart and soul when auditioning for a job. They invest themselves for a period of time, and then, yes, let it go when they are done. They all concurred that they do this over and over again, and it can be discouraging.

“It’s challenging,” one student said, “and sometimes not fair, since there are so many unknown variables. It’s especially bad when someone less talented gets the job.”

“Okay, I understand,” I said. “Let’s talk about something else.” The class was getting riled.

Let’s talk about politics. At this time of year we see a lot of politicians trying to get on the ballot. They’re campaigning, meeting people, traveling, leaving their families, debating, giving speeches, etc. This is their full-time job, 24/7, promoting themselves, raising money and awareness… selling themselves. Talk about preparation, memorizing lines, and rehearsing, their entire lives become dedicated to getting ONE JOB! And it’s more than a year away!

Here’s an even a bigger issue: whether or not they get the job may have nothing at all to do with their experience, dedication, talent, or credentials. It could be personal – because of their looks, race, sex, how they speak, who they socialize with, or simply whether or not they are liked. They have to watch everything they say and do, because just one (wrong, misinterpreted, unpopular) statement can destroy their chances. Photos, scandals, rumors that aren’t even true, you name it… any one of these things can kill their shot of getting the job.

Tell them about rejection! Just look at the rejection they set themselves up for, and the time invested… 40 hours doesn’t seem so bad at all, huh Sarah? The same holds true for professional athletes, people applying for grants and scholarships, and so many others. It’s true in all areas of life. We have to balance whatever our passion is with the rejection it involves.

I say, if you’re going to be rejected, you might as well make it for something worthwhile.

Until next time, I wish you many opportunities that come with the possibility of rejection. It only takes one yes to turn the tides.