Building Your Acting Career: How to Deal With Rejection
Getting started on the path to becoming an actor and landing your first few auditions isn’t easy.
But going on those auditions and dealing with the inevitable rejections you’ll face along the way? Well, that’s no walk in the park either.
As an actor and writer, I have been rejected more times that I care to admit. And while it’s never fun to experience, and it’s rarely easy to deal with, it can be a learning experience if you look at it the right way. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years to take the edge off that rejection and turn it into a positive experience.
Get Over It
When faced with rejection after a great audition, my first reaction is a mix of anger and self-doubt. I prepared the material, I cried on cue, my hair was behaving—so why didn’t they choose me? I inevitably turn inward and start to rip apart my performance and consequently, myself.
These feelings are pretty normal and natural, but they’re also not very helpful. So, take a breath and get over yourself. Remember, many rejections have nothing to do with you! They have to do with the needs of the production, or scheduling, or budget restrictions. You might look exactly like another actor who is already cast. You may never know why you didn’t fit into the cast list—and trying to figure it out can make you crazy. Just breathe, and know that it wasn’t meant to be.
One thing I find particularly helpful is to take a moment to list off all the things I planned to do in that audition. Then I check off the things I accomplished. (This can work for a job interview or a pitch meeting or any big event in your life.) Once you see that you checked off everything you meant to do, you will have a visible representation of all the hard work you put into that audition (which is an accomplishment in itself!).
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
That said, a big part of rejection is taking responsibility for your mistakes in the moment. If you walk out of every meeting and make excuses for everything that went wrong, you won’t really learn anything from that rejection.
Recently, I had a great audition for a pilot—it was one of those jobs that could have changed my life. In the call back for the audition, I stumbled on a line. I still did a good job, but I stumbled on a line I should have known. And whether it was because of that or because of something else entirely, I didn’t get the job.
I went home, and after I made a list of everything I did correctly, I made a list of everything I didn’t do correctly. I was really honest with myself (without being too harsh) about where I could have improved and specific areas that I needed to work on for the next audition.
Mistakes are part of being human. They are part of who we are and are integral to our learning process. And keeping a list of those mistakes will help you learn from them and make you a better actor in the process. Chalk each rejection up to building a wealth of knowledge about how to attack the next audition.
Stay Positive and Remember the Good
Remember that every rejection gets you one step closer to your goal. I know we all would love to stumble onto our dream role in our first audition—but that kind of luck really only happens to a select few. Most of us need to cultivate a body of work and a solid reputation before grasping our dreams with both hands.
So, try to think of each rejection as one more hill you’ve got to climb before you get to your destination. Keeping a positive mindset will help to eliminate the negativity from your next audition or interview, and this is a good thing. Anyone who walks in the room thinking, “I’m not going to get this,” probably won’t! The energy you bring into the room will be dripping off your audition and will color your interaction with that director.
In the acting world, we like to say that auditions are not about booking the role, but about “booking the office.” Each good audition may result in more auditions because that casting director likes what you do and trusts that you will give a great audition. Truthfully, many people in the casting world must see an actor multiple times before they will give him or her a shot. So, if you walk into the room with a casting director you’ve seen before, smile and thank him or her for bringing you in again. Bringing in confidence and positivity makes for a better meeting every time—and for possible meetings in the future.
Want More? Check Out our How to Break Into Acting Guide
Jules is a writer/actor/producer based in Los Angeles. She got her degree in music and theater from Virginia Tech. She is one of the writer/creators of the web series Shapetown USA. She just completed her first novel while shooting pilots, auditioning and maintaining a blog about locally grown food sources and small businesses called Locally Grown Life. She is also a founding member of the successful Portland theater company, Sojourn Theatre. You can find her hiking canyon trails with her dogs, reading voraciously, or writing up a storm.More from this Author