Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Actors have to deal with a lot of rejection -- it is a natural part of the job as an actor. But if every disappointment negatively impacts your mental wellness, it could also negatively impact your next audition. To elevate your acting career, learning to deal with rejection is going to be the key to you getting out of your own way, and getting the success that you deserve.
Top Three Tips for Actors Dealing with Rejection
1) Remind yourself: auditioning is a numbers game. Every time you don't get a role, you get closer to the one you do get. A good working actor will book 1 in 10 jobs. Beginners might expect to book 1 in 20. This of course is not an exact science, but it can help put these losses into perspective. The only sure way you will never book a role, is if you stop trying. Put yourself out there, keep a good perspective, and do your best.
2) Don't take it personally. I know, I know, from where you stand, it can feel very personal. After all, you are the star of your subconscious brain, but the reality is that casting is not personal. Have you ever heard of the spotlight effect? The spotlight effect is the phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are. Let's face it, actors tend to obsess on every little detail in an audition and blame everyone and anything except themselves for not getting the part.
"The casting director doesn't like me."
"I just got this script last night."
"They just were going for a certain look."
Don’t let your mindset lead you to this type of thinking. In reality, none of these excuses are likely to be true. The casting director likes you enough to audition you, everyone got the script at the same time that you did, and if you were not the right look for the part then you wouldn't be auditioning for the role in the first place.
People tend to have a deeply rooted bias that everything that doesn't go their way is either someone else's fault or we take it as a personal failure. It's not. Sometimes, you can do everything right, and things still don't go the way you want them to. Sometimes you can have the perfect audition, and you still don't get the part. But, it is not personal. Not getting an acting role can cause disappointment and even anxiety, but it just isn't personal. You can overcome the spotlight effect by focusing your attention outward and noticing other people's reactions to you. This will help you to stop focusing inward on your anxiety and insecurity. Ask yourself:
1) Did I truly do the best job I could?
2) Is the casting director still bringing me in for auditions?
3) Is my agent still submitting me for jobs?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then maybe it is time for you to adjust your mindset and settle in for the numbers ride (like we taught you in tip #1). When something you do fails, it doesn’t mean you are a failure as a person, it simply means you are a person who happens to fail sometimes.
The feeling of rejection isn't going to go away. Even when you book an acting job, it isn't going to go away completely. You might feel good after booking a role but it won’t be long before you are questioning why you haven’t booked in a while, or why you didn’t book the next one you audition for. Find a way to cohabitate with rejection, allow it to live in your life, rather than letting it suck the life out of you.
3) Take the high road. This is a practice you will likely need to trick your brain into at first, but after you do it consistently, it will become part of your personality. I recommend that you be the friend you want others to be. Support other actors' successes the way you hope they will support you when the success is yours. It’s very liberating to be the bigger person and to congratulate the one who got the part instead of you. It also shows tremendous class -- and class is always noticed in a crowd.
As a casting director for over 20 years, my advice to you is to think of the training and auditions like the job. Think of the booking as the holiday bonus! The three tips above will cut out the negative ways of dealing with rejection and will certainly elevate your acting career. And remember, I'm rooting for you every step of the way my friend!
Written by: Faith Hibbs Clark is the founder of CMFA, film & television casting director of 20 years, and former deception-detection expert.