Stop Calling It Rejection

You hear it all the time; that actors have to deal with so much “rejection.” Let’s just put an end to that once and for all, because it’s not true. 

We could rightly call it “rejection” if projects could cast everyone that auditioned. In that case, if I decided to single you out and not book you for whatever reason, I certainly would be rejecting you, but in reality, it’s the opposite. We can only book one actor per role. So only one lucky actor was selected out of the many amazing actors we saw.

It would be crazy for the other actors to feel like they did something wrong just because they weren’t the one selected this time. Of course we all want every job, and when we don’t book it, there’s a reasonable feeling of, “Man! It would have been awesome to get it!” But we all understand that there can be only one.

Clients heavily rely on experienced and talented casting directors to bring in great talent. If that were an easy thing to do, clients would just cast their projects themselves, but it’s really not. And, when a CD does their job right, the client is confronted with the best possible outcome: having so many awesome options to select from that it’s hard to pick! That’s when the smallest thing can lead to one actor booking over another; he looks a little more like a doctor, or she visually reads more quickly like she could be his daughter, or whatever.

You absolutely cannot take not booking a job personally. Unless you are under-skilled, were under-prepared, or just made mistakes, booking or not booking is so out of your control that it makes no sense to worry about it. Just keep doing brilliant work and the odds will go in your favor on occasion. 

The word “rejection” is so harsh. It implies an antagonistic relationship between actors and the clients and casting professionals—but we’re not in opposition to one another at all! We’re all on the same side just trying to tell the best stories we can, get our projects produced, approved, and funded, and work with other awesome artists.

Whenever I meet an actor who’s jaded and crusty about “the industry” and hates “the business” side of TV and film acting, I know I’m meeting someone with a counterproductive perspective. They need a break or an attitude adjustment if they want to stay in this business. They’re going to drive people and work away with that negative and selfish view. Who wants to try and create and work with a sourpuss?

Seriously, guys. I’m not a hippie-dippy, touchy-feely guy when I demand that you do whatever it takes—which I’ve clearly laid out in previous articles—to make your acting journey a joyful one. You absolutely can enjoy the process of getting stable, getting trained, marketing yourself when you’re a world-class actor, and then working with your team to have the best career you can. In fact, you must enjoy the journey or it’ll be next to impossible to sustain your love, devotion, and work ethic in and of the craft.

So, no, it’s not a semantic game that I’m trying to play with you. You are not being rejected. Only one actor is getting selected out of 20–50 or more actors that auditioned. So, even if the business decided to be communist and eventually give a role to each actor that auditioned, it would take 20–50 roles to give each actor one job. So, if the world was “fair,” you could rightly expect to book one out of 20–50 jobs for which you audition. Great news, right?

But the business of acting is not unfair. I am so pleased to report that the acting industry is actually a meritocracy. If you’re consistently brilliant, you’ll work. If success really was all about whom you knew, then every role on TV and in movies would be given to the family and friends of industry insiders and celebrities. That happens so rarely that it’s the exception, not the rule, because acting is actually a skill that takes time and dedication to master.

Writers, producers, and filmmakers are artists who just want to work with the best artists in every discipline, not just acting, but every category in the long list of credits at the end of a show or film. So focus on being the best actor you can be and your odds of being selected will continue to improve.

Remember: You can’t fail if you never quit.