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Thursday 27 May 2010

Auditions & Rejection.

Most trained actors have two distinct skills. One, is acting. The other, is moaning about rejection. I sympathize, I do. But there is a lot to focus on other than the rejection.

Take for example, a film I've just cast. For the lead female role alone, I had 300 applicants. 220 of those weren't applicable, they didn't fill what was needed. I didn't reject them; they just simply didn't read the breakdown. Many of these actresses will feel like they were rejected.

Then I sorted through about eighty possibilities. I had to think about where they were located, how they would fit with my potential lead actor, their experience, how friendly they are and numerous other factors. 'How friendly they are' is a big one. About forty of the actresses were either impersonal, seemingly disinterested, or rude. Disinterested may seem like a strange thing, you wouldn't expect it from a young actress-- but it's common. Or maybe it's disillusionment. It normally comes in a covering letter that says, "Hi Mike. I'm interested in the role, I have lots of experience, Lucy." To begin with, my name isn't Mike. Secondly, when someone is really interested in a role, they express it. So at this stage-- many actresses are either rejecting themselves, or rejecting the idea of being cast in the film.

I mention disillusionment because many actors, after, say 50 failed applications, start to take it out on the process and the person they're emailing. They may have spent a month writing beautiful crafted, inspired and personal covering letters to casting directors for various projects, with no success. That's sad, it's disappointing, but it wasn't the fault of me or my project; yet, the after-effects of the actor's previous failures show up in the emails I receive. World-weariness is not an attractive feature in a potential collaboration.

The audition itself is a fascinating process. I'm very aware of the strange rank that directors have. Whereby, I could be a car salesman by day, but if I call myself a Director by night; I am afforded a strange superiority in an audition room. Many Director's play up to this - making auditions difficult for actors. That's usually down to ego, or inexperience, or both in a Director. For me, I don't use this power - certainly not in the way many others do. Instead, I'm just excited. There are, say, seven actresses coming to read for us -- and I'm excited because, having filtered through 300 people, I've found seven of whom I want to meet and see if they're what we need in the film. Already, the seven actresses have achieved something incredible. Any actor who ever gets an audition should be aware that they are doing magnificently; they are rising far above the crop of literally thousands of competitors. The mere fact you have an audition means someone involved in making a movie sees something in you that they want in their project. The more you have online in terms of headshots, videos, and details, the more you can be certain of your success-- despite a chance to be rejected for your look, acting, experience, hobbies, height, weight, weird feet, whatever-- despite all that, you're wanted in the room. You are an amazing success!

The problem is: when I audition seven people for a role, I can only use one. By this point, myself and the people helping me cast need to figure out; what actor is right for the role? Do they fit the energy of the film? Will they 'fit' opposite the other actors? Do they have the right coloring to fit in with the family members we cast? Usually at this point, 3 or 4 are out of the picture due to various answers from those questions. Those that are left, cause much pain for casting director's because they're all so great, and everyone is divided on who to cast. "Cast Donna with Michael, they'd look so amazing together!" "No no no, cast Katharine, she's got that perfect face for a monster!" "Hold on, what about Eva?". Etc etc. What is happening here is not rejection, it's figuring out who fits, figuring out how to make it work.

So we cast Eva. But I want to keep in touch with Donna and Katharine. I email them telling them that they're completely awesome, and that we should definitely do something soon. Unfortunately, Katharine and Donna may very well see this as a rejection. Of course, they didn't get the role, and that's disappointing. But is it the big thud of rejection that they're currently feeling as they consider changing careers? It's not. They were WONDERFUL, it's just that I can only cast one person, and even though they may very well be perfect for the role, it just so happens that someone else has a similar nose to the person playing their Dad, or they have the opposite hair color of their partner, or the costume people just rang up and said we can have the bigger size monster costume for free as there's one going spare, or a million other reasons.

Rejection is the worst possible term you can use when you don't get a role. The majority of the time, it's not rejection. And if you insist on calling it rejection-- be aware, along the way to whatever particular rejection you received, were many many positives. And there is always one more time.


  1. I've had a few auditions lately and taken great confidence from them evenough I wasn't cast. I think the only time actors should be dissapointed is when they don't perform to there ability. If they do and then don't get picked its no problem. U have to move on. Casting is a giant jigsaw and as you say someone has to the role. I hear a lot of my actor friends moan about not gettin roles and well its bloody annoying. Keep positive and one day the role will be yours

  2. Amazing song. Great advice for all those actresses and actors, too. In fact, great advice for anyone looking for something in their lives.

  3. great written post! I'd suggest everyone heading off to auditions read it, and remember, to just perform in the audition room, and leave it there and not worry about what happens next if they did the best they could.

  4. Great post! I like hearing your perspective. Yes, what I've learned from auditioning is that as long as I do my best I have no reason to ever feel rejected because it could be as simple as being taller than the lead actor or I don't have blue eyes. And you guys audition is always an audition for future projects as well.

  5. My little 8 year old is still at the stage where (for the most part) she won't even ask about the call back. Even though she has had many "rejections" she is absolutely sure she is going to be famous and absolutely successful.
    And here am I, this mom person, wondering,. . . should I put a bit of a damper on her ever glorious confidence before reality hits her, or should I let her continue to bask in confidence (it's sort of delightful to watch)?

  6. Juno, I am not a parent; and I am hesistant to offer an opinion because-- well, it's very easy for me to sit here full of ideas, you're the one doing the hard work..

    But, I suspect, the way your daughter is now; is absolutely wonderful and exactly how she needs to be. We start out young, excited, confident, with the world at our feet--- we literally can do anything.

    Many a talent has been lost under the overzealous protection of parenting. Every failed actor has the voice of their parent in their head saying "but when will you get a real job?", "what if you never make it?", "honey, you do know you'll probably never be an actor right?"

    Sure, you could do that. But that pattern will probably play out in her life, ambitions and relationships for the rest of her life.. far better I think to be excited and inspired by her wonderful, positive outlook, because I think your daughter is on to something that you, me, and everyone else should really listen to. We can all do, be, see and achieve absolutely anything we want -- so long as we believe in it. That, I truly believe. I can't wait to see you on the red carpet of some big premiere, walking along with your daughter. That is, of course, unless she deems parents too 'uncool' for premiere night :D

  7. Indeed, writing this post on this wonderful blog I heard it.
    I heard myself and I knew life will do the reality check for her. I realize - watching her - is inspiration. Reading your post about the director's point of view was ever so illuminating for me. It gave me a glimpse into the other side of this equation.
    The importance of maintaining confidence and positivity in all of this. To inspire.

    Thank you.