by Casting Director, Laurie Records
…fail to develop thick skin.
Rejection happens daily and in numerous ways in the world of acting. Disappointment is common and there is plenty of heartache. Pursuing a career in acting (and yes, even for commercials) is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. Are you wondering where the usually upbeat and optimistic Laurie Records has gone; complete with her silver lining? She’s still here, and she’s being honest. The good news: there are always solutions to the challenges of the profession. There are tools to get through the rough stuff. What’s my recommendation for actors to aid in coping with rejection, disappointment and heartache? THICK SKIN.
Commercial actors should never fail to develop a thick skin.
You know what I mean by thick skin, don’t you? My favorite dictionary definitions:
*Insensitive to criticism; not easily upset or affected.
*Not easily offended.
*The ability to withstand criticism.
Actors by nature are emotional, feeling people. It’s one of the things that make them… good, sets them apart. You can’t ditch the sensitive aspect of your personality. That would be a poor choice, big picture, as your acting would likely suffer for it. But you can clothe yourself daily in your thick skin to ensure staying as emotionally healthy as possible though the inevitable day-to-day stuff that brings you down.
When exactly do you want that thick skin? Here is a list of what I have personally heard over the last month, that requires some good old-fashioned thick skin…
Canceled audition/callback. From my perspective, we are talking about two separate issues/two types of disappointment. When you have an audition and then it’s canceled, casting is saving your precious time. Likely the specs have changed. Take pleasure that they wanted to see you in the first place and move on. When you receive a callback, and it’s rescinded (and this happens often, actually) that stinks. In my experience, the callback list is huge, and they decided to narrow it down. It’s also possible the specs have been narrowed and you don’t fit. Either way, you have confirmation that you were good, and either (or both) the director or the ad agency liked you. Feel good about that. Let your thick skin deflect the potential to feel rejection.
“On avail,” but no booking. Logically you know that avails are very, very good. But after a while, or after having a string of them with no booking at the end, it’s easy to get disheartened. This scenario provides the perfect opportunity to put on that thick skin. Chin up. Steer clear of misery lane and stay the course.
Dropped by your agent. It happens all the time. It’s business. If you can put on your thick skin, and actually learn and grow from the painful experience, you’ll be all the better for it. Thick skin will allow for the gaining perspective instead of spinning in despair. The more you learn from the experience, the less likely it will be that it happens again.
Overhearing a Casting Director or Agent convo/reading a leaked industry email with less than flattering talk. If you’re looking for flowery, sugar coated, or generally kind speak… you won’t often find it in this business. I’d say the conversation is blunt and to the point. In commercials (and I’m not making excuses, just stating the facts) there isn’t time to say something in kind code. And remember I am specifically addressing the times you hear a conversation/reading an email that wasn’t meant for you/actors in general. Usually, though not always, there is some softening in the choice of words when addressing an actor direct. Your outrage about the harsh business (and that’s what it is) is a waste of time and energy. Just put on the thick skin.
Set talk/walkie talkie chatter. The folks that work on set are known to be tough talkers, and (very) stereotypically have no great love for actors. When overhearing… put on the skin and flee the scene (not to be confused with set. Stay on set). If you are being directly addressed in a disrespectful manner, you can always call your agent, if you feel the need to take action. When overhearing smack talk, you have two choices: stop overhearing or take it in through your thick skin. If receiving harsh notes from the director, your thick skin will again, come in handy.
Ignored by the clients in the callback room. I really, really hate to say this, but… it happens all the time; get over it. Don’t let it bother you, throw your performance, or ruin your day. This sounds strange, but just because the clients are ignoring you, doesn’t mean they are disinterested in you and you won’t get the job. It is rude behavior. It’s something you have no control over. It’s something even the Casting Director has no control over. Put on your thick skin and give the best performance you’ve got.
Class feedback. Honestly, you’re paying your hard earned cash for the critique. If you aren’t ready to hear critical feedback about your performance in front of the camera, wait until you are. You should expect it, welcome it, and be open enough to take it in for the betterment of your career.
You aren’t “right”… too old/young, short/tall, pretty/quirky. When you have no control over the issue, let it go. If you do have control over it, and are unhappy, change it. Resist taking it personally. Locate your thick skin.
My final nugget of wisdom: It’s business. It is not personal.
This is sometimes difficult to remember in the moment, but enormously important. Your ever increasingly thick skin will help you to keep that in perspective.
Laurie Records, Casting Director