Auditions are the leaky faucet of Hollywood: constant, tiny, annoying, and infuriating. But rejection comes in a bigger form this time of year as pilot season limps to an end. Agents clean out their rosters and dump clients, pilots end up in the reject pile, and kids get recast for being too tall. How can child actors avoid the pitfall of becoming bitter adults?
From the mother of former child actors, here are tips for handling a no.
Rejection is the one constant in the biz. When kids are younger, auditions are just fun and they don’t need to know that callbacks even exist. But as performers get into their preteen years, they start to take rejections to heart. You can’t avoid this, so just face it head-on. Know that most actors are being told no most of the time. If your child is a sensitive soul, it may be wise to exit the industry before those preteen years.
Casting directors tell us that 1,200 actors are submitted for each role. That means 1,199 actors don’t get the job. Be realistic with your child. Don’t say, “You nailed it! They loved you!” And don’t say, “You’ll get the next one.” Odds are he or she won’t. You may see this as cheerleading, but a child might be even further discouraged when your predictions don’t come true.
Explain Rejection in a Way Kids Can Understand
A fellow show-biz mom once told me years ago, “Some days they are just looking for pistachio ice cream.” As an actor, you might be the very best chocolate chip ice cream there is, but sometimes the producers just want pistachio. Their choice doesn’t make your chocolate chip flavor any less perfect.
Control What You Can
You don’t know what ice cream flavor the producers want, but you can control your performance. Encourage your actor to learn her lines, create a character, and do her best.
When an audition is over, leave it behind. Leave the casting office, throw the sides in the trash, and get a treat before driving back to your “real life” of school, activities, and family. Don’t revisit the audition, and discourage obsessing.
I was surprised to find that my kids’ big “hurts,” their memories of rejection, didn’t center on auditions. They remember the lost jobs or relationships. Whether their agent dumped them, they were replaced or “aged” on a show, or the play came to a close, the endings were what hurt. At our house, we had a 24-hour mourning period for the big stuff. We were allowed to cry, eat too many cookies, and generally have a pity party. Then we would reflect on anything we could do better the next time and look forward to a new day.
Will following these tips insulate our kids from rejection? No, but they may help them put it in perspective. A little hindsight never hurts—even if it isn’t quite 20/20.
Anne Henry is the co-founder of BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving families in the entertainment industry.