How Negativity Affects Career Longevity

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In addition to understanding the business and finding your own creative process, the third element to having a successful acting career is how you approach it psychologically. Going into auditions with a negative point of view will affect your acting, auditions, and relationships.

Unlike almost any other aspect of your career, you can control the ways in which you view yourself and the casting process. How you feel when you get an appointment and when you don’t, when you enter and leave an audition, and when you do or do not get a role all contribute to your longevity in the business. I often hear actors say, “But it is so hard to deal with rejection.”OK, but guess what? This is the career you have chosen for yourself and even the most well-known actor knows that he will not get more roles than he gets. Rejection is part of the job and the “job” is to audition.

OK, let’s look at what you call rejection: Is the rejection of you as a human being or of you in the context of the role that is being cast? If you believe it is the former, stop that! In essence what has been rejected is you, as a “commodity.” When you don’t get cast it is because you either don’t fit the role or someone else fit it better. There is nothing in the casting process that gives credence to the belief that you, as a person, are being “rejected.” If you have difficulty in being told no, then maybe this isn’t your path.

If you continue to make rejection personal, your negativity will creep into every aspect of your business and personal life. Upon getting an appointment, I have had clients tick off all the reasons why they are wrong for the role or why they will “never be cast.” OK, before you sink yourself into the black hole of Calcutta, let’s look at an appointment logically: Didn’t you just get an appointment for the role? Do you honestly think that the casting director has nothing better to do than to audition people who are wrong for the role? Couldn’t there be more than one way to play a part? How do you know what they want when they don’t know it, themselves?

Many actors look at character descriptions as the Holy Grail.While it is true that roles in episodic television often follow the “what you see is what you get” approach to casting, scripts can be re-written to fit a chosen actor, or producers and directors can meet someone and see new possibilities for a role. When casting the series regulars for a pilot, the line between the actor and the character becomes nonexistent so who you are when you enter the room takes precedence over breakdown descriptions. Today it is doubly hard to get an audition, so look at each appointment as a chance to act. If you get the part, swell. If you don’t, you have met someone who could affect your future. In either case, any one audition is just a blip on the career-building road.

Negativity can also get in the way of your relationship with your representative. When a client constantly tells a rep that he is wrong for the role and will never be cast, the rep will start to believe him. He worked hard to get you a chance so, if you are trashing that chance, what is the incentive for the rep to keep on working for you?

Disappointments of expectations go hand in hand with negativity. You cannot judge how casting views your reading from how you have imagined they would respond. Every room you enter is different and is run by different people who work in different ways. Guess what? They didn’t get the program of your expectations. Maybe, they never give notes or show a reaction. Maybe they are lousy readers who don’t give you anything. Maybe they have a terrible headache. There are hundreds of things that may or might not occur that won’t confirm to your expectation. In the same way that your acting needs to be “in the moment,” you, as an actor, must be in the moment, too. Learn to read the room and deal with the reality of what is. Don’t reflect on the experience through the prism of your expectations. Playing it out in your head is a lose-lose situation and a sure bet that you will be disappointed. There are no should’swhen it comes to what people do so don’t look for them.

Additionally, negativity is contagious and can spread to or from your family and friends. Friends who are also actors can be the worst negativity carriers. A“friend”does not say, “Oh, you didn’t go out for that part? Really? I think you would be perfect.” Your friend knows saying something like that is just plain mean. Passive aggressive behavior is designed to make another person feel bad. You don’t need that in your life so make it a policy never to discuss auditions with friends. If someone brings it up, smile and say, “Oh, let’s not talk business today.”If your friend doesn’t get the hint, find one whose middle name isn’t negative.

Self-sabotage and other patterns of negativity will doom the longevity of any career. You must be resilient and approach each day and each audition as a new opportunity. If you poison yourself before you start, the only thing that you can expect is that you will not get the part. String enough of those incidents together and you will lose your sense of personhood. Imagine your own inner personhood as a rock. Every time you think negatively, your “rock” will erode, piece by piece, until there is nothing left. When that happens, the “you”who wants to act will have long ago left the building, and without “you,” your passion and creativity will disappear.

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Joan Sittenfield
Joan Sittenfield is a talent manager, producer, and writer who heads Joan Sittenfield Management, and who began her career as an actress/dancer.
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