An Agent Gets Real About How Actors Should Handle Rejection

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Photo Source: Steve Weigl

Actors are such sensitive creatures. You take every rejection personally. When an audition or meeting doesn’t go well, you respond like the apocalypse is knocking on your door. It must be an exhausting way to live.

Remember back in high school when every heartbreak felt like the end of the world? Part of growing up is learning that wounds heal and life goes on.

Case in point: My stupid girlfriend dumped me two weeks before the senior prom. I went to a dark place for a few days, and then I came out swinging and started dating Gina DeMarco from the drama department. We performed a scene together in the prop closet that still makes me grin. Actually, that encounter might’ve fueled my interest in working with actors.

(Note to self: Bring this up during next therapy session.)

Anyway, dealing with disappointment is a necessary skill if you want to be an actor. You have to understand that rejections are like speed bumps on the road to success. So here are a few words of wisdom that might help you drive over them without breaking an axle.

Learn to accept rejection. An acting career is a strange thing. You spend more time looking for work than actually doing it. By that standard, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of disappointment in your life. Auditions will not always lead to bookings. Agents and managers will pass on you. Critics will attack your work. That’s just the way it is. So learn to accept rejection as a way of life, and keep moving forward.

Don’t ignore your feelings. When someone rejects you, it’s natural to feel bad. You can’t just shrug your shoulders and groove on down the road to your next disappointment. That’s how spree killers are born. So feel free to wallow in misery for a little while. Knock back a few drinks. Shake your fist at the sky. Do whatever it takes. But then you have to move on. Nothing is gained by dwelling on the negative.

Most rejections aren’t about you. If a casting director doesn’t give you a callback, she might be rejecting a choice you made in the room. Or maybe you’re too young for the part. Or too old. It could be anything, but I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not you. The casting director doesn’t think you’re a despicable human being who shouldn’t be allowed to grace her precious set. She’s just making a choice. And the same is true for guys like me. Agents pass on actors for all kinds of reasons. The quality of your soul is rarely one of them.

Turn rejection into motivation. Next time you’re face-to-face with a major career disappointment, download the music from “Rocky” and start focusing on your next move. Get pumped. Set goals. And if you think the rejection was valid, use that energy to make changes and improvements for your next encounter.

Keep acting! The best way to get past rejection is to focus on the part of your career you like the best, which is acting. So put up a scene in class that allows you to shine. Strut your stuff. Remind yourself that the art of acting and the business of acting are two separate monsters that don’t always hold hands as they skip through the park.

Rejection is going to be part of your life. So next time you’re faced with a huge disappointment, I want you to look in the mirror and remember this: We’re not defined by rejection. We’re defined by our response to rejection.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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