I received a phone call a few days ago from a director I was slated to work with this fall. He had bad news: The movie we’d been talking about making for months had fallen through. Just like that, we were both unemployed. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, but even though it’s more commonplace than not, that still doesn’t make it any easier to digest once you get off the phone and process the information.
When you first decide to start acting, you develop a tough outer skin pretty quickly as the first of many rejections begin to roll in. There have been one or two times when I walked out of a casting office and morphed into Mary Tyler Moore on the street, barely restraining myself from tossing up my nonexistent hat and shouting, “I’m going to make it after all!” Cut to three days later, when I realize that no matter how often I compulsively check my phone, my manager is not going to call me and tell me good news. Maybe you will make it after all, just not right now.
So when you finally do book something, your feeling of relief almost supersedes all of the feelings of instability and unpredictability that came before. The slate is wiped clean and you feel like maybe there’s a rhyme and reason to all the chaos—until that project falls through, too. The reality is, sometimes the pursuit of acting feels like you’ve signed up for the most unstable, arbitrary dating site ever. Just when you think you’ve found Mr. Right, he never calls you back and you feel like you may actually be going crazy. So what do you do? You try to build out a balanced life; you fortify yourself with others who will help you through it; and you consume as many books, movies, and television shows as possible to remind yourself why you’ve decided to do this in the first place. You try to exercise; you try to meditate; maybe you volunteer somewhere.
The reality is, you’re going to feel pretty bad sometimes. You’re not going to want to get out of bed the day after a movie you’re attached to falls apart. You’re not going to want to go to a friend’s premiere when your pilot doesn’t get picked up. There’s really no way around it; it’s going to be part of your life one way or another. The trick is to feel those feelings with the most economical turnaround time. It’s the amount of time you allow yourself to lie down in the ring after falling. Sometimes it’s going to be eight seconds, sometimes three. But you still have to take the punches, then let yourself have a day or even a week to take it in because no matter what anyone says, it hurts. But that’s OK, because eventually you’ll get right back into the ring and do it over again until it all clicks into place.
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