One of the big things that binds us together as human beings is our innate fear of rejection.
This fear can impact what we do, who we speak to and the opportunities that we say Yes or No to.
How we deal with rejection (or the fear of potential rejection) can make or break our success in life.
I was looking for an expert to speak to about how best to deal with rejection and I thought, Bingo, let’s speak to an actor!
Professional actors have to put themselves in situations where there is a high risk of rejection, actively and repeatedly!
I decided to interview Victoria Pritchard, who’s been a professional actor for around 10 years and has done hundreds of auditions.
She also works as a copywriter, using her years of experience working in the arts and community, to create copy that really connects with people.
She knows what it’s like to have to start over and do something else, because she couldn’t do what she was trained to do during the pandemic.
Me: Hi Victoria, thanks for being here and for agreeing to talk to me.
The reason I wanted to speak to you is because I know actors have to go to hundreds of auditions, and most of the time they don’t get the job, so they end up being rejected.
First of all, can you tell me how the auditioning process works?
V: So the process tends to be that people put out a casting, and that will go either to agents, or it will go on to Spotlight, which is like a big casting website, that professional actors sign up to.
Or it might go out on social media or wherever.
That’s the way that some castings work.
And then some castings will be just kind of sent to certain people.
So casting directors might have certain people in mind for that role.
In those cases, that’s kind of like the bigger jobs.
So the way the big big jobs work is casting directors will think, oh, okay, there’s this role.
And I can imagine this actor that I’ve worked with before doing that role, so I’m going to see if they’re free.
Good casting directors will try and then filter it out to other people as well and kind of try and get it into the pipeline.
So that’s how that works.
And then you apply.
And they can get 1000’s and 1000’s and 1000’s of applications for one role.
Me: So, how do they decide who to call for an audition?
V: They’ll be looking at your headshot, basically your face, and what you’ve done before.
If they don’t feel that what you’ve done before and your face and your showreel, possibly, that your kind of style from the showreel is right, then they won’t call you.
That pre-process before audition can be brutal, because they have so many people that they’re looking at, and they only have so much time.
They have to think,
Have I seen them in anything?
Do I know them?
Do they look right?
What have they done that’s interesting, that might work with what we’re doing?
Do they have a showreel that I can look at, to see them doing what they do.
And they make a decision from there whether to call you in.
Me: What happens next?
V: After that you’ll go to the first round of auditions, probably just with the casting director.
They might call you to do a self-tape (you record yourself at home and then send that in).
If they like that, then they might call you in for a personal audition.
From there it can be however many, depending on the project.
For TV and film, if you’ve got a bigger role, then they’ll also do chemistry tests with the other actors.
Then it has to be signed off by producers.
It’s a very, very long process to go through to get that one role.
Me: So when you DO get called for an audition – what happens then?
V: In the auditioning process, anything can happen.
You could go in and have a bad day, and you’re probably not going to get it.
A lot of it is who you know, a bit of ‘look’, a bit of right timing, and then skill.
You have to have the skill or you’re not going to get the job.
But all those other things come before the skill:
Who you know,
Have you been seen before,
How have you approached it,
Do you have the right agent,
Do they like the look of you?
That’s why I kind of remove myself a bit from the process, because I think
“None of that’s to do with me”.
I can’t change the way I look.
I can’t change who I am or what I’ve done in the past that they might be interested in.
I can only do what I do and that’s it!
What I find helpful is just thinking that it’s not about me personally.
It’s not about how people feel about me as a person.
And I try to detach ‘me’ from that process.
Me: How do they make that decision on whether you’ll go through for the next round?
V: A lot of the time, it’s about, are you the right look for it?
Do you have the right kind of energy with the other actors?
Do you gel with the director in terms of how they work, their creative ideas and how they view the project. ?
Sometimes how you view a character and how the director views that character is completely opposite.
If you can take direction, and work in that way, then it can work.
But it might be that someone else comes in with a different interpretation, and they just prefer that.
You can’t be overplanning that, because then you wouldn’t go into the room and be ‘you’.
You’d be going in trying to think what other people will do, and that’s just never going to work.
It’s not about you personally.
There’s a lot of different factors that come together to make the final decision on whether you get the part.
Me: So how do you stay ‘detached’ ?
V: I try and think,
If it works for them, great.
If it doesn’t, then it wasn’t the right fit.
If you take it personally, and think “Oh, they didn’t like me”, that’s when it becomes really emotional and really hard.
If you’ve put all of your well being on this job and on those other people.
It’s not their responsibility to nurture you or your ego.
It’s their responsibility to put on a production, and they want it to be right.
And if you’re not right for that production, that’s the way it is.
It’s the same as applying for any job, it’s just that actors have to do it more regularly.
“Trying to see things as a learning experience is really important.”
Me: How did you first develop that ability to detach yourself from rejection?
V: I’ve been acting and around people who saw acting as a job from when I was about 15.
Being part of National Youth Theatre was the first time that I met other people who were serious and saw it as a profession.
Once you start getting into those circles, people talk about it a lot.
And I think that’s good.
People kind of say, look, you’re going to get rejected, this is gonna happen, and you have to learn to deal with it.
They give you the skills to go
Look, you need to see it as a chance to practice, you need to see it as a chance to act.
You need to see it as a chance to learn something and to make connections.
So you have to kind of reframe that as a positive.
If you’ve got through that process, and you’re in the room, that’s amazing.
You’re there for a reason.
So you have to think
“Okay, that was great. I got that audition. Amazing.”
You have to kind of see that and say Okay, so next time, I’ve had that experience, and I can draw on that experience and do it.
Me: Have you got any stories to share of when things went badly wrong?
V: My first audition was an open casting call, and it was dreadful.
It was absolutely terrible. Such a bad audition.
I was maybe 16 or 17, it was for a British film.
My agent said “You should go to this”.
And I was “Okay, I’ll go”.
And there were just so many people there. I remember getting more and more nervous.
The closer it came, the more and more nervous I got.
I’d done a casting workshop before, when the casting director works with the group of actors and says what they’re looking for, and gives you some tips.
And I remember being confused after that one.
And I remember thinking
Oh, well, I need to just go in and be myself.
But I took that too literally. I went into the room, and I was just kind of doing it as me.
And that wasn’t the character they were looking for.
And I couldn’t take the direction.
It just wasn’t happening in the room.
And I think there was someone there who I’d seen from TV, and I was a bit kind of overwhelmed.
And I was just like, Arghh.
I just remember leaving and being like, Urgh that was dreadful.
I knew it was bad. I knew it hadn’t gone well.
And I just had to take the time to go
“Right, what didn’t I do?
What didn’t go well there?
And so I learned a lot from that process!
Me: What did you learn?
V: You learn how you deal with nerves and how you deal with high stress situations.
You learn more about yourself so that in the future, you can be more prepared for that situation.
I know that when I wake up in the morning, on the day of the audition, I’ll feel fine.
I won’t feel anything at all.
I won’t feel anything on the journey.
It will be probably 10 minutes before I walk into the room, that I’ll suddenly go “Arrgghh”, and it’ll just hit me.
It’s like my body’s trying to delay it, which is not helpful. I’d rather it happened earlier!
Me: What do you do then, if it hits you 10 minutes before?
V: I just try and breathe.
Some actors are really chatty in the room. And I’ll allow them to chat to me.
And then when I feel that, I’ll kind of take myself off and go,
“I’m just going to prepare myself now”.
I’ll take myself away and just breathe.
I’ll think about what I’m gonna do.
Think about the fact that I’ve done this before. It’s not going to kill me.
The worst thing that happens is they say no.
Best thing that happens is I get the job.
And if they said no, then I’ve learned something.
It’s been another experience.
And I can move on.
If you don’t know that, and you go in without prepping yourself, and
you’ve got all this nervous, crazy energy going into the room, then it’s not gonna go well.
‘Cos you’re just not ready.
Me: Is there a thought pattern or technique you use to help you bring your ‘A’ game no matter what’s happened in the past?
V: It helps to do lots of auditions, but I don’t think you get less nervous, you’re just more prepared for the nerves.
You’re more prepared for that feeling, and it’s understanding that it’s ok to feel that way.
And it’s going to happen again.
The last time this happened you were ok and you’re going to be ok this time too.
I think most actors will say the same, especially about performance.
You never don’t feel nervous before you’re going to perform.
Muscle memory kicks in: I’ve felt this before, I’m going to get an adrenaline rush; my body’s preparing for that as well, I think that’s part of it, too.
I do a lot of breathing techniques; controlling your breath and trying to control your body; ground in your body.
Trying to get a sense of how your body is feeling, because if your body is tense, you’re carrying all of that with you.
And it’s going to come into your performance.
I also try to prepare how I think that character feels in their body.
So I’ll try and get into that state, so that I’m not in my state anymore.
It’s important to do what YOU need to do to get ready.
Me: How does the breathing and grounding help?
V: If your heartbeat is really fast, and you’re breathing really shallow into your chest, then the blood in your body isn’t pumping properly.
If you’re not getting enough breath, you’re not able to control the way your body is feeling.
The first thing is to notice.
Many people don’t even notice that that’s what’s going on.
Once you notice that your chest feels tight, your shoulders are tense, and you’re hardly breathing.
Then you can say, okay, I see what’s happening here.
I know what I need to do to make this feel different.
So I’m going to do that.
And I’m going to keep doing that until it changes, and I know that it will change.
It’s important to remember the mind and body are connected: when one of them is off, the other one is off.
Through acting training, you learn how to use the breath to control the body’s energy and to control your voice.
Me: How do you deal with it when you get so close to getting the part and then at the final hurdle it’s a No ?
V: That’s the one that hurts the most!
When you don’t get a job you really want, it can be devastating but you just have to get over it.
It does hurt, but you kind of know how to deal with that hurt.
And I think the further down the line you get, and the more you think you’re going to get it, the harder it is then.
Because you’re like, Ooh, this is going really well.
I could possibly get this.
And then you’re like “I was so close, what did I not do to not get it?! “
And then you have to swallow that and go okay, I didn’t get it this time.
But I’ve learned something.
But I tend to think about it from the casting director and director’s point of view.
They have to make a tough decision.
And when you get to that point, it’s not that you’re bad or awful.
If you were awful, you wouldn’t have got that far.
And it could have come down to the tiniest thing, you just don’t know.
And you might not get feedback about why you didn’t get it.
You can’t waste time and energy worrying about that.
You have to be kind to yourself, brush it off and go again.
Because if you don’t, it will stop you applying for the next thing.
You can talk yourself out of doing things so easily.
Me: How does self-awareness come into it?
V: If you don’t know that you’re not over it and then you go in for another audition and it feels even worse, and you’re just not dealing with it, then I think that’s dangerous.
It’s about knowing what you want and why you’re putting yourself ‘out there’ – and being realistic.
And I think we can all experience burnout.
I’ve definitely taken conscious breaks where I’ve gone – You know what, I just can’t audition again, right now, I just can’t do it.
I have to give myself permission to take a break, if I need it.
And I have to know that that’s okay.
Me: So it’s important to be clear on what you want?
V: I’m not sitting here thinking I’m going to be in Hollywood or whatever.
For me, I want to be able to act fairly regularly, get paid for it, hopefully develop some new skills, get better at it, enjoy it.
If I can do that, I’m really lucky because so many people don’t get to do that.
And so it’s about managing your expectations, being aware and being clear on your desire and your intentions.
And putting it all in perspective.
I’ve done lots of things; some TV stuff, I’ve trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is amazing.
I’ve done things that I felt were like, Wow, I didn’t think I could do that.
But I also know the more experience I’ve got, the more I found what I actually enjoy, and what I don’t enjoy.
What I want to put my energy into, and what I feel validates me.
You have to kind of ask yourself those questions as well –
“Why are you doing this and who are you doing it for?”
You have to be aware of why you’re doing things and why you feel the way you do about the jobs that you’re getting, or not getting.
And that only comes with experience.
Me: How has your experience crossed over into self-employment?
V: This last year has been interesting – going into copywriting, and the self employment side is something completely new.
That’s pushed me through a whole new load of barriers about who am I and how do I see myself?
How do others see me?
My understanding of rejection has transitioned over into the new stuff that I do.
I’m able to think, if people don’t want to work with me, or if it’s not the right thing for them right now, that’s fine.
If I don’t get that job, that’s okay, something else will come up – it’s not devastating.
There’s so many external things that could impact what you’re doing.
And you just have to realise that that’s them, that’s not you.
If people have said no to you, that’s fine, it’s valid.
Me: Thanks so much for speaking to me Victoria.
It’s been fascinating to hear your stories and how you deal with all that rejection!
For everyone who’s interested in getting to know Victoria, here’s her contact info:
Go check her out!!
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