Encouraging the Marathon Runner
One of the most difficult aspects of being an actor is the general lack of feedback during the audition process. It doesn’t matter if it’s for film and television or for voiceover work. An actor rarely hears anything, except when he’s booked a job.
Actors know this, of course. We know that it’s a long journey filled with rejection. It’s hard to find even the biggest stars who don’t have a litany of rejections from early in their careers. It’s all part of knowing that an acting career is “a marathon, not a sprint” and that a “no” today for one project could be a “yes” tomorrow for another.
Still, it’s nice when someone takes the time to provide useful critiques or even encouragement. This is very rare from someone other than an acting teacher, coach, or agent! But when someone close to production, an agent, or a client takes the time to send a note, well, that’s something different.
Just this evening, a voiceover friend surprised me by saying that his wife was the casting director and producer of a short film for which I had auditioned and received a callback. I had had no idea, as his wife used her professional name and he wasn’t part of the auditioning process. I knew that I was on the shortlist, but when I didn’t hear back from them after the callback, I had assumed that the part had gone to someone else.
This evening, though, he told me that he had been in the background observing the auditions and callbacks, and that both he and his wife had liked my performance very much. Ultimately, his wife had chosen another actress because she thought that the role called for an older performer who could more believably play the part. Rather than being disappointed – I had since moved on to other auditions and other bokings – I felt quite gratified. Here was validation of the quality of my work. That I hadn’t been cast for this particular project was due to factors beyond my control.
This is often the case. Ideally, once the audition process reaches the callback stage, each of the performers is there because the producers could see any one of them in the role. Outside circumstances then can come into play. Aside from the performances themselves, the casting director and producer take into account things like chemistry between the actor and other, already cast, players. Appearance plays a huge factor, too, especially in ensemble pieces. Which potential cast members look like they could be family members? In a group of friends or co-workers, does each person have a unique look? An actress may not be cast, no matter the quality of her work, if she looks too much like the lead. Or reminds the producer of his ex. Don’t smirk. It happens!
Unexpected encouragement comes from the voiceover world, too. Very early on in my career, almost immediately after I had been signed with my first agent, I learned that I – as a newbie – had been one of the top three choices for a major VO commercial. The client did decide to go with one of the two other talents, each of whom had long resumes and many years of experience. My agent, though, said that this was in his opinion a win and that we should both be very proud of that achievement. Well, I certainly was pleased to hear how well my audition was received – mostly because it came from my new agent for whom I had the highest respect.
And today, I received a very nice email from a production company that had recently sent me an audition for one of their clients. They didn’t need to take the time to write the note, but they did, explaining that the client chose another talent, but that they had truly liked the reads I had submitted. It reminded me of a previous time when an agency owner went out of his way to say that he wanted to add me to his talent roster, even though his client had chosen a different actor for the job. Again, while I didn’t book the project, I still felt like I had a small win because my work stood out and was well received.
They're rare, but other actors and I do see these encouraging notes from time to time. While non-actors may read this and think “well, so what, you didn’t get the job” and write it off, actors know it’s only one opportunity among many to come. After all, we audition for far more jobs than we know statistically we’ll book. We understand that just because we weren’t the best fit for a particular role doesn’t mean that we won’t be for the next role they need to cast. And we're aware that when casting directors keep calling us in for projects, it’s because they know that we can do the job and do it well.
It’s positive feedback, an “atta-boy” and a slap on the back, all rolled into one. We all need it, regardless of the careers and industries in which we work. Positive performance reviews (and raises and bonuses!) made my day when I worked in corporate IT sales. Kind words and support from close family members and friends are appreciated now and always, especially on tough days when nothing seems to go well. And extending those positive vibes, encouraging and supporting other people, make us feel better about ourselves, too.
So keep at it. When you notice someone has done a good job, let them know. When you see someone who could use a boost to their spirits, show them you care. As long as it’s honest and comes from the heart, it will be gratefully received. And who knows? You just might make someone’s day all that much brighter.