Jonathan’s argument is eloquently put, and most importantly, he knows what works for him. Everyone has different systems for coping with rejection, and sometimes having a job gradually dissolve from your consciousness is relatively painless. But by the results of the poll, it would seem he may be in the minority.
In his scenario, a lovely ‘resting’ day might well be shat upon by such an an email (automated or not), but in all likelihood his agent would receive it, not him – and if he’s already had a discussion with them that he prefers not to be informed of the ‘no’, then the agent isn’t obliged to tell him – they just update their clients availability for their own reference. Such an ‘opt out’ I believe would be preferable for actors, compared with what we are currently faced with.
For every day hobbled by a definite ‘no’, I’ve spent several days, and sometimes weeks being similarly hobbled by the ‘maybe’. In my case, I fundamentally believe this is in large part due to the regularity of my auditions. If you are being seen for something (let’s say) once a fortnight, then you know it’s likely that another opportunity will be around the corner eventually, another chance to shine, another license to daydream what doors, real or imagined, it might open. But if you’re like me, getting any audition is BIG news. Obviously I try not to approach it as BIG news – I keep effortlessly calm, prepare the fuck out of it and give the creative team a really hard decision… but it IS big news.
To break this down: 2016 for me has been a middling year acting wise. One 8 week theatre engagement which I was seen for thanks to a recommendation, two short films and a few one-off readings. But in terms of auditions for paid work, I’ve had four. Two were for equity rates, and the other two lower but survivable on. So, taking away the two months I was out of the country living my dream, that’s an average of one audition every six to seven weeks.
Now, of those four jobs, I’d say two of them weren’t massively suited to me and gradually slipped from my mind (until now – oh jesus). But if I’d have been given a definite ‘no’ it would have been useful, as I held off booking some train tickets just in case and paid a bit more as a result, and had a few ‘what if’ daydreams that I had to stamp on for my own good. If I had a family, then the practicalities at play would be much bigger in this respect.
Of the other two, I received a definite ‘no’ with very useful and encouraging feedback, which actually helped me come to terms with the decision very easily as I’d known I’d made a good impression – but the subject of feedback is a separate issue I’m going to leave here. The final one, which was the most high profile, dragged on for a month before my agent finally managed to ring a definite response out of the casting director. During that month, I tried my best not to think about it, but when it’s one of your two Equity paid auditions that you might be getting that year (and I’ve had worse years), it’s… hard not to.
Now I appreciate that for some jobs you are still ‘in the mix’, which is a term often employed by casting directors who may or may not know quite how likely to be cast you are. Maybe a decision has been made by the director, or maybe you’re the back up while the contract wings its way to choice no. 1, but obviously it’s in their interests to keep you free just in case there’s a change of heart or a different job is taken instead (bastards). Formally rejecting everyone else when an offer has been made, or even accepted, risks the cost of another casting session if things fall through. I understand that. But it’s still not pleasant being in the dark, and it would be nice to be communicated with transparently one way or the other at the earliest opportunity – at least, for me it would – because it is a personal choice.
Obviously things like mindfulness, meditation, and living in the ‘present’ all help exponentially – the art of caring less is a crucial one to cultivate as an actor – but it’s also a damn sight easier to do when you are relatively confident another chance will come around eventually. It makes it easier to disengage from all the prep work you’ve crammed in, if you can fill that void with the challenge of tackling something new. It’s a situation where there is no-size-fits-all solution, but the option of having an answer, of being able to draw that line and fully DEAL with that rejection, is preferable to me than the nausea of the ‘who knows’.
You can read and share Stephen Fletcher’s open letter to Equity and Spotlight here. Please do take the time to read what he has to say and get behind him in his campaign.
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