The entertainment industry isn’t kind. It doesn’t do anyone any favours. It can be rewarding. But it also causes heartbreak. Lots. Of. Heartbreak.  It amplifies people’s insecurities.  It makes people feel badly about themselves. It can give people hope but it can mislead you.  So the question is, why do we keep going back?

Validation is a big one for me. Belonging. Attention. Proving something. I think we either consciously or subconsciously strive for these things but more often than not, we get false validation, we’re really not sure what we belong to and, in the big picture, no one really notices.

I was going to write this blog on my experiences about pilot season in Los Angeles. As an actor I’ve been going to LA for the past 7 years and this upcoming season will be the first I’m missing in that time span. I was going to talk about how the city balloons up to an already unsustainable size and how car rental companies jack their rates. I was going to rattle off the network and cable companies like I know what I’m talking about.  I was going to talk about the competition. The weather. The competition. That ‘believe in yourself’ attitude. Following your dreams. But instead, can I just thank my lucky stars that I get a break from all that shit?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thankfully been in a position for the past 7 years that has allowed me to venture down to tinsel town and roll my dice. I’m grateful for that. But holy shit, I need a little respite from the relentless rejection.

Rejection. What an interesting thing. I remember being in theatre school and during our second year they had brought in a ‘working actor’ to talk about his experiences in the industry. The one thing that always stuck out for me was when he said,

“The rejection would have to be the hardest thing. You need to grow a really thick skin.”

I had always wondered what he meant by that. The rejection in this industry can truly be a death by a thousand paper cuts. It isn’t something so tangible and repulsive that might push people away sooner. It’s getting feedback like this, on why you didn’t get the role:

“They loved you. Everyone LOVED you. You are everyone’s first choice. BUT the network wanted someone with slightly darker hair than you, so it didn’t go your way this time.”

“The director is obsessed with you. OBSESSED. But the writer doesn’t feel like you could have been born in San Francisco.”

“Casting basically says this is your part…wait, hold on…you might be half an inch too tall.”

See what happened? An absolutely incredible, validating compliment, followed by a reason so stupid that it will forever make your head spin. If you’re looking for logic in this industry, find another profession.

I recently booked a job on a major US network. My agent negotiated the terms and we were talking about what time of day I wanted to fly out; hell, the wardrobe department emailed me for my measurements. Low and behold, the whole deal still hadn’t been ‘approved’ yet. At the end of the day, a woman at the major US network saw my audition and pulled the deal citing:

“The lead of our show would NEVER date a guy that looks like that”.

Now, there was no compliment here. I tried to find one to soften the blow and came up with nothing. I even resorted to searching for logic in the rationale and was immediately unsuccessful. Talent had nothing to do with this. Everyone on the creative side chose me for the part and felt that the final stage of approval was merely a formality. Almost everyone in this process was blown away by this decision; angry; at a loss. According to that network executive, I wasn’t aesthetically worthy to be on their show. Cue thick skin.  Looking for the positive here was difficult. I guess I can take pride in ‘getting this far’ and ‘being in this position’ and it being ‘a good problem to have’…but this was still a problem.

I usually don’t like to give rejection any attention. I don’t like to name it or pretend it exists. I try to keep my chin up and move on from moments like these…and my god, there have been a lot. But this time felt different. Why?

I was completely powerless to solving it. I had no way to defend myself. I couldn’t save my own work from being dismissed so quickly for a reason that was so out of my control. It was a harsh reminder of how vulnerable we are as artists. Man, we lay it all on the line, leave it in the room, exhaust ourselves, and go to the brink of what we’re capable of…then get dismissed by trivial decisions that are based on bottom line numbers and people in power positions not thinking about anything but their job.

So, am I going to quit the business?  Of course not.  Every actor has a story like this, so we’re in this together whether you like it or not.  I guess this experience has left me wondering: if we fall down seven times, how do we get up on the eighth?

How do you find power in a powerless industry?

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Jamie Spilchuk
Actor, voice over, writer, husband, California traveler, pirate wannabe, and craft table lover. Thinks he’s good at golf, softball and going to the gym…pretty mediocre at all three. One time saw a man that looked like an actual ape but it was never corroborated (most likely a dream) yet, has been looking for him ever since. Jerry Seinfeld is his Religion.