There are more actors than work. That is in no way a criteria by which one can be judged successful or not.Dugald Bruce-Lockhart
We arrive at a topic on which our interviewees had a lot to say. A selection of the raw comments should set the tone here:
“It’s the most personal industry there is, but it’s nothing personal.”
“For your own self-preservation, you must realise that nothing that happens in the casting room is personal. It will kill you if you keep going away thinking ‘it’s me’.”
“You can never expect to ‘earn’ a role. There could be a job where you literally ARE the character- same age, same experience, same look, same voice, same height, same colour, same blood type, same damn name. And you won’t get it.
Because that’s the way things happen. The industry doesn’t owe you a job.”
“It’s speed dating. Just a lot of cases where you hear:
‘You’re probably a great person, but you’re not right for me’.
Except you don’t hear it, because the bastards don’t call you back. Ever.”
Cheery stuff. As actors, we have to churn out A LOT of auditions before finally getting that glorious, glorious ‘yes’. But it is the ‘churning out’ of this incredibly personal work within the confines of such an impersonal industry that has the capacity to take a real toll on our mental health.
Over the weeks, months and years of auditions, it gets real easy for actors to attribute all the constant rejection to some kind innate flaw within themselves that they will never be rid of. That, my friends, is a dirty, stinking lie and we’re going to call it out right here. This dangerous form of tunnel vision toward ‘innate faults’ precludes us from seeing the truer and wider picture of our circumstances.
I’m not going to pretend I’ve invented the following term, but I DID think of it independently from the MacMillan Dictionary who boasted that it was they who brought it into existence via their crowd-sourced dictionary in 2011. I didn’t have a crowd. So I’m going to label them cheats and claim it anyway. The Biz could be described as a complex ecosystem, but I think it’s far more accurate to discuss it as an egosystem. The egosystem is here defined as the myriad of glass ceilings surrounding an actor which tend to be forgotten when said actor becomes over-critical of themselves. It consists of many different people at a variety of different levels within industry hierarchy, hence the ‘ego’.
Paul Russell talks about the egosystem in his excellent (and wonderfully humorous) book ‘Acting: Make It Your Business‘. He says, quite frankly, that actor’s tend to forget the level of complexity within the system that decides whether or not an actor books a gig. To be cast in a role, there a many many boxes to tick. Paul lays out the full scope of these:
Imagine that at Level 1 you have yourself – the actor – along with all the other actors auditioning for the job.
Then your agent (Level 2).
Then possibly a manager (Level 3).
Then one or more casting directors (Level 4).
And a director (Level 5). Many actors think that the decision-making stops here. Depending on the size of the project, this isn’t necessarily true!
After the director are the producers (Level 6).
And after them a whole tables-worth of TV network executives (Level 7)
Then above THEM, the studio executives from Sony/Universal/Fox/WB/ etc… (Level 8)!
Sometimes, there may even be more unseen levels above these! So you can see that it is a mild miracle when all of them coalesce in your favour or at the very least not in favour of someone else. Any decision at any of these levels could result in you not getting the role. It’s completely ridiculous to beat yourself over the head every time you don’t get a call back. The inner critic doesn’t want to let you think about all these levels. It wants you to think that the problem is you. Of course, this is by no means to be used as an excuse by lazy actors who convince themselves that their lack of work is due purely to other people’s shortcomings.