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Want to be an Actor? Get Ready for Rejection.


Jessica SonnebornThe only common denominator that we as artists all have is rejection. It is part of the game.   In this article I want to chat about how to live with all this rejection.

I cannot tell you how many countless auditions I have been on in my ten plus years as an actress…. And guess what… I was rejected, denied, not hired, not even a call back on hundreds of them. It’s impossible to book everything you audition for and it’s totally normal to not book a majority you go out for. This is part of the game, but it surely isn’t easy.

If you don’t have the backbone, to deal with rejection on a daily basis, then maybe this isn’t the right career path for you. It doesn’t matter how well you have the sides memorized, how good you look… how perfect you deliver your lines… I am telling you, you’re going to face rejection. The easiest way to understand all this is to volunteer to be a reader for a casting director. I used to work for a casting director and I’ve also had a hand in casting on several indie’s that I’ve produced, including a project I’m working on right now. We just held castings for one particular role in the movie. We had numerous actresses put themselves on tape and several rounds of talented people in for callbacks. The person that was ultimately cast in the role is a super talented young lady, but there were so many talented girls that came in and auditioned, and most of them did nothing wrong during their auditions. They looked great, they performed great… they just weren’t AS RIGHT for the part as the person the director chose. Ultimately she was the one that was able to make him see that character come to light the way he wanted her to, the most.

Usually when I get a big fat rejection, especially after getting close to booking something, my first thought is, “I did something wrong.” I have worked in casting; I have been in the room for conversations on why to cast one person over the others…I’ve even been the deciding factor on casting people in my own movies. It’s almost never that one actor did something wrong, (and even I’m still disillusioned enough to think that way, as an actor.) It’s hard to get ourselves out of that mind frame that not being cast is because we are somehow inferior, or not good enough. I’m telling you from experience it’s usually something quite the opposite. Too tall, too short, too similar to another person already cast, too old or young, too polished, or just that the director had something really specific in mind.

Here are a few steps that may help you deal with rejection: 

  1. Moving on and refocusing your energy after auditioning. Put effort into your audition and then LET IT GO. Train yourself to let go after walking out of the door. It is out of your hands and you did your job. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to think, “ I wonder if I did well?” which then, if you don’t book leads to: “I wonder what I did wrong?” Once you leave the casting room, your job is over. Onward…
  2. When you book something, write down how you feel about it. I know this may sound silly, but if you write down how you feel when you book something… you can go back and re-read that memory to bring yourself back to that happy place.   Positive energy attracts positive energy, so if you can re-live that happy feeling you will get less rejection.
  3. Volunteer to work for a few casting directors. Be an off-camera reader or help in the office. See how the casting process works for commercials, television and film (they are all quite different). For me, seeing what factors contributed to someone being hired or not really helped me to understand how out of your hands casting can be.
  4. Remember that every artist has faced rejection. You are far from being alone! The most successful actors are not necessarily the most talented, but the most resilient. Learning how to not only COPE with rejection, but SMILE IN ITS FACE, is the key to surviving as an artist.

I hope that these ideas can help you cope with the inevitable rejection that all of us artist will face. One other great idea is to look at it like this: every time you get a no, you are one step closer to the yes you’ve been waiting for.

Jessica Sonneborn

About Jessica Sonneborn

Jessica Sonneborn grew up in Connecticut and earned a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and a graduate teaching degree from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. After teaching in Boston for a couple of years she turned her attention to acting in Independent movies, eventually deciding to make a serious try in the film industry by moving to Los Angeles in 2005. Jessica has had leads in a variety of genres from thrillers: "Lure", which she also wrote and produced, Sci-Fi: "The Witches of Oz" (Christopher Lloyd, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin), comedy: Kevin Smith’s Movie Club presents: "Money Shot" (Jason Mewes), which she also wrote and produced, Horror: "Alice D." (Kane Hodder, Al Snow), which she also wrote and directed, "Bloody Bloody Bible Camp" (Reggie Bannister and Tim Sullivan) and just released: Leigh Scott's, "Piranha Sharks" (Kevin Sorbo). She is in numerous other independent productions including: "American Girls" (Bai Ling), "Rabid Love", "Alpha House", "Never Open the Door", "Red Sleep", "Love Squared" and also had guest stars on Stephen Merchants', "Hello Ladies", Diablo Cody's, "United States of Tara", and Charles Shyers, "Him and Us" (pilot). Most recently she plays the lead in dramatic thrillers, "Silence", written and directed by Nelson Reis and produced by Carlyne Fournier, and "The House Across the Street", surrounded by Eric Roberts, Alex Rocco, Ethan Embry, and Courtney Gains, directed by Arthur Luhn and in the up coming Leigh Scott comedy, "Extra Curricular Activities". Jessica has several movies lined up for 2014 and early 2015, including the horror remake: Psycho a Go Go, mutant horror, Contaminated, and was just cast in the military drama, based on a true story: "Light Wounds" and horror: "One Night of Fear".