Working Actor 101: Learning to Love Auditioning

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If you’ve been an actor for any amount of time, you’ve come to the realization that the majority of your work is actually auditioning.  Right?  It’s sort of like how the human body is made up of 80% water, an actor’s career is most definitely 80% auditioning, and only 20% actual on-set work (if that).  So, when you’re new and starting out, it can be a bit jarring when you’re going on, say, you’re 47th audition in a row and have yet to book anything.  I remember a time early on in my career when I literally went on over 100 auditions and didn’t book a single one.  It was devastating.  I remember sitting in my car more than once thinking, “What do I have to do to make someone hire me?” 

The brutal part of our business is that you can’t do that.  This is the part that is completely out of your control.  No matter how talented you are, how beautiful/handsome/character-perfect you are, how determined you are, nothing you do can make someone hire you if the part isn’t yours.  On the other hand, if the part is yours, you might even give one of your worst auditions and still book the role.  It’s unexplainable and out of your hands.

This isn’t to say you should slack off and say, “Whatever, it’s in fate’s hands.”  That’s not at all what I’m saying.  What I do believe is that we must show up to each and every appointment as though it’s our only one, prepare for it as though we’re preparing to show up to an already booked job, and then enjoy the heck out of the process for those few moments we get to be there. 

How do we do this?  It’s not easy, I’ll own that.  But let me tell you what’s worked for me on this journey so far.

Let’s go back to those rainy days sitting in my car, asking “What do I have to do to make someone hire me?”.  Around this same time, I was also seeing a counselor for some other life issues (which I highly recommend for everybody, but that should be addressed in a separate column, Human Life 101).  I couldn’t take it anymore and finally asked my counselor how to handle this.  The devastation, the discouragement, the hopes that were literally going nowhere were becoming more than I could bear.  She looked at me kindly and thoughtfully and mentioned she seemed to notice (throughout all of our previous conversations as well) that part of me hadn’t grown up yet, the part that knew how to process disappointments through experience.  I was stunned but recognized the truth in her observation.  She told me, in a very counselor-type way, that I needed to sit across from my inner eight-year old and tell her everything was okay, but that it was time to grow up. 

Naïve as I may have been, this was really my first experience in owning anything like this.  It was incredibly empowering to call out my own disappointment and then speak love and truth to myself.  Disappointments happen, they are not unique to me, and they don’t actually have power over who I am.  The core of who I am is separate from my achievements just as it’s separate from my lack of achievement, and I’m still valuable and worthy of love and belonging regardless of either.

The beauty of realizing this is that now you can choose whether or not you want to be an actor!  You can decide whether or not you want to put yourself through this journey of endless unpaid preparation, rejection, and those elusive yesses because you just love it so much you can’t do anything else!  And when you’ve decided that, you can walk into every appointment without desperation (which casting directors can feel like slime, by the way), and just show up as YOU.  You can show up as your full authentic self and say, “Hey guys, this is what I’m doing with this role!  I love my take on it and am going to have a blast.  If you hire me, we’ll have a blast working together!  If not, I’ve just had a blast doing this and I’ll look forward to the next time we get to play.  Thanks for the opportunity!”

What do you think?  How have you handled rejection and have learned to love the process of auditioning?  Are there particular struggles that you have?  I’d love to hear from you, so please, reach out on instagram at @hannahbarefoot or twitter at @hannah_barefoot.

Thanks friends.  Until next time.