I have been battering my way through the copy of the paperwork I submitted for Screen East, and combing through everything so "I know me better than they do". That may sound bizarre and may even seem as though I made up the content of my application (I didn't!), but there are always certain self-marketing tools and turns of phrase one should utilize for every application: forget what you've written (and how you've phrased it) and you may flounder even though it's the truth. Moral of this tale? Know your work and know your words. That goes for your screenplays / plays / television format outlines / novels / poems / lyrics...whatever you write. Know the b*stard inside out and that way you'll always stay on top!
Earlier on I read Danny Stack's latest excellent post from his Professional Screenwriter Series - this one is entitled Attitude - 'Or Learning to Love Rejection'. Rejection is a shit, quite frankly, and no matter what walk of life you are from, it is never an easy one to deal with. A few friends of mine (who have perfectly normal jobs) cannot and would never be able to fathom why I do what I do, or indeed understand how I even get myself out of bed every morning when I've just had another long week of rejections. Well - I just do. As we all do. "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again". I perhaps have a more varied experience of rejection than most, having spent many years trudging the not-very-glimmering streets of London attending castings for film, theatre, TV, commercials and voiceovers, but none the less, I kept on keeping on.
As an actor you have to be pretty tough - actually - extremely tough. Rejection is a daily pitfall and the effect has to be water off a duck's back, but somewhere along the line, if things aren't flying, you do start to ask yourself where you may be going wrong - and the worst answer is...you're probably not actually going wrong, you are just "not right". In very general terms, negative feedback from castings will be along the lines of 'just not the right look/feel' and that is very frustrating to deal with because short of a "Face/Off" manoeuvre, you're fecked. The truth is, the commerce behind the media business requires a swift return on its money without a doubt, and so taking a risky step into the unknown generally isn't an option and hence why we see the same faces again and again on both the small and large screen. That and the fact they are sometimes the result of a packaging agency deal.
TV Commercial castings, for example, are like picking lottery numbers and they're all about 'look'. Generally requiring no warmth or even courtesy from those holding the casting, you are herded in and out like a dummy: in the door, state your name, agent, height, weight, vital stats, turn left profile, turn right profile, show hands back, show hands front, smile teeth showing, smile no teeth showing, no smile, dialogue (if any), pull a face (if required), goodbye. Next.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have been to quite a lot of castings where I have actually been spoken to like a human being too - in fact, I have even felt valued! These were just as important as the other castings, as far as I am concerned, but were usually held by extremely influential and well known Directors, Casting Directors and/or Producers - in fact the higher up the food chain, the nicer they became. These were more like meetings than fly by the seat of your pants castings but involved a vast amount of script to be learnt beforehand (usually at 9pm the night before), for me to appear relaxed, groomed, amiable, professional, knowledgeable, interested in the project, but not appear to know too much, under very little pressure, but still having that slight edge. And this is before the screen test. Not too many boxes to tick then, but all in a day's work.
So why am I waffling on about all this, I hear you beg? Ah, yes - attitude and rejection. Well, for one, rejection is not only a fact of life, it is a daily fact of 'life in the mee-ja', but your attitude to that rejection is entirely different. This is something you have to work on for your own sake and also for those around you. Without a coping mechanism of sorts (everyone is different, so there isn't a magic 'one') you're going to burn up, down, out and more than likely take everyone who ever mattered, with you.
There have been quite a few times I have considered chucking the whole shebang in - acting, presenting, voicework, writing, directing and whatever else I squeeze into a mundane week - in fact I have jacked it all in before, in order to live in the 'real world'. The result - I found myself in a far worse place than dealing with weeks of rejections. Yeah, hell I had more money in my pocket, snazzy motor, top wardrobe, but you know what? I wasn't ever truly happy. I came to realise that being a do or die person, I couldn't be half of one and half the other. My true heart lay in the film/TV industry and I decided for once and for all I was going to hit the ground running with a plan of sorts - one that took me back to my roots and my original [childhood] ambition of working as a writer & director. That was eight years ago now and although it hasn't been anything like an easy ride, and I've taken a few strange excursions along the way, it's been damn enjoyable - even the rejections have been different this time round! And the only thing I ever changed was my attitude towards rejection.
My tip to you, dear reader? Work on your own ability to deal with the crap stuff, because as sure as anything, you will be rejected at some point in the future - I'm sorry, but it's a fact. If you have been very lucky (I hate that word!) and had a great run of the good stuff, then, fantastic! If you have been seemingly unlucky (I also hate that word!) and had a run of the crap stuff - that's also fantastic, believe me! Whichever 'luck bracket' you think you are currently in, you have lessons to learn and a future to live, so, just file all the 'current good/bad' away under 'E' for experience and wherever you find yourself in the days to come, you can refer back to it and learn - because learning shapes attitude.