Terry Berlandby Casting Director, Terry Berland

Happy New Year. Starting 2012 on a positive note, let’s examine how all you wonderful actors don’t take “no” as a rejection.

It is logical, and easy to say, you can’t be right for and book every job. But when you are in the throws of not being called back or booking the job, you might need a reminder that you are not being rejected; you just weren’t right this time.

As a CD it is the norm that we call in as many people per ethnicity, per character that time allows, and then our clients hone choices down to selected callbacks. I can assure you we don’t look at the people who were not called back as rejects, and neither should you. We look at them as “not this time” for whatever reason. We are grateful that you came in and did a good job. Most of the casting session is made up of good actors who did a good job, but did not get called back.

Then you come to your call back and the selects are honed down by the creative team to one recommend and possibly two back ups. Why did they pick whom they picked? Some possibilities are the ones they did not pick were too good looking, not good looking enough, too serious, too funny, too upscale, not artistic looking enough, and many other reasons.

The next step for me, as a casting director, is to put the first choice and backups on strong avail. Again, we do not look at the rest of the talent who were not put on strong avails as rejections… “just didn’t make it this time.” And if you are one of them, you should look at it the same way.

When I finally book the talent and release the remainder of talent who are on strong avails, I always get an emotional “pang” knowing someone is going to be disappointed. Again, I do not look at the people who are not booked as rejected, and neither should you.

In a nutshell, rejected is not part of the vocabulary of the process. Talent who are successful at keeping positive attitudes and do not have feelings of being rejected are confident and knowledgeable enough to keep focused on their passion to act.

I’ve given you the point of view as a casting director. I thought it would be interesting to speak to actors who have positive attitudes and see their point of view on the question “What is your attitude towards ‘nos?’” Here are a couple of thoughts that are a good representation of the answers I received.

“The ironic part of this question to me is, outside of a representative meeting, how often are actors actually told ‘No?’ I mean, how often do we really ‘hear it’ or do we just assume it. The way to deal with ‘not getting hired or represented’ in this business is to simply realize that it isn’t a permanent NO, it is ‘not at this time or not this project.’ I read for CSI: Miami six times before booking it,Desperate Housewives five times and Castle five times. But all three of those shows are on my resume now. Why? Because you do a good job, have the casting office, the producers and the Network execs think highly of your work… and eventually YOU are the ‘right fit’ for the role now available.” -Kevin E. West, founder of The Actors’ Network

“I think what really helps me is having a solid understanding of how the industry and casting works as a whole. Because I’ve interned at various casting offices, I know that a lot of the times a ‘No’ is not really a ‘No’ – it’s more of a ‘Not now.’ Sometimes they will have an offer out to a named actor for a role you are auditioning for. If the named actor accepts the role, you are no longer even in consideration. It’s not that you did a bad job, it’s just logistics. Other times they need to pair up people that look-alike (family) or have similar heights. I have witnessed roles I was up for change gender and race – both times when I was the frontrunner. Are these ‘Nos?’ No, they are ‘Not Nows.’ I keep going because I know that hard work, familiarity with casting directors, perseverance, and talent have a way of eventually turning ‘Not Nows’ into ‘Nows.’” -Natalia Fedner

“If that ‘no’ comes from an agent, manager, producer or casting office where I know I’m a good fit, then I just look at it as a ‘not yet.’  The overwhelming majority of actors, artists and entrepreneurs who achieve success and longevity heard ‘no’ countless times on the way to ‘yes,’ and I keep in mind that this is all part of the job.

It’s important to distinguish between different kinds of ‘nos.’  Actors often hear comments like ‘great work, but I can’t help you right now’  – to me, that’s an invitation to stay on the radar for when the time IS right.  My theatrical agent sent me a long, complimentary ‘no’ when I first submitted.  A year later, I had a couple more credits, a new referral, and space had opened up on his roster.  If I hadn’t stayed in touch I don’t think he would have sought me out, so the burden was on me to keep those wheels in motion.

On the other hand, we often know when things don’t click with different people.  Like attracts like – you will naturally gravitate to people who share your sensibilities, values, artistic ideas, etc.  It’s important to try LOTS of different avenues in our business, however, I think it’s equally important to know when to say no to things, and stop putting your energy there.  If you’ve targeted an office for a year with mailings, workshops, referrals, etc and you’ve gotten no response, then stop!  Refocus that energy, drop them from the list, and start cultivating a new client.” -David A. Cooper

Positive attitudes will be sustained with the confidence of good technique. Take a serious look at yourself and decide if your performance is up to par. Are you getting in your own way somehow? Keep on track and keep moving forward.


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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”

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