One of the things bound to happen in the creative world is rejection. You go to the audition/design proposal/directing pitch full of confidence and hope. You have put in the preparation, your research is done, you’re experienced and have amazing credentials. You get on with the director/producers and walk out of the room convinced you’ll be given good news. A week later you receive an email; ‘I regretfully inform you that you have not been casted/chosen for project name. Thank you for your application and we wish you all the best in the future.’ That’s when those thoughts creep in; ‘What’s wrong with me?’ ‘Am I not experienced/smart/professional enough?’ ‘Did I come across too quiet/uptight/casual/confident?’ ‘Why was I not picked?’ It is the wondering and lack of why that causes an artist to doubt their abilities, visions and passions. Sometimes it makes one think twice before applying for an open call in fear of being rejected. As with other aspects of life , rejection is something artists faces in any practice. I myself have an idea.
While in youth theatre, I knew acting and drama were my desired career pursuits. That was why I longed for the leading role in the end of the year pantomime. ‘Yes, this will give me the best start.’ ‘I will be discovered.’ ‘I’ll make a great impression once out in the real world.’ That however, wasn’t meant to be. At the time I believed; ‘I wasn’t working hard enough’, ‘I must be too fat’, ‘I’m not popular enough’, ‘Maybe I’m too serious’. It was only in my last year there I realised as my teacher said that ‘It could be done and casted many ways. Don’t think that you’re not good because you didn’t get picked.’ That is advice I thrived to carry with me into my third level and professional years.
During my third level years opportunities have come along through open castings and auditions. An experience I remember specifically related to both is when I was in second year. We were in our finals for our Physical Theatre Module when a well-known Irish director (I mean, well established) and his team came into us. They were looking for extras for a film they were due to shoot that summer. They spoke to us individually asking where we were from and our plans for the summer, they then took ‘headshots’ and left. I recall a classmate of mine saying ‘I don’t care, I don’t want to do it.’ … And they were casted! I thought; ‘I wanted to be in it!’, ‘Why didn’t they pick me!’, ‘I should’ve worn make up that day, ahhh!’ Another example is an audition I did for a play in Galway. I had a free semester in third year and thought no better way to utilise my time. I went to the audition and it went well. A week later, the director called me saying; ‘It was a very hard decision you were down to the last three but we went with someone else in the end. We were very impressed though.’ Then why wasn’t I picked!!!! Of course I didn’t say that, I took the rejection gracefully with the arts world being small I didn’t want to ruin my reputation so early on.
In my final year, I was in full focus and yearned for that First Class Honors. I gave up drink in the run up to our grad show, quit ‘social’ smoking, worked out most days (I was in the best shape of my life and still trying to get back to it!), stayed on top of my reading, made sure I was off book for rehearsals and did all the right things (as I thought). I was certain I was getting the 1:1, I was less than one percent away from it after the Christmas semester I have to get it, I will get it… I ended up with a Second Class Honors. The sense of rejection and devastation took over me so much I wondered why did I even bother. ‘What does that say about me as an artist?’ ‘Am I not good enough?’ ‘What was the fault or faults in my work?’ Out of all the rejections to date, this was the one that I took the hardest and almost quit theatre completely. One year later, a close friend of mine went through the same thing and I told her to not let it define her as an artist as I did. A year later, we set up our own theatre company, staged a sell out show and walked away with an award.
Rejection whether for a local theatre group or a huge scale film production is never easy to take. The most important thing I have learnt is to not let it define you and what you do after counts the most. Even writing this has made me reflect on my experiences and how I deliver rejection as a producer. As I look out at the fog on Benbulben it has made me think twice and want to be mindful and give more to the artist than a ‘no’. I wish to no longer be like the fog but to let the artist see the full view, give advice and encouragement in moving forward with their craft.