Apr 1, 2011

An Actor Despairs

Q: How do you get an actor to complain?
A: Give him a job.
Yes, this tired joke is probably only funny to theater people, but not entirely untrue. And while it's not regarding me getting a job, I have a brief beef to bring up here on "Beets".
As actors who audition, we're all too familiar with the phrase, "[the producers] decided to go in a different direction." This, of course, is one of many codes for "you didn't get cast." It's usually assumed that there's more to be said about your audition, but no one's going to press the issue. It's quick, polite and, after all, that's just the way it goes - actors audition and don't get cast, it's a hazard of our workplace and we develop a thick skin for it.
In a fit of fantasy today, though, I imagined a universe where a producer is able to say - in a manner simultaneously respectful and succinct - "your audition wasn't very strong". As it stands, going in a "different direction" already suggests that the direction you were going was the wrong one (as paranoid as it sounds. Welcome to actor-brain). A small, nagging part of me almost wants to dispense with the "it's not you, it's me" line in favor of a professionally-delivered (prepackaged, even) message of "you didn't show us what we wanted, try harder next time. Thank you." Sure, I'd cry in my pillow that night, but maybe the next day, I'd have a clearer idea of my limits and my strengths. Maybe even clear enough to inspire me to take action to improve. Who doesn't have pity and scorn for that actor whom no one's ever told they're crappy? How can we get better in an environment that always says yes? Personally, I don't believe grad school is the only answer.
Now of course I know it's not the producer's job to manage my career decisions or to offer critical feedback of my performance (or, truly, any feedback at all), and I believe people change their minds about the character or script. As I said, this was a fantasy moment. Realistically, my ego is just fine with the current arrangement, especially since entertainment professionals are not known for their bedside manner. But I'll always be curious about that "different direction" and why I'm not headed there too.


flamingbanjo said...

I think this should become the standard-issue rejection for all occasions; Marriage proposals, nuclear non-proliferation pacts, petitions for a stay of execution.

"We decided to go in a different direction."

JJisafool said...

A) I agree that is a totally lame rejection.

B) Having done some hiring over the years, I gotta say that sometime there can be nothing "wrong" with your application/audition and yet someone else can be better or more fitting.

And, talking to those casting directors, who can be unguarded with me because I ain't no actor, often the difference between two actors who gave solid auditions is your gut. And that's a hard one to qualify or quantify for someone else.

It is a little like breaking up in that regard. The person doing the breaking doesn't want to leave an opening for questions to be asked that they can't answer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry beef. We decided to in a less shitty direction.

Philip G. said...

It's not you, it's me. I don't like you.

When I was let go from my last job (which was a regular ol' work-a-day type of job) I was also told the company was "going in a different direction." I didn't press it because a)the "direction" was clearly away from me and b) I didn't like the job anyway. If I have a point it's that the "other direction" dodge does not appear unique to show biz.

I worked in theater long enough to know that you can be hired or fired based on criteria that would be patently illegal in any other field, but I do wonder if there is some legal matter (whether real or imagined) to keeping the rejection vague. Like maybe if they get more specific you might have some sort of ammo to use against them. Or maybe they are just cowards.

Basil said...

Thanks all, and very true about the importance of not inviting unwanted questions from those not hired. I don't disagree, I just wish I could have it both ways.

Confidential to Bob K. - I accidentally hit "delete comment" on my stupid phone instead of "publish". Sorry, nothing personal. I really liked your comment too. Obviously, my fingers decided to go in a different direction. Er...

Anonymous said...

I want to start a group called, "F-ing Tell Me Already." There will be lots of conflicting information but at least it will be said out loud and to our faces.