There are three magic little words every actor longs to hear. When strung together in a specific order to form a complete sentence, they elicit untold waves of joy, bliss, amazement, triumph, vindication, achievement, and recognition. You know the ones:
“You booked it!”
Upon hearing such an assuring phrase, the confidence skyrockets. The day job no longer feels like a prison. You can go home at the holidays and actually want people to ask “what you’ve been up to lately?”
This simple phrase does so much. It provides concrete proof that you’re on the right path. It assures your family that you’re not crazy. It convinces you not to have yet another “maybe I should get a real job” freak out session.
You work hard to book. Years of study, practice, auditions, rejection, marketing, and lots of close calls. Finally you arrive. You booked it. Time to celebrate, right?
Last week I read an article in Deadline Hollywood that SNL cast member Abby Elliot was “released” after the table read of Fox’s new comedy pilot Ned Fox Is My Manny.
“Released” being a nice way of saying “fired.” After the table read. Ouch.
I really feel for Abby Elliot. Not because she’ll never work again – she has a pretty sweet gig over at this show you may have heard of called “Saturday Night Live.” But still. Getting fired sucks. It sucks really bad.
And it happens all the time. Actors book the job. They get to the table read. By the end of the read they’ve been replaced. Sometimes it takes even longer. Remember Stuart Townsend? He was famously fired from playing Aragorn in Lord of The Rings after shooting several days on the film. He was replaced by Viggo Mortensen.
After all that hard work, anxiety, doubt, excitement, victory and preparation for the role, to be simply let go is a huge disappointment. So if it happens to you, here are some tools for dealing with being “released” in a healthy way.
Accept it with integrity
You’re getting fired. It sucks. The decision has been made and there’s nothing you can do. No matter how you may feel on the inside, accept it in the moment with integrity. I’ve been fired and I’ve had to fire people. It is horrible. It’s just as uncomfortable for the person who has to give the news as it is for the one receiving it. When people react badly to getting fired it does two things – it reaffirms that firing them was the right choice, and closes the door to any future professional collaboration. People who accept the news graciously keep the door open to recommendations, future collaborations and earn the professional respect of their peers. The best way to deal with getting fired is to focus on the facts of the situation, and keep your feelings to yourself until you’re far far far away from the building.
Take the charge out of your emotions
When you’re in private, let your feelings out. Express them in a healthy way. Don’t hold them in. Don’t pretend you’re fine. Getting fired stirs up all kinds of crappy feelings – fear that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never work again, that everyone hates you, that they’re all laughing at you behind your back. It’s embarrassing, painful, stressful, confusing. Your emotions are going to run the gamut here. Let them. The sooner you deal with your actual feelings, the faster you can move on. The more you keep everything bottled up, the more likely your feelings will express themselves in an unhealthy way (see “badmouthing” below). Surround yourself with people who support and love you, whom you trust completely, and vent until you don’t need to anymore.
Don’t bad mouth anyone (publicly)
Sure you can vent to your trusted friends in private. You can bitch and moan and trash talk if you need to. But never do it publicly. Never bad mouth anyone you have worked with or hope to work with again. Word travels fast, and you never know who is friends with whom. Your trash talking ways could just get you fired (again) or prevent you from being hired in the future. It may be tempting to bad mouth the folks who made you feel so crappy, but the likelihood that it will come back to haunt you is far too high. It’s not worth the risk of damaging your industry relationships for a few minutes of sticking it someone else. If you need to blow off some steam by complaining about others, be sure it is in private with someone you can undoubtedly trust with your life.
Find the good
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions you can express. And if you look for the good in a situation, you can find it. Getting fired may suck, but what if it was a blessing in disguise? What have you gained, learned or taken from the situation? How has it challenged you to grow as a person? Maybe a light falls from the set that, had you been there, would’ve knocked you out and killed you. I’m just saying. What you choose to focus on will make the reality of what is happening a positive or negative experience for you, depending on the point of view you choose. Here’s the thing about gratitude though. You can’t get there until you take the charge out of your emotions. So don’t jump right to, “I’m so grateful I got fired, there’s a reason, and everything is AWESOME,” when the truth is you’re quietly shaking with rage. You know? The gratitude will come, but only after you weather the emotional storm.
Keep taking action
You may have lost this round, but don’t give up. As soon as you are able, get back to taking action in your acting career. In the words of Winston Churchill,
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
This is not a reflection of your potential, your brilliance or your ability. It’s just a bump in the road. You’re going to bounce back. The sooner you get back to working on your career, the faster you’ll connect with the part that was made for you!
Leave a comment. What else do you suggest to overcome the disappointment of getting fired? Share your tools for this important situation!
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