You may have already seen Stephen Fletcher’s open email to Equity and Spotlight (his #letusknow campaign or the longer-standing @giveusano Twitter account), read the recent ‘Soapbox’ article in The Stage, or remember Trevor Cooper’s article on the subject for the Honest Actors’ Blog. In any case, it’s impossible to deny that there is a growing chorus of voices speaking out about the radio silence that often follows auditions.

The emerging consensus seems to be that being told when we haven’t got a job is matter of professional respect. But if casting directors could send automatic ‘you didn’t get the job’ notifications, would you want to receive them?

Yesterday on Twitter, I asked “Am I the only actor that’s kinda fine with the whole not knowing I haven’t got something?”. It was a genuine question, and it got a wide variety of responses. And so Trevor Cooper – author of the original ‘Dear Casting Directors’ letter – got in touch to suggest a straw poll.

In the intervening twenty four hours, over 400 twitter users responded to the following very simple question:

“If casting directors could send automatic ‘you didn’t get the job’ notifications, would you want to receive them?”

The response was overwhelming – 87% of you would choose to receive a ‘no’ if the option existed – and it made me realise, as someone in the minority (I was part of the tiny 8% who responded in the negative), perhaps I should explain why I feel the way I do.

Before I begin to do that, I should first say that I choose the question very carefully. I like to think that all actors would be in favour of the option existing, particularly given the strength of response above. My interest was in the differing psychologies at play within that…

I guess I’m just fine not knowing. The gradual realisation I haven’t been cast, or just slowly forgetting I even auditioned, is preferable to being hit over the head with a negative. I mean, how soon are we expecting to get it? A day? A week? Given that I have often been cast weeks after auditioning, and might not sign a contract for weeks after that, it’s fair to expect that it might regularly take a month or more to get a definitive rejection.

Picture the scene: there you are, in a rare moment of relaxation, feeling positive, perhaps even enjoying the company of similarly struggling actor friends. You may even be together to go and see that successful mate you share in the show nobody else can get tickets for. You’ve gone to the matinee so you can go fit a coffee in after, before you all head to your minimum wage muggle jobs and your mate goes back for the evening call. It’s the interval. The show is great. You’ve managed, in spite of how shit you’ve been feeling recently, to be genuinely happy for your mate, and you’re talking about how great she’s been in the first half. Then you phone goes, and without thinking you look. An email on your home screen. From your agent. She’s on your favourites list so the subject shows up…

Fwd: CASTING UPDATE: You have been unsucccessful.

No thanks.

You weren’t even thinking about the thing you auditioned for weeks ago. You’d subconsciously let it go. But the rejection still hurts. And you had no control over how, when and where it interrupted your day.

Fuck that shit.

I like to let my failures slip away, to fade into the darkness, not have the day snap to black when I least expect it.

Ping! You failed!

I’m happier to see rejection come slowly over the horizon, rather than attack me from behind when I’m rifling through the reduced section at Sainsburys.

Buzz! Another rejection!

You get that, right?

I understand that I’m fortunate in several ways that might explain my position. Firstly, with regards to organising my life, I don’t have kids, so there’s less to sort out if work does come in. I also tend to audition fairly frequently, so the pressure to get hired feels like its spread across multiple opportunities; no one audition carries the weight that it might were they to come in less often (Another reason then, why I fear the unsolicited ‘no-mails’. There would be a lot. At the minute, I can happily lose track of the jobs that I have failed to get. And I like that). Finally, I don’t go in for ads any more. It’s not because I don’t need the money (who doesn’t?), and it’s not as if I got that many (it’s been over ten years since I died in a house fire in Northern Ireland). It’s because I got fed up being treated like an idiot. For me, it was ether accept that or opt out. And so, mid-way through a casting for a stupidly well-paid car ad, I interrupted some ‘direction’, thanked them and left. And that’s before I got anywhere near a ‘heavy pencil’. Face it: the way we get treated in the commercial casting process will be only marginally improved by an automated system that tells us what stage of pencil we’re at and when our name has finally been erased. They’ll still keep you waiting, get your name wrong, talk to you like you’ve never acted before and expect you to be thankful for the opportunity.

Mostly , I have trained myself to care less. To prepare as though they’d already hired me, to be present in the room, to leave as soon as it’s over. But once I’ve walked out the door, I have trained myself to know, perhaps subconsciously, that it’s statistically unlikely that they’ll hire me. What keeps me going is the knowledge that I’ve shown them what I can do, and they might see me again for something different. That’s always been my logic. If I’m auditioning not to get the part on this one job, but to get auditions for several  more in the future, then the email I’m waiting for is that one. The email I want is the one that proves me right – the one that says that the casting director does want to see me again. That’s all that matters. Get the job, or get another audition. Forget the rest.

I know I’m in a minority here. And I remain totally in favour of the option to receive a notification of rejection via email. In fact, I think this industry as a whole could go a very long way towards improving professional courtesy. Principle is one thing; mental wellbeing is entirely another. In an ideal world, we should all care less. To paraphrase Denise Gough, ‘this job gets enough from me‘. What it doesn’t get, is to interrupt me when I’m feeling good, to tell me I failed.

*Turns phone off*

Read Chris Tester’s response to this article, ‘Why I want to know if I didn’t get the job’  here.

You can read and share Stephen Fletcher’s open letter to Equity and Spotlight here. He’s meeting Equity to discuss the whole issue today, so do take the time to read what he has to say and get behind him in his campaign.

Leave a comment below.

Jonathan Harden

Actor. VO. Director.

Former barman, waiter, cook, labourer, ‘tugger’, security guard, dish washer, removals man, bouncer, office manager, Wendy’s ‘Crew Member’, Costa ‘barista’, snooker table maintenance guy, shop assistant, usher, boom op, golf buggy driver, and one-time pretend bank robber.

Started this thing thinking nobody would listen.