How to Succeed in an Industry full of Heartbreak

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It is the day of her audition for a series regular role on NBC’s Chicago Fire and Jamie Massimilian has been preparing all morning for her time to shine. She walks down a quiet, narrow hallway that shows no personality or hint as to what she is about to walk into. As she walks in the room, she sees eight other women that have similar features sitting in front of a door with a sign that reads “CHICAGO FIRE: PLEASE SIGN IN.” After checking in, she sits in isolation on an old, leather brown couch and puts her headphones in. As she waits for her turn, she listens to “I’m a survivor” by Destiny’s child to get her energy up. It’s been five minutes and Jamie closes her eyes – it’s her turn. She walks into the room and stands on her mark, observing the room full of producers that are studying her. She says her first line and is immediately cut off by the director that says, “Thank you, that’s all we need.” She is surprised, leaves the room and her mind starts spinning out of control. Did she do something wrong?

As humans, we have two desires where the foundations of acting lie. The first desire is the idea that we want witnesses. We live alone, die alone and are terrified about that. Acting is born from this desire. Our second want is the desire to be effective and influence your audience. Actors must be so in tune with what they are saying that they influence an audience, and with this being said, witnesses are needed to influence. As an actor, your goal is to get empathy from your witnesses. This is the most amazing feeling, but you must get through auditions before having the opportunity to showcase your talent to a big audience. Within two minutes, you must convince a room of directors, writers and casting directors that you have what it takes.

Jonathan Poremba is a theater fanatic and ex-actor that could not handle the baggage that comes with the process. “It’s a tough business, man. You take off work to go to auditions that you don’t get paid for and are most likely not booking. You must have tough skin in this business and be okay with failure. I wanted to sprint, but this industry is a marathon and after a few years I couldn’t support myself anymore.”

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Jamie Massimilian.

Jamie Massimilian, long-time friend and actor, chimes in on the important of letting go. “Focus on that audition, go into the room for those two precious minutes, leave and never think about that audition again. I’ve had so many days where I start thinking to myself, ‘what could I have done better? Did I look funny? Why was the director looking at me like that?’ and I completely destroy my confidence.” She goes on to explain that it’s hard being in a world full of rejection, but the focus should not be on rejection, but rather that excitement of that one yes. “This business is 99 percent rejection, so it is important to get excited about that 100th audition that will land you the role you’ve been wishing for.”

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Mickie Paskal (left) and AJ Links (right) at Paskal Rudnicke Casting.

AJ Links is a casting director at Paskal Rudnicke Casting (PR Casting) and has been in the professional business for six years. She is a young, vibrant, beautiful soul that lights up a room with confidence and excitement. When asking what her favorite part of the job was, she simply responded with, “matchmaking.”  In an audition room, AJ explains that casting wants all actors to do well and wants to book everyone, but that just isn’t how the business works. There are details as small as the color of your eyes that decide your fate when auditioning for a role in television/film/theater/etc. “Honestly, this industry is about faking it until you make it. You can have an audition an hour after you walk in on your boyfriend cheating on you, but you must find something that makes the audition the best part of your day. Find something that makes you happy, whether it’s doing yoga in the lobby or listening to two minutes of Beyoncé. Actor preparation will make or break you, so find a way to calm yourself down and be in the moment.”

So, to all actors reading this – breathe. It is going to be okay as long as you find what makes you happy. Focus on that.

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