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Robert De Niro tells you how to deal with rejection

June 02, 2015 09:36 IST

"When you feel you can't fight it, just go with it."

"You have to keep working. It's that simple."

"On this day of triumphantly graduating a new door is opening for you -- a door to a lifetime of rejection. It's what graduates call the real world."

"Tisch graduates, you made it. And you're fu**ed."

Gems from Robert De Niro's commencement speech to students graduating from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts! :-)

Robert De Niro at Tisch School of the ArtsTisch graduates, you made it. And you're fu**ed.

When it comes to not mincing words, you could trust De Niro to say it as it should be.

"Think about that!" he went on.

"The graduates from the college of nursing, they all have jobs.

The graduates from the college of dentistry, fully employed.

The Leonard M Stern School of Business Graduates -- they're covered.

The school of Medicine graduates, each one will get a job.

The proud graduates of the NY School of Law, they're covered.

And if they're not, who cares? They're lawyers.

The English majors are not a factor. They'll be in their homes, writing novels.

Teachers, they'll all be working.

Shitty job lousy jobs, yeah, but still be working

The graduates in accounting, they all have jobs.

Where does that leave you? Envious of accountants? I doubt it.

They had a choice.

Maybe they were passionate about accounting, but I think it's more likely that they used reason and logic and common sense to reach for a career that could give them the expectation of success and stability.

Reason. Logic. Common Sense. At the Tisch School of Arts?

Are you kidding me?

But you didn't have that choice, did you?

You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognised your passion

When you feel you can't fight it, just go with it.

But when it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense.

You're not just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny.

You're a dancer, a singer, a choreographer, a musician, a filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a director, a producer, an actor, an artist.

Yeah you're fucked!

The good news is that that's not a bad place to start."

De Niro said that even though the path they may have chosen wasn't easy it was clear.

"You have to keep working. It's that simple.

You got through Tisch, that's a big deal!

Or, to put it in another way, you got through Tisch? Big deal!

Well it's a start.

On this day of triumphantly graduating a new door is opening for you -- a door to a lifetime of rejection.

It's inevitable.

It's what graduates call the real world ... you will experience it auditioning a part or place in a company.

It'll happen to you when you are looking for backers for a project.

You'll feel it when doors close on you while you are trying to get attention for something you've written and when you are looking for directing or a choreographer job.

How do you cope with it?

I hear that valium and vikodin work.

You can't be too relaxed and do what we do.

And you don't want to block the pain too much 

Without the pain what will we talk about?

Though I would make an exception for having a couple of drinks if hypothetically I would have had to speak to a thousand graduates and their families at the commencement!"

The Oscar award-winning actor went on, tongue firmly in cheek, to talk about dealing with rejection:

Rejection might stink, but my feeling is that often it has very little to do with you. 

When you're auditioning or pitching, the director or producer or investor may have someone different in mind, that's just how it is.

That happened to me recently when I was auditioning for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma!

Which was too bad because I could've played the hell out of that part -- I felt it was written for me!

But the director had something different in mind, and she was right.

It seems the director is always right.

I've got two more stories -- these really happened.

I read for Bang a Drum Slowly seven times.

The first two of the three times I read for the role of Henry Wiggen, the part eventually played by Michael Moriarty.

I read for the director.

I read for the producer.

Then they had me back to read for another part, the role of Bruce Pearson.

I read for the director. 

I read for the producer. 

I read for the producer and his wife. 

I read for all of them together.

It was almost like as long as I kept auditioning, they would have time to find someone they liked more. 

I don't know exactly what they were looking for, but I'm glad I was there when they didn't find it.

Another time I was auditioning for a play. 

They kept having me back.

I was pretty sure I had the part, and then they went with the name. 

I hated losing the job, but I understood. 

I could've just as easily lost the job to another no-name actor, and I also would've understood.

It's just not personal.

It could really be nothing more than the director having a different type in mind. 

You'll get a lot of direction in your career, some of it from directors, some from studio heads, some from money people, some from writers, though usually they'll try to keep the writers at a distance, and some from your fellow artists.

I love writers by the way. 

I keep them on the set all the time. 

Listen to all of it, and listen to yourself.

The way the director gets to be right is you help him or her be right. … 

You've been hired because the director saw something in your audition, your reading, in you that fit their concept.

You may be given the opportunity to try it your way, but the final decision will be the director's.

It's best when you can work it out together.

As an actor, you always want to be true to your character and to yourself.

The bottom line is you got the part. And that’s very important.

As a director or a producer, you also have to be true to yourself and to the work.

There are works of art that depend on the contributions and collaboration of a group of artists.

And it’s a big group -- it includes costume designers, make up artistes, directors of photography, make up and hair, stage managers, choreographer etc.

Everyone plays an important and essential part.

The director, the producer, choreographer and musicians…these are powerful positions.

But the power doesn't come from the title, the power comes from trust, respect, vision, work and again, collaboration.

You'll probably be harder on yourself than any director.

I'm not going to tell you to go easy on yourselves, I assume you didn't pick this life because you thought it would be easy.

You may have to answer to a director for a job, but you always have to answer to yourself.

This could create conflicts. You want to play the role your way and the director has a different idea.

Discuss it with the director. Maybe there is a compromise.

There always should be a space to try both ways.

On the stage or in a movie. someone has to make a decision. Someone has to pull it all together. And that’s the director.

No one’s going to see you do the ‘right way’ on the stage or in the movie.

I can answer the question that is on all of your minds right now.

Yes, it’s too late to change your major to directing.

While preparing for my role today, I asked a few Tisch students for suggestions for this speech.

The first thing they said is, “Keep it short,” and they said, “It’s OK to give a little advice, it’s kind of expected, and no one will mind.”

And then they said to keep it short.

It’s difficult for me to come up with advice for you who have already set upon your life’s work, but I can tell you some other things I tell my own children.

First, whatever you do, don’t go to Tisch School of the Arts.

Get an accounting degree instead.

Then I contradict myself, and as corny as it sounds, I tell them don’t be afraid to fail.

I urge them to take chances, to keep an open mind, to welcome new experiences and new ideas.

I tell them that if you don’t go, you’ll never know.

You just have to be bold and go out there and take your chances.

I tell them that if they go into the arts, I hope they find a nurturing and challenging community of like-minded individuals, a place like Tisch.

If they find themselves with a talent and a burning desire to be in the performing arts, I tell them when you collaborate, you try to make everything better, but you’re not responsible for the entire project, only your part in it.

You’ll find yourself in movies or dance pieces or plays or concerts that turn out in the eyes of critics and audiences to be bad, but that’s not on you because you will put everything into everything you do.

You won’t judge the characters you play, and you shouldn’t be distracted by judgements on the works you’re in.

Whether you work for Ed Wood, Federico Fellini, or Martin Scorsese, your commitment and your process will be the same.

By the way, there will be times when your best isn’t your good enough.

There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best you’ll be OK.

Did you get straight A's in school? If you did, good for you, congratulations.

But in the real world, you'll never get straight A's again.

There are ups and there are downs.

And what I want to tell you today is that it is okay.

On the back of your TSOA shirt, is printed Rejection. It isn’t personal.

On the front is the mantle, your battle cry ‘Next’.

You didn’t get that part? Next!

You’ll get the next one or the next one after that

You didn't get that waiter's job at the White Oak Tavern. Next

You’ll get the next one or the next cake attending bar next to Josey’s.

You didn’t get into Juilliard, next. You’ll get into Yale or Tisch.

Of course, choosing Tisch is like choosing arts.

It’s not your first choice, it’s your only choice.

I did not attend Tisch or any college or high school, senior or most of the junior years

Still I felt part of the Tisch community for a longer part.

I grew up in the same neighbourhood stage as Tisch.

I worked for a lot of people who attended Tisch including Martin Scorsese, class of ‘64.

As you learn your craft together you learn to trust each other and depend on each other.

This encourages taking creative risks.

You all have the sense that you’re in it together.

It’s no surprise that we often work with the same people over and over.

I did eight pictures with Martin and plan to do more.

He did about 25 films with his editor who he met at Tisch when she worked on a student film in the summer of ’63.

Now David O Russel and Wes Anderson are continuing that tradition.

Treasure the associations and friendships and working relationships with the people in your classes and your early work.

There could be a major creative shift or a small detail that can make a major impression.

In Taxi Driver, Martin and I wanted Travis’ hair cut into a Mohawk – an important character detail but I could not do it because it needed long hair.

So we were kicking around a luncheon and decided to give it one shot with one of the best make up artist around that time Dick Smith.

And if you saw the movie, you will know it worked.

And now, you know it wasn’t real.

Friendships, good working groups, relationships, collaborations – you just never know what’s gonna happen when you get together with your creative friends.

Martin Scorsese was here last year speaking to the 2014 graduates and here we are on Friday, in a supersized version of student lounge hangout session.

You’re here to pause and celebrate your accomplishments so far as you move on to a rich and challenging future.

And me, I'm here to hand out my pictures and resumes to the directing and producing graduates!

I am excited to be in a room full of young creators who make me hopeful about the future of the performing and media arts.

I know you’re all gonna make it.

Break away. Next. Thank you.

Photograph Courtesy: Tisch School of the Arts

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