Casting Director Aurora Nemegye Talks “Street Casting”

We were fortunate to have had Mexican casting director Aurora Nemegye as a part of our crew for the Mexican production shoot. Aurora is known not only for spotting exceptional professionals but for her ability to find amateur talent through “street casting.”  As we prepare for our May 1st shoot featuring the International Worker’s Day March and so many community members in Los Angeles. We thought we’d ask Aurora to share a bit about the concept of “street casting,” and how it works.  

Anike:  Aurora, how would you define street casting?

Aurora: Just like it sounds; street casting got its name because casting directors were heading to the streets to find their cast, or more specifically to look for actors with specific characteristics for a particular role.  In Spanish, we call them “actores naturales.”

Aurora Nemegye, America’s Family Casting Director

Anike: Natural Actors?

Aurora: Exactly, and while they may not be professionals, natural actors often have an awareness and personal experience that they can use for the role, bringing a sense of authenticity in front of the camera. For years, European fashion Scouts found their talent on the street, the great supermodels of the ’90s were especially known for having been found this way. While street casting has been around awhile the trend has become increasingly popular in Mexican art cinema. Perhaps most recently evidenced by the recent Oscar nomination of Yalitza Aparicio — found while studying to be an educator in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, by a casting director who was looking for the protagonist of Alfonso Cuarón’s film “Roma.”

Anike: Why do you think that street casting has gained so much popularity as of late?

Aurora: A film director usually decides to work with street casting when he or she wants to give his or her film an almost documentary aesthetic. For example, with our shoot in Mexico, we were lucky that actor Ricardo Cisneros, a strong professional actor in his own right, also qualified as a “natural actor” in that he had real-life experience to lend to the film (a real immigrant to the U.S. playing an immigrant on screen). While we were shooting the scenes of the deported character tracing his origins, struggling with the language of his native country, etc. it just so happened that the central American caravan had arrived in Tijuana right around the same time. We literally went to the streets to find natural actors, listened to their stories and experiences and recruited them for our protest on screen. There is no acting technique that can bring about this kind of authenticity – they were literally living the experience we were exploring on film which makes this final march scene take on an impressive force.

Anike: Well let’s hope we capture the same quality during our May 1st march shoot. Many community members will be in the shoot as well as activist and first-time actress Paulina Ruiz. We found Paulina, as you know, through street casting – literally on our own block as she is a CHIRLA member. Paulina will be playing the role of the protagonist daughter, Valentina.

Aurora: YES! Paulina is going to be a fantastic addition to the cast and I know the shoot is going to be great!

Want to see yourself on screen? You can join us for our May 1st shoot! We’ll be featuring many kinds of folks, the more diversity the better, plus you’ll be marching for a great cause! Reach out to us at and we’ll get in touch with the details.

In honor of César Chávez

César Chávez Day

Years ago, when I moved to Los Angeles, I remember getting into a debate with an industry colleague about the impact of Mahatma Gandhi. He argued that the only reason anyone ever knew who Mohammed Gandhi was was because of the success of the movie made about him. I remember being outraged by this suggestion, arguing back that Gandhi was (and still is!) one of the greatest human rights activists of all time, a person who moved millions, whose leadership changed laws, conquered British colonial rule, inspired generations of activists and changed the face of social justice. How could you compare the impact of the man’s actual life to the movie of his life? My friend yawned and asked me where I learned the most about Gandhi. I told him I had read his autobiography, which I had. What I didn’t tell him was that I saw the movie first as a kid. I didn’t tell him that I remember the other kids I saw it with, that I remember the intermission in the theater, how absolutely astounded by Ben Kingsley’s performance I was, or that I remembered the last words of the film; that good always triumphs over evil. I didn’t share that the shot of the people marching to the sea to make salt may be permanently fixed in my brain.

As we approach our next production shoot date of May 1st, I’ve been binge watching protest films in preparation of the shot list to film the family closing scene and the International Workers Day March that will correspond with marches across the Globe. In honor of César Chávez day and as part of my research, last night I watched the bio pic of César Chávez directed by Diego Luna. And I have to admit, I learned quite bit, some of which may have been fictionalized, but some pretty significant things that were not (um, how could I not have known that the grape boycott lasted five years? A year or two OK, but five??)  I didn’t know about his travels to Europe to bring in international support of the boycott or the extent of his hunger fasts. And well maybe I didn’t need to know that he had eight kids or was estranged from the oldest son (not sure the estrangement was entirely true,) but it helped me to relate to him more, and as a result César Chávez, and everything he stood for is sticking to me a little stronger.

I’m under no illusions that a movie is anything more or less than a movie. But then again, if seeing a film, any film, means that more people pay attention, may connect with their own sense of compassion and as a result take action towards what they know is right, well then I just might believe that film is the most powerful kind of storytelling there is. I’m hopeful, that America’s Family will do for at least a few people what so many other films have done for me; teach and inspire.

Happy César Chávez everyone.

xo anike