Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Mike Lemon

CASTING: Go for the MAGIC!
by Mike Lemon, 1 Jul 2006

Mike Lemon is a member of the Casting Society of America and has been a casting director in Philadelphia for over 20 years. His company, MikeLemonCasting, has cast over 11,000 projects, including commercials, industrials, voiceovers and films (The Sixth Sense, Philadelphia, In Her Shoes, etc.) He's currently working on the feature Baton, starring F. Murray Abraham, filming here in August. You can catch up with him online by visiting

In over twenty years of casting, I've pretty much seen it all: the sessions that go smoothly and effectively and those that go, well, less well. Every once in awhile, though, I've experienced what I call MAGIC — those transcendent moments when the actor and the material come together in a way that makes time stand still, goose bumps rise up on your arms and tears come to your eyes, moments when you know that it's all worthwhile.

Casting is a truly synergistic process. The writer, director and production team have created a concept, which, prior to casting, lives only in the imagination and on paper. When entrusted to the right actor, that concept is given the breath of life and becomes real in the world. I'm privileged to witness this event almost every day of my working life and I want to thank all of you who've given me this powerful way to be reminded that we're creative and growing and alive. It's especially notable when the concept is one that comes from the creator's heart and soul and personal dream. As Goethe said, "Whatever you do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and MAGIC in it."

So how can you, as producers, writers and directors, experience that magic in casting? If I really I knew the formula, I'd probably be a very rich man! But here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Want it, invite it and expect it! Ask for it to happen! When it does, you'll know it! When it doesn't, well... remember, if it happened all the time it wouldn't be magic!
  2. Put your heart and soul into your work. Get passionate! We all have days and times when the work is just the work, when it's not joyous or easy or inspired, and that's to be expected. But, if Goethe's right (and I believe he is) mustering that extra measure of investment can reap us great rewards.
  3. Be as clear as possible about what you want and how you express your vision.
  4. Be, at the same time, open and flexible. Sometimes in casting, new and even inspired ideas may present themselves, so expect the unexpected.
  5. Communicate. Share you thoughts, ask questions and listen.
  6. Be engaging, personable, kind and encouraging. Create an environment that invites all parties to excel. It makes a real difference.
  7. Give direction. Actors appreciate it. If they haven't nailed it, help them out. If they have, redirect them anyway just to see if your channel of communication with them is effective and to explore the possibilities.
  8. Focus. I know, we often have so much going on in our lives that it's a real challenge to be in the moment, but, as some new age gurus say, this is the only time when we're really alive! I tell my acting students to visualize a giant zero in front of them, like a porthole, and then to step through it, leaving everything behind them, all their stresses, worries and preconceptions. It frees them up to do the work in the moment unhampered by the weight of the world they carry most of the time. I know it sounds surreal, but it really works!
  9. Fly. Sure, why not? Isn't that how it feels when we're in the creative flow?
  10. Have fun! Isn't that why we got into to this in the first place!

Here's wishing you magic in all you do!

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