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Interview: Writer-Director on Getting “Short Term 12” to the Screen

Interview: Writer-Director on Getting “Short Term 12” to the Screen

Interview: Writer-Director on Getting “Short Term 12” to the Screen
September 06
12:22 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

Rating: 4.5/5

If there is one film that everyone should see this year, it’s writer-director Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12.” This powerhouse film follows Grace (Brie Larson), a young woman who works as a supervising staff member at a foster care facility with her longtime boyfriend (an excellent John Gallagher Jr.). Together, they navigate the troubled waters of their world in and out of the facility.

Larson gives the kind of explosive performance that awards are made for. Acting, writing, story structure and directing don’t get much better than in “Short Term 12.”

The North Texas Daily had the chance to speak with Cretton about his latest film, his life after college and second chances.

You worked at a facility that was very similar to the one portrayed in your film, correct?

Destin Cretton: “Yes. It was my first job out of college.”

How long were you at that job?

Cretton: “I worked there for about a year and a half. I was on call after that, and I went and taught high school for one semester. “

How long after did you decide to write your experience into a screenplay?

Cretton: “About three years after. Having that experience at that job really allowed me to organize it and make it into a screenplay. It was a great experience.”

Which of the characters did you write yourself into the most? At the start of working, were you comfortable working in that facility, or were you more like Nate’s (Rami Malek) character in the film?

Cretton: “Oh, I was very much like Nate when I first started. I was just as awkward, and just as inappropriate— just a very high ideal that quickly got thrown back in my face. But, you know, that was a nice snapshot of the first month working there. It later transformed into one of the best experiences that I ever had.

I think there are huge features of myself in every one of the characters. I could relate to Grace (Larson). All her fears, small depressions and things that she wrestled with were also things that I struggled with while I was working there.”

The actor that plays Marcus, played by Keith Stanfield, is just incredible in the film. I have to know where you found this guy. He was a good find.

Cretton: “I found him in the desert. He actually lives about two hours away from Los Angeles. He came down, kind of out of the blue and auditioned for ‘Short Term 12,’ the short film that came out in 2008, which was my thesis project for San Diego State University. I had such a great time working with him on the short that I had him come back three years later for the feature length film.”

He has this really hard-hitting rap song in the film. Did he write that, or did you?

Cretton: “The rap was a collaboration piece. I wrote the first draft, and I am not going to act like I am a rapper, but I did the first draft— to give it some sort of structure and story. Keith took that and made it really cool.”

One of my favorite parts of the film is the love story within, between Grace and Mason (Gallagher Jr.). And one of the great things about a film that involves romance is that the actors kind of get a second chance to do something right. Whether it’s that first kiss, fight, what have you. What’s something in your life that you wish you could have take two on?

Cretton: “Wow. What a question! That’s a good one. I wish when I was a stupid teenager— when I was in my teenage years that I had been a better big brother. I had five siblings and I was kind of off in my own little world. I didn’t learn to be a better big brother until later. That’s one portion of my life that I wish I could redo.”

You mentioned that you taught some high school, if you could teach a college course, what would you teach?

Cretton: “I would teach a creative arts class that focuses on personalized expression, where it forces the artist to be vulnerable.”

“Short Term 12” is playing at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas today, and will open at the Plano location next week.

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