Destin Daniel Cretton is on a roll after winning both the Grand Prize and Audience awards at SXSW with his film Short Term 12 this Spring. Short Term 12 will open the 2013 Little Rock Film Festival on May 15. This is Cretton’s second time at the LRFF his film I am not a Hipster was a 2012 Official Selection. Short Term 12 was recently picked up for distribution by Cinedigm.
1. Can you Describe Short term 12? What is the meaning of the title?
Short Term 12 is the name of the residential foster-care facility that much of the film takes place in. The story follows Grace, the group home’s supervisor, as she counsels the teens in her care while learning to deal with the deeply rooted issues in her own life. But at its core, this is a story about the incredible human ability to love when it’s not easy, to laugh in the midst of tragedy, and to create family wherever we are
2. Tell us about the origins of Short Term 12? It was initially a 20 minute film?
Before I went to film school, I worked at a foster-care facility for teenagers. In 2008, I wrote and directed a short, 20-minute film, based on my experiences working at that group home. That short film (also titled Short Term 12) won the Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009, which encouraged me to write a feature screenplay in the same world. I finished that script in 2010 and it ended up winning an Academy Nicholl Fellowship that year, which allowed me to write another screenplay, “I Am Not A Hipster,” which we made in late 2011, premiered at Sundance and Little Rock FF in 2012, and that helped us get funding to make Short Term 12 the feature, which we shot last year, premiered at SXSW, and are now SO excited to be back at Little Rock to share it with everyone.
3. Talk about casting the film? Everyone is amazing but particularly Keith Stanfield seems like a discovery?
All the actors in this film really poured every ounce of themselves onto the screen. It’s kind of ridiculous how talented they all are. But yes, Keith is the real deal. He was actually in the short film as well (check it out on iTunes). And when we were casting for the feature, 5 years later, I couldn’t find him anywhere. No agents or managers, no phone numbers were working, all his emails seemed to be out-of-date. We were auditioning a bunch of kids for the role, and nothing was really clicking, and I was starting to panic a bit. And then after a few weeks, I checked my email and he had written me back. The next day he drove down from Victorville, auditioned in my living room, blew us all away, and I couldn’t be more excited for everyone to see his subtle, powerful performance in this film.
4. Is there a story behind the funding of the film?
The film was financed by the wonderful, fearless team at Animal Kingdom. We also received a very generous post-production grant from the San Francisco Film Society, whose support has been unbelievable since the very beginning.
5. What was it like winning at SXSW I think a grand prize and an audience award?
The entire experience at SXSW was really special for everyone involved in the movie. More so than winning those awards, we were all moved by seeing how audiences reacted to the film, and touched by the conversations we had with people afterwards. Being there celebrating the hard work of so many wonderful friends and family, it was pure joy.
6. The Film was acquired by Cinedigm? What is the rollout plan for the film?
Yes, I can’t describe how happy I am to have Cinedigm behind this film. They’re such a genuine, passionate team over there and we’re all excited and eager to let everyone see the film in theaters, which we’re planning to do in late-summer.
7. This is your 2nd time at the LRFF. What do you feel about returning to Little Rock Film Festival this year with an Opening Night film?
Last year, I got to see some of my favorite films of the festival circuit, made genuine friendships that I know will last until I die, went to a party on a riverboat, and came home with a talking Bill Clinton doll. So yeah, to say I’m excited for this year doesn’t even come close.