by Andrew Chan
This year we round out our BAMcinemaFest line-up with our Closing Night selection, Destin Cretton's Short Term 12, which won the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award at SXSW and just racked up another prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Boasting acclaimed performances from United States of Tara's Brie Larson and The Newsroom's John Gallagher, this powerful drama captures life within a foster care facility, slowly uncovering the troubled past of a 20-something counselor who has a knack for connecting with her at-risk patients. Filmmaker Destin Cretton speaks with us about the filmmaking process, his upbringing in Maui, and what he's been watching recently.
Short Term 12 screens on BAMcinemaFest Closing Night on Friday, June 28.
1. When and how did you come to know you wanted to make movies?
I grew up in a small town on Maui called Haiku. Our TV could only catch three channels and my parents didn’t let us watch it much, so it forced my five siblings and me to be outside a lot, creating our own entertainment. We loved making plays and dance routines and choreographed ninja fights. Then my grandma let us borrow her VHS camcorder for a weekend, and we were hooked. I’m not sure if we ever gave it back.
2. What would you be doing if you weren't a filmmaker?
If I wasn't a filmmaker, I’d probably be teaching full-time. I currently work part-time as a teaching artist in the video/film program at a high school called Canyon Crest Academy, and can’t get enough of it. Being around those students is a constant reminder of why I fell in love with this medium in the first place. If I wasn’t a teacher, I’d probably be a bicycle repairman or a plumber. I love tasks that require hands-on problem solving.
3. What are some of the challenges you faced while making your film, both artistic and logistical?
I’m sure any filmmaker would agree that we could talk about challenges for days and only scratch the surface. One of the big ones for this film was finding our cast to play the staff members and kids that make up this world. We wanted every face, whether a lead or background actor, to really fit into the fabric we were creating. It was honestly a really big challenge to find actors who just felt like real people, unaltered by the expectations of Hollywood. But in the end I couldn’t be happier with every performer in this film, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what they can do.
4. Talk about your favorite movie of the past two or three years.
I just saw the documentary Buck with my parents last night (it’s on Netflix streaming). I had a good cry, blurted out “That’s crazy!” like 15 times, and feel like a better person for watching it. There’s also a TON of amazing films touring festivals right now that I’ve be lucky enough to see: Drinking Buddies, Zero Charisma, Coldwater, Worm, just to name a few. Really excited to watch more; Fruitvale Station is at the top of my list to see next.
5. Are you working on a new project now?
There are some other things brewing, but I’m mainly just trying to enjoy this part of the journey. I really love traveling to festivals and talking with people after the screenings. There’s nothing more moving than hearing how a personal story like this connects with a stranger.