Featured Filmmaker: Destin Cretton, Writer/Director of ‘Short Term 12’

Destin Cretton (top right) with his brothers (top left and center) and grandparents (bottom row).

Destin Cretton (top right) at lunch earlier today with his brothers (top left and center) and grandparents (bottom row).

Maui-born filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton flew to Maui yesterday from an appearance at the Los Angeles Film Festival to introduce his award-winning, critically acclaimed film Short Term 12 at its Hawaii premiere at 6pm at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Upon arrival, he immediately got together with his family for lunch (pictured above), and not only introduced his film tonight, but also held a question and answer session after the screening, which attracted well over 200 people and garnered rave reviews. Destin wrote and directed the film, and his lead actress, Brie Larson (who plays Grace) received the Rising Star Award last night from festival director Barry Rivers.

Get to know Destin a little better – how he got started in film, where the inspiration for Short Term 12 came from, and why he thinks Maui audiences will embrace the story. 

Q: How did you get involved in making film?

A: When I was a kid, I used to make movies a bunch with my brothers and sisters in Haiku. We’d take my grandma’s VHS camera hostage for weeks and try to film little skits and fake commercials in the gulch near our house. My parents didn’t want us watching a lot of TV, which I hated at the time, but now am extremely thankful for. It forced us to spend most of our childhood outside, making up our own stories.

Q: How did your film Short Term 12 come to be?

A: My first job out of college was working at a residential group home for at-risk teenagers. It was a life-changing experience to say the least. Getting to know the kids there, hearing their stories, watching them succeed and fail in their struggle to deal with their past, was something I’ll never forget. My time there was filled with many moments of tragedy and sadness, but also moments of pure joy and laughter and inspiration. This film was inspired by my own experiences working in that environment, and by the stories of a handful of counselors and supervisors who have been working in similar places for many years.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about making this film?

A: Casting the film was definitely a huge challenge. There’s a lot of kids in the movie with very difficult scenes to perform, and it was really hard to find the right fit for each of the roles. But every time I’d start to panic, someone would walk in the door or send us a tape that would calm my nerves and make me smile. In the end, I couldn’t be happier with every single actor in this film, and can’t wait for everyone to see what they can do.

Q: What do you hope Short Term 12 will do for people?

A: I hope this film will give people a glimpse into a world that they may or may not be familiar with. I hope they will be able to experience moments of seeing the world through another pair of eyes. This is a world full of characters that are dealing with things that I think anyone can relate to on some level. It’s really a story about love in its many different forms, and the ability that humans have to walk through the darkest of times while holding the hand of someone they love.

Q: What do you think our Maui audiences will appreciate about your film?

A: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from growing up on Maui, it’s that family is everything. This is a story about a very unconventional family, one that is created by necessity. It has its good days and bad days, days that are overflowing with laughter and happiness, and days that feel like the world is falling apart. But beneath it all, there is a very stubborn kind of love that is woven through every family. It’s always there, even when you don’t want it to be. I think audiences on Maui will understand that more than a lot of people.

Q: What is your connection to Maui?

A: I was born and raised in Haiku [Maui], eating Fukushima hotdogs and riding bikes in the pineapple fields. Maui will always be home.

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