Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at SXSW, Short Term 12 is the touching and uplifting story of Grace (United States of Tara's Brie Larson), a twenty-something social worker. Her newest ward, Jayden, forces Grace to relive her own difficult upbringing just as she and her boyfriend Mason (Newsroom's John Gallagher, Jr.) are on the cusp of making a decision that will change their lives. Funny, moving, and surprising, the film delivers an emotional powerhouse through tremendous performances and a smart script. (Watch the trailer.)
Read more about the inspiration for this story with filmmaker Destin Cretton below, and then catch a screening today at 12:00pm and tomorrow (Sunday 6/30) at 2:00pm!
NFF: How much of your own experiences did you draw on when creating the film?
Cretton: My first job out of college was working at a residential facility for at-risk teenagers. I did that for about 2 years before going to film school. I was definitely pulling a lot from my experiences there, but also using the information I had gathered from interviewing a few people who have been working in similar places for much longer than I did.
NFF: Did you approach working with younger actors in a different way from working with adults? What was easier/harder?
Cretton: I was really nervous about working with so many kids. And the scenes they needed to pull off were not easy ones. I was expecting to have to figure out different ways to "trick" them into good performances, but that wasn't the case at all. These kids were some of the most mature, professional actors I've ever worked with. I just talked to them like peers, discussing our ideas of a scene, often forgetting I was conversing with a 15-year-old. And then they'd step on set and blow everyone's minds. It was way too easy. I couldn't have been luckier with this cast.
NFF: Did you learn anything surprising about the foster care system while working on the film?
Cretton: It continues to surprise me how many people I meet who are connected to the foster care system in one way or another. As soon as they hear about the project we're doing, they want to share their stories with us. It feels like they're eager to talk about it, because there aren't many opportunities for them to do that. But I do feel like this will be one of the next big conversations in our country, and I hope this film gives some people an excuse to talk about it more.
NFF: What do you hope audiences learn or take away from Short Term 12?
Cretton: Short Term 12 is a story about an unconventional family, with all its ups and downs and tragedies and celebrations. But underneath that roller coaster is a love so deep that it's nearly impossible to get rid of. I hope people feel that when they watch this film. I hope they walk out of the theater bubbling with new thoughts and feelings that they want to talk about on the ride home. I hope they feel inspired to call their daughter or father or grandma and thank them for being in their lives.