Sunday, November 24, 2013

Short Term 12

Short Term 12 was the toast of this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, winning both the Grand 
Jury Prize in the Narrative Feature Competition and the Audience Award.  
Told through the eyes of Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility 
for at-risk teenagers, Short Term 12 is written and directed by Destin Cretton. Passionate and tough, 
Grace is a formidable caretaker of the kids in her charge, and in love with her long-term boyfriend 
and co-worker, Mason (John Gallagher Jr). But Grace’s own difficult past, and the surprising future 
that suddenly presents itself, throw her into unforeseen confusion, made all the sharper with the arriv-
al of a new intake at the facility: a gifted but troubled teenage girl with whom Grace has a charged 
While the subject matter is complex and often dark, Short Term 12 finds truth, and humour, in unex-
pected places.
SHORT TERM 12 – Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Produced by Maren Olson, Asher 
Goldstein, Joshua Astrachan, Ron Najor. Executive producers are Frederick W. Green, Douglas Stone, 
David Kaplan. Director of Photography is Brett Pawlak. Edited by Nat Sanders. Production design 
by Rachel Myers. Original Music by Joel P. West. Costume Design by Mirren Gordon-Crozier and Joy 

 “After I graduated from college, I couldn’t find work, and a friend of mine mentioned a
group home for at-risk teenagers that was hiring. It was by far, one of the scariest
experiences I’ve ever had – at first. I was really afraid of doing something wrong and messing
up these kids more than they already were. But after a month or so, I fell in love with it.», says
Destin Cretton.
This is an experience that stuck with the director. A few years later, he created a 20-minute
short for his thesis project, titled Short Term 12 – based on his experiences at the home. The
film went on to win the Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009 – and prompted Cretton to make a
feature version. “I was kind of a novice filmmaker, and somebody told me that if you were
going to Sundance, you’d better have a feature script ready. So I wrote one.” That script
eventually found its way to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where it was
one of five scripts in 2010 to win the Nicholl Fellowship. “That was a big stamp of approval,”
he says.
Brie Larson, who was filming another project in Georgia, was sent the script, and immediately
connected. “Within 10 pages, it was just a role that really spoke to me,” the actress says. “I
felt it had a lot of great architecture to it, and was just a big space for me to work and play
with.” She and Cretton spoke via Skype, and, says the director, “I saw Grace very quickly in
her. She was really funny, but she also had something about her that was extremely
thoughtful. She would stop and think about things, and it was in those moments where I saw
a combination of intensity and lightness, and I knew she would kick ass as Grace. And she
did.” The actress immediately dove in to develop her character, the director notes. “She
worked her tail off to get under Grace’s skin, and it was a joy to watch. She asked smart
questions and devoured as much information as she could, to become an expert not on
group homes, but on Grace – and the different things she could be feeling at every moment.
It’s the reason her performance is believable and realistic – she had a specific take on everything for her. She never does the same thing twice. Grace is continually walking the line
of being extremely vulnerable and being an extremely strong woman. And that’s difficult to
“Humor is very much a part of the reality of the group home setting – it’s part of survival
there. My character is kind of an anchor, in a lot of ways, for a lot of the mayhem that’s going
on around, both with things going on with the kids and with Grace.”, agrees John Gallagher
JR, who plays Mason “It’s something that I noticed when I went and visited one of the group
homes. The line staff keep it very light – nothing inappropriate, but they joke with the kids,
try to keep a friendly, happy, easygoing environment.”