By Vanessa Wolf
Born and raised on Maui, Destin Daniel Cretton just won the prestigious SXSW Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature for his film “Short Term 12.”
Cretton graduated from Maui High School and Maui Community College and spent three of his summers picking pineapples in the fields near his Haiku home.
He went on to receive a BA in communications from Point Loma Nazarene University and completed his master’s in film at San Diego State University.
“Short Term 12,” also won the US Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, followed by top awards at Seattle International, Aspen Shorts Fest, Independent Film Festival Boston, CineVegas, and GenArtt. It was short-listed for the 2010 Academy Awards.
The film is told through the eyes of Grace (Brie Larson), a “20-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. 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 arrival of a new intake at the facility: a gifted but troubled teenage girl with whom Grace has a charged connection.”
While the subject matter is complex, the film is said to find truth – and humor – in unexpected places.
We caught up with Destin Daniel Cretton to find out how his Maui background influences his film-making and his future.
Maui Now: You’re from Maui and making films in California now. Does Maui ever influence or trickle into your work?
Destin Daniel Cretton: Maui has a huge influence on everything I do. Storytelling is so ingrained into that culture, it was all around me as a kid. It didn’t matter if my parents were shopping at Ooka’s, or holding up traffic at a stop sign, there was always time to talk story. It’s such a beautiful part of the lifestyle on Maui, and something that’s hard to find anywhere else.
MN: Would you ever consider shooting a film or basing a story on Maui?
DDC: Yes! It’s kind of a lifelong dream to shoot a movie on Maui. I have a couple ideas brewing in my head, and can’t wait for the opportunity to make them.
MN: What inspired the subject matter of “Short Term 12″?
DDC: After graduating from college, I worked at a group home for at-risk teenagers for a couple years. It was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had, but also one of the most rewarding. “Short Term 12″ was inspired by that experience.
MN: When you come home to see your family what are the top three things you “have” to do or eat?
DDC: When I get off the plane, I usually go straight to 7-11 and get a pork hash and spam musubi. Then I drive over to Maui Mall and get a Guri Guri, three-scoop mix with two pineapple. Then I go to Zippy’s for a pork saimin with extra garnishes. After that, I’m the happiest man on earth.
Cretton is on a roll: the script for “Short Term 12″ (based on the short of the same title), was one of five to win a 2010 Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story or topic? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (@mauinow.com)