A couple of years ago, writer-director Destin Daniel Crettin was going through the journals he kept when he worked at a foster care facility for troubled teens. He discovered that many of his experiences would make for a good movie. So he began work on the script for what would become Short Term 12, the new feature-length film that stars Brie Larson and John Gallagher as Grace and Mason, a young couple who work at a foster care facility by day and try to maintain a relationship by night.
"I was 22 and I worked there right out of college," says Crettin when asked about his personal experiences. "My supervisor was in her mid twenties. We all felt like kids. It was incredibly common for us to be telling the kids on Friday not to do something that we were going to do on Saturday. It was a strange scenario."
The tension that Crettin describes is exacerbated when Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) shows up at the facility. She often cuts herself and Grace must confront her own issues if she can truly help Jayden get better.
"One big theme is that regardless of age or what you've been through or what your supposed role is, humans can learn from each other no matter what," says Crettin. "That was a huge lesson for me. I started out working really hard to be a leader and realized quickly that the best way to be a leader is to treat everyone equal to yourself."
One of the reasons the film works so well is because Larson and Gallagher have such chemistry. Before shooting began, Crettin sent them on a fake date so they could create a backstory for their characters.
"They're so wonderful at living each moment with a camera in front of their faces," he says of the two actors. "Every take we did didn't feel staged to me. A lot of what you see on screen is an extension of what was really happening before we started filming."