Destin Daniel Cretton is a PLNU alumnus and filmmaker who is a featured guest at this year’s Writer’s Symposium By the Sea. He has directed several critically acclaimed films, including “I am Not a Hipster” and “Short Term 12.” His next project is an adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ memoir, “The Glass Castle,” with Jennifer Lawrence. Buy your tickets on PLNU’s website and catch him on February 25 at 7:00 p.m. in Crill Performance Hall. He is also leading a workshop entitled “The Nuts and Bolts of Screenwriting” from 3-4:30 p.m. the same day. The Point spoke with him on the phone over the weekend while he was walking around a Costco in Los Angeles.
The Point: How did your time at PLNU shape you into becoming a filmmaker?
Destin Daniel Cretton: For me it was kind of a gradual thing. A lot of it had to do with building up my confidence. PLNU helped me try to make movies and continue to make short films. Even now, I have a hard time.
What stories are you most drawn to telling?
DDC: It’s hard to pinpoint what I’m drawn to. I’m drawn to stories the same way I’m drawn to people. I love people who are honest and honest about the difficult things in life. But they are also open and honest about the wonderful parts of life. I’m drawn to stories that are able to look at the really [bad] parts of real existence and the beautiful parts of it.
Which part of the production process is your favorite?
DDC: I have the most enjoyment out of the editing and a lot of the post-production stuff. That is when all of the pressure is done. You can relax and make the best version of what you have.
“Short Term 12” is based on personal experiences of your work at a halfway house. What was it like to tell the story of thousands of children who live in this situation?
DDC: When I was writing the story, it was a representation of in some ways of the large issue that is the foster care system. But when we were making it, we were more concerned with the stories of the authenticity of the characters. Hopefully the by-product is that the people in the system can use this snapshot and use it to create a conversation.
It was more than a decade between your time at the halfway house, and the release of “Short Term 12.” What made you pursue this story from start to finish where others might have given up?
DDC: I can’t say that I didn’t give up because I did at some points. There were moments when I shelved it because I thought it was a wreck. A huge part of it is that the story is extremely personal to me. It was difficult to get funding. I was lucky to have a producer who believed in the story and pushed it.
“The Glass Castle” is your next project. What is it like to take on Jeanette Walls’s memoir?
DDC: Scary. When I read that book, I was blown away. It felt really close to me. My upbringing was so different, but it felt so personal to me. I ended up adapting it with my friend Andrew Lanham (Screenwriter). It was a big learning curve, but it was a balance to create a film out of all of these beautiful words and scenes into something that is coherent. The thing we kept telling ourselves is that we wanted to get to the heart of the book. We make whatever sacrifices we have to make and we’re trying to squeeze it into a two-hour movie.
What advice would you give to students who are unsure of their future after PLNU?
DDC: I had no idea what I was doing after Point Loma. You don’t have to know. Even if you do know, there’s a high likelihood it will change. The idea of having pressure to know what you want to do shouldn’t be there. Just explore life and it will come to you.