Top Ten Films of 2013

December 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Top Ten

  1. Short Term 12
  2. Her
  3. 12 Years a Slave
  4. Philomena
  5. Frances Ha
  6. Inside Llewyn Davis
  7. Captain Phillips
  8. Wadjda
  9. Fruitvale Station
  10. Nebraska

Kaitlyn Dever – Short Term 12 (DVD)

January 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

She may not have fully understood what it meant to be an actress when she was only five years old, but Kaitlyn Dever somehow instinctively knew it was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Born in Phoenix in 1996, Dever moved to Dallas and later to Los Angeles to pursue her career on screen. Since the move to L.A. in 2007, Dever has starred on such TV show as “Justified” and “Last Man Standing.” She also worked with Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood on the biopic “J. Edgar.” In the 2013 film “Short Term 12,” Dever, 17, plays Jayden, a troubled teenager living in a group home who confides in one of the staff members about her family problems.

“Short Term 12” was released on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 14.

I read ever since you were little you had the idea of being an actress. Where did that idea come from? Did you see something on TV or at the movies that influenced your decision at such a young age?

I was so little, so I don’t know what I was thinking. That was one of the things my parents tell me that I used to say to them. I would tell them I wanted to go to acting classes and ask if I could get an agent. I think it was from watching TV and wanting to be inside the TV and on screen. I was always performing something with my little sister. I just had so much energy. One day after asking them so many times, I went up to them really upset and said, “You guys aren’t doing anything for my dreams! I’m calling an agent right now!” Of course, I didn’t call an agent. I had no idea what I was talking about. But I think my parents realized maybe I was serious about it. My parents had put me in gymnastics and soccer and ballet and I didn’t want to do any of it. It wasn’t until I was about nine when I started taking acting classes. The first acting class I took I came home and I was so excited and told my parents it was the best day of my life.

So, at nine you started acting, but at what point did you realize this was something you could actually make a living doing?

Well, I came out to L.A. because there was this agent who saw me at the acting studio I was at in Dallas and was looking for a bunch of kids for a showcase. The agent came up to my parents and said she wanted to sign me and wanted me for [TV] pilot season. My parents decided they would take me out to L.A. for a month and when I saw how hard it would be to get into the business they would bring me home and that would be the end of it. But I ended up booking the very first audition I went out for.

And you were like, “See guys, I told you!”

Yeah, I was like, “See, it wasn’t that hard!” I mean, it is a very tough business, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sure when I realized I could make acting a living. I just wanted to do it because I loved performing. I loved being someone that I’m not. I was 11 when I did my first movie and I continued to do more and more work after that. I don’t picture myself doing anything else.

So, since you are so new to this industry, have you experienced the cutthroat nature of it yet? I mean, you did book your first gig and have had success since then, so…

Yeah, it is hard. I’ve been very lucky with the success I have had. But I do think this business is very hard. It’s worth it in the long run though.

But you haven’t come out of an audition in tears because things didn’t work out, have you?

You know, that’s never happened to me before, I have to say.

I’m not saying that it will ever happen in your career, but how do you think you’d handle someone saying no?

I don’t really think about that stuff when I go in for an audition. I’m just thinking about how I can make this character the best I can. I think there’s always going to be some nos, but I think there’s going to be some yeses. I think I’m going to look forward to those yeses.

You said you’ve been very lucky, but you have to realize how talented you are as well. I mean, there are countless young women who want the same thing you do, but such a small percentage actually make it. What do you tell a girl your age who wants to move out to L.A. like you did and make it in this industry?

I tell them to do it. I feel like if they don’t at least try, there won’t be any outcome at all. I feel if you love something as much as I love acting, you should try your hardest. If you love what you do and have a dream, you should go for it.

What did you see in Jayden as a character that made you want to go out for the role?

When I first read the script I immediately knew Jayden was a character I had never played before. She had all this stuff going on internally that she had to tackle. I knew that was something I wanted to take on. I knew it was going to be a challenge. Playing this character and being in this film was just an unbelievable experience. I knew the film was going to do great things after I read the script. Overall, I’m just very happy for the film.

What was going on in your mind when you read the octopus story in the script for the first time?

My first word after I read it was, “Whoa!” It took me a second to think about it and realize that it starts off as a children’s story and then turns into this very sad story. When I auditioned for the role, I had two scenes to read. When they called me back they added an additional scene. It was the night before my audition and they sent me the extra scene and it was [the octopus] scene. I always go into an audition with everything completely memorized. I just want to know the character. I wanted the [octopus] story to seem real and reading it is something different than having it memorized. So, I memorized it that night. I did write the whole scene down on paper and put it in my pocket for the audition. [Director] Destin [Cretton] told me I didn’t have to have it memorized, but when I told him I did he was like, “Oh, OK!” That is one of my favorite scenes in the film.

What kind of mindset do you have to be in to pull the emotion you need to create your character? I mean, I know a lot of it is what you can do as an actress, but do you have to do anything specific to tap into that register?

I’ve worked with a lot of actors and actresses who have a lot of different ways to prepare for roles. I just like to be myself when I’m on set. Ten minutes before the scene I start imagining what’s happened to my character before this and what’s going through her head. It was actually easy to do that for Jayden’s character because she has so much going on and so many awful things happening in her life. It was easy for her story to make you feel angry and upset and frustrated.

I’m guessing you used those feelings to set up for the scene where you have a meltdown in your room, right?

Yeah, for the “freak out” scene in the movie, I felt I needed to be myself. I didn’t want to get too depressed because I would’ve been worn out by the end of the day. When the scene cut I would get happy and giddy and people were wondering why I was doing that since the scene is so serious. But I would get right back into in when it was time to shoot the scene again.

So, how many cupcakes did you actually have to smash into Brie Larson’s face during those takes?

Oh, I think it was about two cupcakes.

Oh, you got that part down pretty quick then.

Yeah, it seems like it would’ve been more, but the way that scene works we had to plan it out. There was a lot of aiming going on. I had to aim the cupcake at Brie’s face. I had to aim when I spit on [actor] Rami’s [Malek] face, which was more of a big deal than putting the cupcake in Brie’s face. Spitting in his face was a really embarrassing moment for me because we had been shooting Brie and John’s [Gallagher Jr.’s] scenes before they got to me and Rami, so I had been spitting in his face over and over and over and over again. Destin came up to me and asked, “Hey Kaitlyn, have you been spitting on Rami’s face the whole time?” I was like, “Yeah, the whole time. What’s up?” He was like, “Well, the camera is not really on you guys, so you really don’t need to be spitting on his face right now.” I was completely in the moment. I felt so bad for Rami. It was so gross. I was so embarrassed.

Stephanie Beatriz – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (TV) & Short Term 12

September 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the new TV comedy series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” actress Stephanie Beatriz stars as Det. Rosa Diaz, a no-nonsense officer who is sharp around the edges and serious about her place in the precinct. During our interview, Beatriz, who was born in Argentina and is part Colombian and Bolivian, talked about joining a show featuring ex-“Saturday Night Live” cast member Andy Samberg and shared the tremendous experience she had working on the critically-acclaimed independent drama “Short Term 12.”

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. on Fox. “Short Term 12” is currently playing in theaters.

We got to see Andy Samberg in a speedo in the premiere episode last week. How do you think he looked? Did he pull it off?

I think Andy Samberg looks exactly like someone would think Andy Samberg looks in a speedo. (Laughs) If that’s pulling it off, then yes.

In the first episode, actor Terry Crew’s character describes Rosa as “tough, smart, hard to read and really scary.” Which of those characteristics are you looking forward the most to show off this season?

I think all of them. I mean, she is so unlike me, but she is so like a lot of people I have met. Everyone has that side to them where they want to tell everybody what they think and not have to talk when they don’t want to talk. She just doesn’t adhere to social norms of behavior. I think that’s so freeing and fun to play somebody like that.

Do you think you’d make a good detective yourself?

Well, I made good grades in school. I think most detectives have to make good grades, right? In the Academy you have to do pretty well. Police work is serious business. You’re putting your life on the line most of the time. I think it takes a specific kind of person to do that. I am not that kind of person. I am the kind of person that wants to get up in front of crowds of strangers and perform monologues. To each their own.

When you read the script for this series, what was it about the style of comedy that resonated with you the most? Was it what Andy was bringing to the table?

Well, initially, when I got the audition, there wasn’t a script. There were just sides, which are like short scenes. There was Andy’s character and another cop character. I believe my character’s name at the time was Megan. They ended up changing it later. Just from those sides, I could tell it was going to be really, really, really good. Then, I’m a huge fan of “Parks and Recreation.” I’ve seen every episode. So, when I heard I got an audition for a show written by the guys that do “Parks and Recreation,” I got really excited about it.

You have to feel pretty good that your role wasn’t technically written for a Latina actress, but they liked what you did so much they were able to mold the character to fit you.

Yeah, it makes me feel like they really wanted to get me on board. They were like, “OK, let’s hire that girl because she’s right for the part.” It’s great! [Creators] Mike [Schur] and Dan [Goor] were very adamant that they wanted the precinct to look like a Brooklyn precinct. Everyone wasn’t going to be the same shape, age or color. That’s just not what New York looks like.

Is that something that is important to you as an actress right now – to go into auditions where roles aren’t necessarily written with a Latina in mind? Would you rather go for roles that are listed as open ethnicity?

I would say what is most important to me is to make sure that the work I’m doing feels like [the character] could be a real person. Whether that means in a script that person is specifically Latina or not isn’t as much of a big deal to me right now as thinking I can make the character seem real. But also, beggars can’t be choosers. (Laughs) I’m pretty new to L.A. and the TV and film scene, so if I can get in the door, that is a huge, big deal for me. So, I would just go in for everything. Luckily, I have great agents who are sending me out for great stuff.

Do most agent usually look out for their clients like that? I just interviewed a young Latina actress who told me her agent basically made her go audition for something (“Devious Maids”) she didn’t want to audition for.

I feel like my agents are really amazing and smart. Not only have I gotten this amazing project because of them, but I’m also in a film that is in theaters right now called “Short Term 12.” It’s an amazingly beautiful indie film. My agency read that script and submitted me for it because they thought it was a good script. So, I feel like they’re just good at their jobs. I’m benefiting from that.

Did you see the “Comedy Central Roast of James Franco” and, if so, what did you think about all the digs at “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” when everyone was picking on Andy?

(Laughs) I’ll tell you this: I think you’re in a good place in your life when people are joking about you being on your own television show. (Laughs) You know what I mean? If that’s the worst thing people can say, I think you’re doing pretty well.

As an actress, did you have any idea how well received “Short Term 12” was going to be from the start or did it kind of surprise you?

You know, I knew it was a really special script. As soon as we started shooting, I knew it was even more special than I first thought. I just remember being on set with Brie [Larson] and tapping her on her shoulder and telling her, “You realize that you’re phenomenal in this, right? You do understand that?” She was so humble and sweet and was like, “I’m so nervous about it.” She just wanted to do her best every day because she felt so connected to the story. I think everyone involved was bringing their A-game because the story needed that respect. I think [director/writer] Destin Cretton is an amazing voice in American film. It’s so great that people are going to get to know his voice.

What kind of conversations did you have with Destin during pre-production, specifically for your role?

He just told me to let myself feel connected to the kids. I remember at one point I had my dressing room door open and there were like six different kids in there just hanging out with me, chillin’, getting to know each other, talking about music and stuff. [Destin] helped us all feel like we were in our own little world. I think that comes through in the movie.

You talked about how impressed you were with Brie. What about the first time actors like Alex Calloway and Keith Stanfield? Who impressed you the most as you watched these guys act for the first time?

I think what was really fascinating to me was how much of an ensemble they became. They all wanted to hang out with each other on set. They wanted to chat with each other. It was really cool to see them instinctively understand that was going to help them create that onscreen.

Although we don’t get a back story on your character (Jessica), it seems like she really understands how things work at the group home. Did you have your own story for her in the back of your mind to help you bring your character to life in this setting?

Yeah, well, what’s interesting is most of my background is in theater. So, in theater, you rehearse and rehearse and do this thing every night in front of people. You know what they’re going to see. In television or film, you do your thing in front of a camera and you do it a few times and you don’t know what the editor is going to select for the audience to watch. So, in “Short Term 12,” I actually had a scene that was cut where Brie comes in and asks me about how much I’ve been working. Jessica’s been working double shifts. Brie’s character asks her how her mom is. I have one little line where I say something about chemo being expensive and how it’s really hard when you don’t have insurance. So, there was this back story written about her by Destin. I knew who she was going in. It ended up getting cut from the movie, but it didn’t matter because I had that to work from so, in a sense, it is there .

There are some really powerful scenes in the film. What affected you the most emotionally?

Well, reading the script was the initial time I got to experience the film. Reading it was really interesting because my eyes would be traveling across the page and then suddenly they would be full of tears. I just remember finishing the script and thinking, “Oh my god. I really want to just go into this right now!”

Did seeing it come to fruition on the screen feel the same way?

Yeah, it did! Destin did such a great job. He had such a vision about what he wanted. Reading it from the script and watching it on screen, there are not that many changes. He knew the story he wanted to tell.

Destin Daniel Cretton – Short Term 12

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the independent drama “Short Term 12,” which won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival this past March, director/writer Destin Daniel Cretton sets his emotionally-rich narrative in a group home for at-risk youth. Brie Larson (“21 Jump Street”) stars as Grace, the head of the daytime staff who is not prepared to recall her own troubled past when a new girl (Kaitlyn Dever) is welcomed into the program.

During an interview with the Current, Cretton, who adapted his Sundance-winning short film of the same name into the now acclaimed feature, talked about where a story like “Short Term 12” came from and what he saw in Larson to make him want to cast her in the lead role.

“Short Term 12” opens exclusively at Santikos Bijou Theater Friday, Sept. 20.

I read you had worked in an at-risk youth facility like the one in the film. How long ago was that and how did you get involved in that line of work?

I fell into it, honestly, because I couldn’t get a job anywhere else at the time. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. It was my first job out of college. This was back in 2001. I must’ve worked there from 2001 until the end of 2003. What I experienced stuck with me for years afterward. I decide to organize some of those thoughts and questions into a script.

What made you believe this two-year experience you had could be adapted into something cinematic?

Well, the movie is a result of both my own experiences and interviews I conducted with people who had worked in places like this for much longer than I did. A lot of those stories made it into the movie as well. During most of those interviews I just wanted people to tell me stories. Some of them became the backstories of certain characters.

Did you write yourself into the movie in any way? Are any of the characters based on who you were 10 years ago?

I see myself in a lot of the characters. The Nate (Rami Malek) character experiences all the emotions I experienced in the first month working at that place. I felt incredibly out of place and was trying way too hard to be the new, cool guy who was going to really connect with the kids and change things. I had this very naïve outlook on the whole thing. It quickly backfired in my face.

What about Grace (Brie Larson)? Did you see yourself in her?

I completely relate to Grace and her own fears of being a parent. Every time she looks into the eyes of these kids she sees the direct result of bad parenting. I completely relate to the fear she has of possibly doing that to someone else. Then I think the Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) character is someone I would like to be one day.

Explain that. What qualities does he have that you hope to adopt?

Mason is a master at using self-deprecating humor in a very strategic way. He has a great perspective on life because of all the crap he’s been through. He’s been able to get beyond it and have so much to give the people around him. He’s also one of the most decent people in the world. Those are all things I hope to have more of one day.

During your time at the facility, were you able to bond with any of the teenagers there or is that something you specifically avoided?

Well, I was told almost on a daily basis that boundaries are a very important part of the job. Keeping a certain amount of distance was definitely necessary. But there are time when natural bonds begin to form between you and certain kids. That happens quite often. It can be an extremely healthy thing. There were a few kids I formed bonds with. It was inspiring and really encouraging to watch them grow and learn things and mature. But it was equally frustrating to see them fall back into negative behaviors.

I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must’ve been to watch some of those kids leave when their time at the facility was over. Would you keep tabs on them afterward or did turning 18 mean they were on their own?

At the time there weren’t as many opportunities, but now, at least in California, there are a few more opportunities for continued care. But at the time, we were highly discouraged to keep in touch with kids once they had finished the program. It was definitely sad [to see them leave], but it was also exciting when the kid had a good place to go and had a support system.  On one occasion, there was a young man who during his time [at the facility] was one of the leaders of the group. I thought he was going to be able to transition really well, but as his 18th birthday came closer, he started acting out more and causing trouble with his peers. About three weeks before his birthday – and somewhat out of the blue – he grabbed one of the staff members and head-butted him and split open his face. [The staff member] ended up going to the emergency room. He pressed charges and the young man ended up going to juvie. He found a way to stay in the system, which was incredibly sad for everybody.

Talk about working with first-time actors on this film. How did you confront the challenge? How were you able to pull some of these great performances from actors like Alex Calloway (Sammy) and especially Keith Stanfield (Marcus)?

There was a nice mixture of new actors and actors who had done quite a bit of work before like Kaitlyn Dever and Kevin Hernandez. But, yeah, Keith and Alex were very new. The strange thing is they all defied my expectations of what I thought working with young actors was going to be like. They were all incredibly mature. I honestly didn’t deal with them differently in any way than I did with the veteran actors. They were equally as professional and prepared. We talked about what was happening in the scene and what the character was going through. They gave what they needed with surprising subtly. I think one of the assumptions about younger actors is that they want to show off, but all of these young actors were incredibly understated, which was very surprising to me.

What did you see in Brie Larson that convinced you she could own this role?

Everything I had seen Brie in – whether it was comedy or drama – she always seemed to be performing from something bubbling inside of her as opposed to something scripted that she practiced at home a million times before showing up on the set. The way she delivers her lines and the way she moves through a scene always felt so in the moment. When we first talked over Skype, it was the first time I experienced Brie as a mature, young woman. Most of the roles she had played before were high school-aged girls. So, hearing who she is in real life – how intelligent she is – and the fact she really understood Grace was really exciting.

“Short Term 12” feels like a very personal film for you. Going forward in your career, do you think you’re always going to need that to be the case? Do you think you’d be able to direct something that someone else wrote or does a narrative have to come from somewhere deeper like this one did?

I’m open to anything that moves me. I fall in love with all kinds of movies. Right now there are a number of things that are written by other people that I’m really interested in. I’m not sure what I’m going to land on. I’m also writing my next [film]. But in all cases, they all feel very personal to me. The emotions that are there are things I really connect with.

Is that what your ultimate goal is in this industry as a director and writer – to tell good, intimate, character-driven stories? What would you say if Marvel came to you tomorrow and offered you “Avengers 3?”

(Laughs) Well, if “Avengers 3” was written with a humanity I really connected with, I’d be interested. But I’m at the stage of my life where I’m not in the storytelling industry to make money or get fame or anything like that. I’m just insanely in love with the process of filmmaking. I think I’m so lucky to find stories that I would love to tell regardless of whether or not I’m getting paid for it. If I can survive doing that I’ll be a happy person.

Did you write Marcus’s rap by yourself? How are your flowing skills personally?

(Laughs) My flowing skills? (Laughs) My flowing skills come from the Vanilla Ice era. I can do a little bit of 90s hip-hop. [Actor] Keith Stanfield and I have an ongoing debate as to how much of that rap was written by each of us. We’ve kind of landed on a 50/50 [split]. I basically wrote the first draft of the rap, which had all the information and the story I wanted to get across. Then [Keith] took that and updated the lingo quite a bit to make it a lot cooler.

Short Term 12

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever
Directed by: Destin Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”)
Written by: Destin Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”)

If all films were as affecting and emotionally authentic as director/writer Destin Cretton’s dramatic indie masterpiece “Short Term 12,” the moviemaking industry would be a better place. Cretton, in only his second feature film of his career (his first was last year’s scarcely seen “I Am Not a Hipster”), has crafted what is easily one of the best films of 2013. Deeply moving and featuring extraordinary performances by both first-time and established actors, “Short Term 12” is one of those honest and intimate scripts that come out of nowhere to say something memorable and meaningful.

Based on Cretton’s 2008 short film of the same name, “Short Term 12” follows the internal workings of a temporary group home for at-risk youth and the teenagers and staff that form the organization. Supervising the day staff is Grace (Brie Larson), a 20-something young woman who is the heartbeat of the program and knows how to interact with even the most troubled kids. Her extremely kindhearted live-in boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) also works at the facility. He, too, understands how sensitive their jobs are, since he was raised by loving foster parents.

When a new client, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), joins the group, Grace is forced to revisit some of the incidents in her dark past that she has bottled up for years. But with all her attention paid to the kids who need her guidance (Marcus has anger issues and is turning 18, which means he has to leave the program; Sammy is a sweetheart who has emotional meltdowns), there is little time for Grace to confront her own situation head on.

With Grace at the center of his narrative, Cretton has created a genuine protagonist, with deep-seated flaws and an unmatchable devotion for her responsibilities with the kids. Larson is wonderful and the fully-realized character Cretton has written for her is one that few actresses come across in their entire career. Cretton doesn’t stop there, however. Along with his leads, including the perfectly cast Dever, he also handles each of the young personalities as if they were starring in their own movie. Actors like Alex Calloway (Sammy) and Keith Stanfield (Marcus) might have limited screen time (and in Calloway’s case, few words to say), but they’re presence is extremely compelling. In one particular scene, Marcus shares with Mason lyrics to a hip-hop song he has written. In the three minutes it takes him to perform it, Cretton hooks you if he hasn’t already.

Brimming with tenderness, humor, sadness and hope, moviegoers who enjoy rich, character-driven stories need to seek out “Short Term 12” as soon as possible. Far from the melodramatic fare this could’ve turned out to be, Cretton proves to be an impressive storyteller early on. Here’s to hoping the independent film industry has him for a good amount of time before larger studios start throwing money at him. With his talent, it’s bound to happen sooner than later.