SHORT TERM 12 And The Value Of A Great Casting Director

If you were like me, you probably haven’t heard of the film Short Term 12, Destin Daniel Cretton’s 2013 independent film, which was written and adapted by  from his short film of the same name and based on his experiences working at a group home.   It was unknown to me before I saw a retweet by Jarrett Wieselman of his 2017 tweet over a week ago. The retweet has been deleted but the original tweet remains, and is embedded below.

That is less a cast photo that an image of lightning being caught in a bottle. Much like films such as The Outsiders, Dazed and Confused, Diner and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Short Term 12 is an example of a film that features a cast that was on the cusp of stardom, many of whom would go on to bigger and better things. Let’s do a run down of the some of the cast, where they were career-wise when the film was released, and where their career took them afterwards.

  • Brie Larson: Larson’s career at that point was coming off a short career as a recording artist, notable roles in the TV series The United States of Tara and films such as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as 21 Jump Street. Two years after Short Term 12, she would appear in Room in a role that would garner her an Oscar. She would then go on to star in the blockbuster Captain Marvel.
  • Rami Malek: Malek was starting to generate buzz through his roles in the Night at the Museum franchise and in the TV miniseries The Pacific. In 2015, he would be cast as the lead in the buzz-worthy TV series Mr. Robot, for which he would win an Emmy. This would lead to him being cast as Freddie Mercury in the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, for which he would also win an Oscar.
  • Lakeith Stanfield: Stanfield was the only member of the cast to return from the short film, and only had one other credit other than that prior to Short Term 12. Afterwards, he carved out a successful career with supporting roles in films like Dope, Straight Outta Compton, Get Out, and Knives Out as well as the lead in Sorry to Bother You. He also had a role in the TV series, Atlanta.
  • Stephanie Beatriz: Beatriz had only a handful of guest appearances in shows such as The Closer and Jesse before appearing in Short Term 12. However, in the same year as that film’s release, she started a recurring role in the hit TV series Modern Family and became a member of the cast of Brooklyn 99.
  • John Gallagher Jr.: Gallagher was perhaps the most established actor at the time Short Term 12 was made, having won a Toiny for his role in the musical, Spring Awakening, and was at the time starring in Aaron Sorkin’s much talked about HBO TV show, The Newsroom. Gallagher would go on to star in 10 Cloverfield Lane and the most recent season of HBO’s Westworld.
  • Kaitlyn Dever: The actress, who was 16 years old at the time of film’s release, was two years into her role on Last Man Standing. She would have a breakout role in 2019’s Booksmart.
What a difference an Oscar Makes: Marketing for SHORT TERM 12, from L to R: Theatrical Poster, DVD Cover, Current image attached to digital sales and rentals.

The film was cast by Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee, and Rich Delia. And before you think this kind of thing is a fluke, one or more of the men had a hand in casting films such as Winter’s Bone, The Help, Dallas Buyers Club, August Osage County, Spotlight, the Pitch Perfect series, Prisoners and It Parts 1 & 2. Their casts featured future Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Emma Stone as their stars were on the rise. That is a fairly impressive feat.

The casting department is often the Rodney Dangerfield of the cinematic process. Most times, they are only thought of when an actor is “miscast.” They aren’t listed on the film’s Wikipedia page and are typically buried in the film’s IMDB page. Most laymen think of the casting director as the H.R. department of the film industry, scheduling auditions and call backs, and letting the actor know if they have been cast. Complicating matters are the times the casting process is circumvented, like when a producer gives a script to a big name star to get him to do the project or an actor starts their own production company to generate projects they can star in. Then there are directors who usually cast the same actors in most of their projects Do you think Samuel L. Jackson ever has to audition for a role in a Quentin Tarantino film? Or Seth Rogen for a Judd Apatow one?

If you want to learn more about the casting process and what a casting department does, I’d recommend reading Jenna Fischer’s book, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide. In it, Fischer describes the audition process from the actor’s perspective and gives insight into her casting on The Office. That show’s casting director, Allison Jones, had called in Fischer for a number of roles over the years, and kept her in mind when the role of Pam Beesley became available. Jones recognized her talent from those other auditions and thought she’d be the perfect fit for Pam. Turns out she was right.

The best casting directors are expert jugglers, a servant to many masters. The must find the right talent to bring the screenwriter’s words to life, yet be able to be compatible with the director’s directorial style, all the while fitting in with salary requirements put out by the  producers and/or studios. They do this by pulling worthy candidates from the actors they have seen over the years and holding auditions with fresh new talent. And while directors and actors might only make two or three films a year on average, for casting directors it could be three times as many. Barden has been involved with 376 projects over his 32 year career. Scheee has 248 credits over 15 years  and Delia 134 over a ten year span.

So we should show casting departments a little more respect, and not just when a cast like Short Term 12 comes around. They are one of the most malleable cogs in the film making process. Without them, there would be no films to watch at all.

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About William Gatevackes 1937 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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