The Making of Boyhood: A Filming Innovation

The Making of Boyhood: A Filming Innovation

David Ehrenthal

With no working title, and an incomplete script, director Richard Linklater set out in 2002 to film a 12-year coming-of-age drama based on a Texan boy and his family. In the late 1990’s, when Linklater decided to create the film, he wanted the film to follow a boy from first to 12th grade.
 
Budgeting $200,000 a year, or $2.4 million in total, Linklater cast a crew, and watched them grow year by year, with the cast members inspiring and contributing to each individual character’s fate in the movie. The film followed six-year-old Mason Evans Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane, his older sister Samantha, played by Lorelei Linklater, and his divorced parents Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette, and Mason Sr, played by Ethan Hawke.
 
Gathering for less than a week every year, the cast and crew came together and filmed for a total of 45 days over a twelve year period. The film spanned over 4,000 days, starting in May 2002 and ending in August 2014. Pre-production met for two months prior to shooting and a month after for post-production.
 
Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter, asked for her character to be killed off after three to four years of filming, because she lost interest in acting. Her father refused to kill her off and she eventually continued with the project, gradually regaining interest. 12 years passed through the eyes of Mason Jr., with seamless transitions often only marked by the different haircuts Mason Jr. had over the years. In real life, Patricia Arquette had Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater sleepover her house and go shopping with them before filming, to try and get closer to the kids and create a stronger on-screen relationship. Arquette, winner of the Golden Globe’s Best Supporting Actress and nominee for the Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress, decided to gain weight at certain points in the film, to reflect her characters marital problems, divorce, and financial issues.
 
After completing filming, the film was named “12 Years” but later changed to “Boyhood” to avoid confusion with the new film “12 Years a Slave.” With recognition from President Obama, who has said that Boyhood was his favorite movie of 2014, Boyhood and its six nominations continue to dominate headlines.
 
Check out Josh Axelrod’s Review of Boyhood here