Did The 166-Minute ’Boyhood’ Flick Take 12 Years Or 39 Days?

The answer to that question is at crux of this very innovative film project. In actuality, Boyhood was shot in 39 days, which according to Hollywood standards would classify it as a very low-budget movie. However what makes this flick epic versus your average run-of-the-mill coming-of-age story is that those 39 days were filmed over the course of 12 years.

To that end, this expanse of time allotted director Richard Linklater the opportunity to film the “actual” maturation of a boy from six-years-old up until his 18th year as a college freshman.

Capturing someone aging before our very eyes was a very unique concept and a conscious approach. Linklater wanted to explore the process of growing up in a way that was true to life. So he casted a group of actors and employed them for one week every year for twelve years in order to chart Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) life arc.

Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha, Boyhood charts the rocky terrain of childhood interspersed with a film montage of adolescence, from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all those in-between moments that audiences will be able to relate to.

While other films like the stop-motion animation of Blood Tea and Red String (filmed over the course of 13 years) are notoriously time-consuming, there are very few projects like Boyhood that were purposely put together with the intent of showing actors aging. For example, David Lynch’s highly-acclaimed Eraserhead, while it took 5 years to complete, it was due to the inability to raise the necessary funding versus wanting to use “time” as a plot element.

Interesting to note however, that Ethan Hawke is no stranger to the aging genre and working on film franchises that have spanned decades. From the 1995, Before Sunrise to Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight in 2013, Hawke and Julie Delpy have continued one of film history's longest love story. And this trilogy’s plot-construction similarity to Boyhood was no coincidence. That triology  was also the brain-child of Richard Linklater.

The cultural references in Boyhood is an added bonus for movie fans. We get to revisit our attraction to the techie advancements of the last decade from Gameboys, Wiis, iPods to smartphones. We relive the Bush era, our entry into two wars, right up until the election of our first Black president and his two-term administration.

As far as funding, every summer for a weekend or so, the cast and crew reunited with $200,000 of the studio's money to create the next chapter in Mason's life, with even Linklater (let alone IFC) not knowing how the plot line would deviate from one year to the next.

Linklater said he'd check in with Coltrane just prior to shooting each year to assess developments in his real life, and then loosely base Mason's evolution into the story. As one critic attested, “no single part of Boyhood will amaze you, but the totality of it will blow you away.”

While some say it takes a village to grow a child, Linklater would probably add that it doesn’t hurt to have a film crew around to document it. See you at the movies!

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