Screen editor Wendy Mitchell discusses a movie 12 years in the making.
Can you think back to July 2002? I had started a new job at indieWIRE in New York, working on a magazine with IFC called IFCRant, with Maggie Gyllenhaal on the cover talking Secretary.
Channel 4 pulled the plug on Film Four (as it was then), Bob Berney left IFC for Newmarket (and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a hit), Venice announced plans to screen films including The Magdalene Sisters and Far From Heaven. Men In Black II led the box office and The Lovely Bones was published.
If you’re not feeling old yet, it was also the summer Britney Spears, aged 20, was ranked by Forbes as the world’s most powerful celebrity.
And modestly, in Texas, Richard Linklater and a six-year-old boy named Ellar Coltrane started to make film history, shooting the first scenes of what would become Boyhood.
Here we are, 12 years later, enjoying the fruits of their labours. I usually find films that are envelope-pushing and history-making to be admirable more than enjoyable. But Boyhood is a moving watch even without its unusual backstory.
It’s a huge compliment to Linklater that the movie doesn’t feel like a curio. It feels like an emotionally rewarding film that just happened to be shot over 12 years. I didn’t leave the cinema with dry eyes, and I’m not even a parent.
To me, Boyhood is every bit as ambitious - and maybe even more revolutionary - than Interstellar. That film had two years of work and $165m spent, and yet to me it doesn’t have the emotional impact of Linklater’s $4m production.
As evidenced by that Google-assisted roll call of events from 12 years ago, 2002 feels like a lifetime ago for me, as it will for most of you. So what a testament in these fast-moving times that the Boyhood team had this film in their minds across the life changes and myriad other projects over the years. It’s the opposite of short-attention-span cinema.
In Jeremy Kay’s Boyhood case study, producer John Sloss and Linklater talk about the logistical headaches they had to overcome: bonding, multiple contracts, planning 12 shoots and juggling shifting schedules. The mind boggles.
In terms of financing, it’s stunning that Jonathan Sehring was able to convince IFC this was a good investment to make - and keep making - over the ears. Not many people, nor many companies, would have leapt with Linklater.
I also wonder if it’s the kind of project that could have been made with soft money in Europe. The pessimist in me thinks it wouldn’t have been, that it wouldn’t have been able to tick the kinds of boxes that a public funding body might need.
Of course, Ellar Coltrane is at the centre of the film and it’s remarkable to see him grow up on screen, but Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette also turn in stunning performances (more interviews with them in next week’s issue).
As much as it’s a story of boyhood, it’s also a story of parenthood - it was Hawke’s journey to becoming a responsible grown-up that moved me the most.
Linklater had a crazy vision and he worked for 12 years to make it work. If that doesn’t make you the best director of the year, I don’t know what does.
Wendy Mitchell is Editor of Screen International