The Boyhood movie by Richard Linklater premiered in competition at Berlin Film Festival on February 13th. It received very warm reviews and it is largely considered one of the main favorites for the Berlinale Golden Bear.
Richard Linklater shot Boyhood over a span of twelve years. The movie tells the story of a young boy, Mason, from age 6 to 18. The director spoke at the Berlin Film Festival press conference together with actors Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and producer Cathleen Sutherland. Actor Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason Sr. in Boyhood, was not present at the press conference.
The press conference was more than one hour long. Below you will find a brief summary, followed by the transcript of the complete event.
Summary of the Boyhood Movie Press Conference
Richard Linklater said principal photography started in July 2002 and ended in October 2013. The movie deals with time, aging, and memory. The director intentionally left out of the movie any dramatic or life-changing events, and focused instead on the subtle everyday experiences—the lack of grand narratives is one of the director’s most recognizable characteristics, used in Slacker, Waking Life, and the Before trilogy.
Linklater said the movie attempts to be realistic, and is ultimately about recognizing the importance of the minute subtleties of our lives. At one point, his daughter Lorelei wanted her character in the movie to die, but Linklater refused because he did not want that kind of drama in the movie. The film does not follow the conventions of coming-of-age movies and does not show Mason’s first kiss, loss of virginity, or other key moments.
The movie was shot for 39 days throughout the 12-year period, usually about three days a year. It had 143 scenes and 450 post-production crew for the 12 years. The structure and ideas of the movie were clear from the beginning, but particular details of the scenes and dialogues were often a collaboration with the actors and the crew.
The budget for movie was small, although the exact figure remained unclear. Producer Sutherland said they had an annual budget of $200,000, which, if consistent, would mean the overall budget was about $2,400,000. The film was shot on 35 mm film and tries to maintain a uniform look throughout the years. Both Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater said watching the movie and seeing themselves grow up was emotional. Lorelei remembers crying when she first saw the movie.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood Movie: Full Press Conference
Anatol Weber, host: So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference screening in competition on the 64th international film festival in Berlin. Have a welcome for Boyhood and please welcome the producer n Cathleen Sutherland.
Growing up as Mason, please welcome Ellar Coltrane.
Taking good care for such a long time, good to have you back here in Berlin, please welcome Patricia Arquette.
Playing the part of Samatha, Mason’s sister, please have a welcome for Lorelei Linklater.
Just one year ago, he was here [with Before Midnight], and he’s back here. Please have a welcome for Richard Linklater.
Anatol Weber: Maybe Richard, before we pose some questions to the press, just one little glimpse, can you still remember exactly the first day of shooting 12 years ago?
Richard Linklater: Absolutely. In July of 2002, yeah we started production on this over 4200 days ago, but I still remember it. Yeah, very clearly, “what the hell are we getting ourselves into.”
Anatol Weber: Good to have you here now. So, first question please.
Journalist: I wanted to ask especially Richard Linklater, could you elaborate on the scriptwriting, or in this case, the planning, planning ahead, and how you struck that balance between portraying normality and nonetheless making it special on the cinema screen and how you tell a normal life, basically. What do you think […] telling a normal life in cinema means?
Richard Linklater: Well, to answer the first part of the question, I mean, I had kinda the architecture of the whole piece in mind, but then every we got this just station period we got to think of each segment each year. We didn’t film every year. Sometimes it was eighteen months, sometimes it was nine months, but roughly once a year. So, it was great to have that time to think about it. But I was never going for, you mentioned normality, that’s what I wanted to show, just kind of a normal, it wasn’t an extraordinary family, it was kind of a normal family.
I didn’t wanna show, you know, the biggest moments, you know, that we’ve seen, I guess, in every movie about […] maturing. I avoided the first kiss and all that. I just wanted to kinda capture little moments, but I had faith that it would all add up ‘cuz we had this time element, because of the structure of it, that it would have a cumulative effect, would play out over the time. So that’s what really it was all based on more than the events of the film. Not that they weren’t very important, you know, we worked on them, it was a lot of work.
About The Soundtrack of Boyhood
Journalist: Hi, my question is for the director. The soundtrack […] is amazing, and it’s really incredible how some songs help punctuate certain periods of time, so I was wondering how was the process of [sampling] the songs?
Richard Linklater: Well, this is, it’s very specific to these years, to the stages the kids are growing up, but a lot of it was the perspective of who’s listening to the music. Like, sometimes, you know, it would be Olivia’s perspective, or Mason Senior’s. For Samantha’s room, it would be something she’s listening to, hopefully if it’s 2007, you know, it’s that year, maybe something they would be listening to, so it was fun, it was just fun to get to kinda be playing off the culture at that very moment as much as possible and to stay in character. I think Ellar’s and Lorelei’s tastes weren’t the taste of their characters, those were characters who aren’t them necessarily. So that was the fun part, mixing in the music […].
Journalist: […] I have a question for Mr. Linklater. So you filmed over many years, but only for short periods. What did you say to your actors? Dye your hair, cut your hair, gain weight, lose weight, or you just took them as they went? And I have also a question for the actors. So, you played over the years, you see now a film with you, how you were ten years ago, how you became now, so what was the experience of making this film and with what feeling do you look at the film? And, also a question for Ms. Southerland, what were the risks, did you consider the risk of such a project? Thank you.
Richard Linklater: Ok, I think I remember your first question. I didn’t tell the actors too much about what to do with their lives in those 51 weeks a year we weren’t shooting, but Ellar would call me sometimes when he was thinking about cutting his hair or getting an earring or something, he would ask, “can I do this year or something. So, we were conscious of it, but I knew that it would develop normally, we would work with whatever was happening in front of us, so I don’t remember being too [specific]. The only year was when he got the haircut, that was a big story point, so he had to not cut his hair leading up to that. Which, in fact, he wasn’t angry to get his hair cut at all that day. But he acted like he was. I think that’s my question. It’s to the cast. […]
The Actors on Watching Themselves in Boyhood
Ellar Coltrane: What it was to see myself?
Richard Linklater: ‘Cuz I never let him watch. No one ever saw footage until just recently they’ve started watching the movie…
Ellar Coltrane: Which I am very grateful for. I avoided being very self-conscious, and it’s very likely that I might have become self-conscious if I had been allowed to watch any of it growing up. I mean, it was a lot to deal with watching it two months ago, and very cathartic and emotional, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been at years old to see that much of myself. But it’s beautiful, in short. What about you, Lorelei ?
Lorelei Linklater: Well, I’d say it was really, really strange, really strange experience to watch that. Honestly, quite painful at some times. I mean, who wants to watch themselves go through all these awkward stages. […] It was hard, I was crying for a little while there, but it was…
Richard Linklater: This is a unique thing. I don’t think if two actors have ever been in this position. Ever. […] Patricia and Ethan [Hawke, who plays Mason Sr., was not at the press conference], but it’s not as pronounced as young people growing up on camera in a narrative.
Patricia Arquette: Ethan and I just got old. We were young, we got old. They were young, they got to…
Richard Linklater: They got to grow up, the rest of us get to age.
Patricia Arquette: But I think it was part of what we all recognized as exciting when we thought of this. And Rick was very clear, like, “you can’t get any facial reconstruction and anything like that, right?”
Richard Linklater: Your character wouldn’t do that.
Patricia Arquette: Yeah, but it’s very strange. But life goes fast. I think that’s part of what the movie [makes you] feel. How fast life goes.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood Movie: A Leap of Faith
Cathleen Sutherland, producer: I think from a producer standpoint, the biggest risk that was taken for this film was Jonathan [Sehrling], Sara and IFC agreeing to give us the money to begin with. I mean, we had a very small production budget, which we got annually and I’d say the second risk was the one I felt every year signing that contract that I was gonna make this happen for $200,000. But thank you, Jonathan, for believing in the project. And, the other thing, I mean a project this long, you kinda say a lot of prayers that everything goes smoothly.
Richard Linklater: This whole thing was a leap of faith and a certain amount of optimism about the future. Just that we would be here 12 years from now. That, you know, things would work out. So it was a leap of faith on everyone’s part. You know, it’s against the law, you can’t contract someone to do anything for over 7 years, much less a kid, if you think about it. Getting a 6-year-old to agree to do something for 12 years, that’s technically illegal, I think. But Ellar has very cool parents, I can say. Lorelei’s parents, I am not so sure about them.
Journalist: I would like to know for Ellar Coltrane, what you experienced as a child and a teenager during shooting. Like, maybe it was a big adventure in the beginning, but when you were 12 or 13 were there any points in time when you said, “oh, no, I don’t want to continue shooting, or it was really uncool to do this thing, and how did Richard Linklater [make] you carry on? And how did that change your childhood in the end?
Ellar Coltrane: Not at all. Almost the opposite. I think there was a point around 12 or 13 when I kinda fell in love with the project and just the process, the artistic process of creating something like this. And just how lucky I am to have been a part of it and gotten to work with these people and have this incredible family that has, you know, raised me for a week out of the year each year. But they’re incredible people and it was an incredible process that, I did, I fell in love with at a certain point, and that’s what I’m attracted to, I guess.
Patricia Arquette: I think that it was also kind of a blessing that we got to see these kids growing up, but they didn’t have to get the brutal strange experience of their lives of having, being actors, young actors. Because then your friends get jealous and they get weird. And their “you think you’re so cool because you’re in a movie.” Meanwhile, these guys are making a movie, but it’s like, “oh, really, you’re making a movie, where’s the movie you’re making? Sure, you’re making a movie, another movie, ok.” But you don’t have to deal with what that triggers in everyone else, which is very weird, so they got to get the good part of […] it without the weird part of everyone else’s crap.
Richard Linklater: It had to be a different experience at different times, I would think. There was this second, Lorelei, you wanna…
Lorelei Linklater: One year, I asked him if my character could die.
Richard Linklater: It was the Harry Potter year, you know…
Lorelei Linklater: I just couldn’t handle it. Professor McGonagall.
Richard Linklater: I was like no, that would be too dramatic for the movie. It’s not that kinda movie. We got through it.
Journalist: […] It’s a beautiful, wonderful film, and wonder-like film for Berlinale, I think. Because, for me, your film has made Berlinale as a festival this year. […] Your really enigmatic masterful technique in correlation between documentary, natural elements of your film, and artistic play…The question is, […] what [were] your three should-be-done’s and should not in order to [achieve] balance between documentary and […] artistic involvement.
Richard Linklater: I don’t understand the question entirely. […] The film was trying to be very realistic, it’s all scripted and rehearsed. You know, films are constructs, let’s face it. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of work goes on to make it. But the tone of the film I was trying to capture, just the way life kinda unfolds, or maybe how you remember your life, or the way time works through our lives. So that’s what I was trying to capture in a not too dramatic way. But like I said earlier, I felt there would be a cumulative power to drama when you think about your own life, how there is this kind of built, and if becomes a drama in our mind. So, what happens on the screen isn’t that dramatic, and it is at times, just like our own lives, there are these sudden bursts of drama. But it’s not the norm, even though so many movies, that’s all they are, but I was trying to capture what most of our lives are like. But there were no subjects I was trying to avoid…
Boyhood Movie: Richard Linklater’s Indie Coming-Of-Age
Patricia Arquette: But you didn’t wanna see the first time he had sex…
Richard Linklater: I didn’t wanna see things I think I’d seen a lot in other movies. You lose your virginity, your first kiss. […] That wasn’t this movie. It was kind of conscious to just move on and just pick up with the characters at a new level, very subtly. The transitions were very important between the segments. I spent a lot of time thinking about those. I think you imply a lot. I want your relation to them be like close friends, but not so intimate, you know, everything. Someone you’re close with, I think that’s a good relation with the characters.
Patricia Arquette: I think also for me as a viewer, I felt like after watching the movie while it’s normal and it’s real life, these two kids are unique individuals and have their own perspective and we get to get that revealed to us. But I just also wanted to say as a filmgoer, I think this movie really only could’ve been made this way by Rick and his unique sensibility of filmmaking. I feel like he has a really original voice in film, and a really credible voice in film, and I think very few, certainly American directors, have that. I think that balance is Rick.
Journalist: […] Upcoming projects. I was thinking, this project is like a really big undertaking, […] would you consider doing something like this again? Maybe continuing this project, or with other characters, like Jesse and Celine perhaps[the characters of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in the Before trilogy]?
Richard Linklater: I think it’s a logical question ‘cuz now that this format, yeah, you could continue, but the story I was trying to tell was this point of childhood in the US, it’s first to twelve grade, those twelve years you’re kind of stuck in the public school system, and you’re stuck in your parent’s house. I look back at my own youth and that was the kind of prison sentence you’ve been handed as a youth. So, it was how to negotiate through that. Beyond that, I didn’t really have anything more to express about this. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t pick up in young adulthood and go forever. So, who knows. But we haven’t talked about it. We are still recovering from this. So, every movie sort of continues forever, I guess like a line, you know. But certainly, I haven’t thought about that. […] But I will leave that to someone else, to pick up and tell the story. Good luck getting it financed and having the patience about it.
Choosing the Cast and the Location
Journalist [translation from German]: […] You said you had the concept from the beginning. What did you change throughout the course of shooting, why is it about a boyhood and not a girlhood, […] and the rural America, that was also a conscious decision on your part, because I have been getting to know more about the rural America through American film the last couple of years. [And finally], how did you come across these actors?
Richard Linklater: […] I will start from the end. I’ve worked with Ethan Hawke before and I’ve talked to him about it, just as an idea. We were in New York and he agreed immediately to do it just ‘cuz it sounded so strange, he got this weird look on his face and said, “yeah, that’s crazy, yeah, sure.” You know, Ethan jumped in. And then I was thinking about who could play his ex-wife, who’s the mom, and I’d met Patricia once before, I think in the 90s, mid 90s, talked to her for a little while then, but was always a big fan.
I knew she’d been a mom rather young in her life, and I just called her up, and we talked for a couple of hours. […] Patricia was the only one I ever thought of, and I called her up and said, “what are you gonna be doing 12 years from now? […] And here we are. She is very brave, and kinda fearless that way. That was the quality I was looking for, so that’s the casting element.
And then Ellar, of course, was a huge… I met a lot of young boys. And you ask also why the name “Boyhood.” […] Titles are difficult. Boyhood, we sort of just fell into. It was the name on our call sheet every year. […] But we also called it “The 12-year Film.” [Boyhood] is the point of view of the movie. While it’s really about a family, it’s primarily from his point of view. But I met a lot of young, 6- and 7-year-old kids and that time. He seemed, it’s a huge leap, his parents seemed very supportive, they are both artists, I thought that would be the familial support to get us through. But he was just a kind of theorial, thoughtful kid. I just liked talking to him. But he grew up to be this really cool thoughtful guy.
There are other ways it could have gone. If he would have grown to be a 250-pound wrestler, the movie could have gone in that direction a little bit. But Lorelei, as my own daughter, at that age she was, seemed to be interested in it. But I am really proud of them. They worked so hard, the kids, they were so cool to work with, and we had a lot of fun. They really went through something unique with this, I really couldn’t be more thrilled with the young adults they’ve become. It’s one of the great joys in my life to [have] been close to this process. Obviously, a daughter, I am close to, but Ellar felt like my son that I never had.
The rural part of America, yeah, I mean, that was just kinda close to home. We live in Austin, Texas, which is central Texas, and that’s my own background. You don’t really see this viewpoint. Small towns, big towns, a lot of driving around. It mirrors a lot of people’s lives. Most of our country is rural. There’s a handful of big cities, but most people grew up in that kind of fashion, I would think, statistically.
Journalist: […] The question is for the director. Can you tell us more about camera work because during the film, you see the difference. When you take the boy, you always take the eyes. And when you take the girl, you see the changing of her life with fashion, with the color of the hair. […]
Richard Linklater: Well, I knew the changes, these weren’t scripted. They just sort of felt. I knew the film would reflect passing of time. It wasn’t conscious to emphasize anything. The main change was their maturing. […] I just knew them growing would say a lot. The culture, surprisingly, hasn’t really changed that much, I feel like, here at the end. […]
Say this film started in 1969 and ended in 1981. You would have a lot of different cultural looks. The cars look different, the hairs, the styles. But I think maybe in the current day, our technological change is so great that that’s where we psychically put our change. We shot on 35 mm. I wanted the film to look very consistently the same. So I didn’t wanna have different looks to demarcate and years, so we shot on film for that reason. But I figured the culture would change a little bit, but that was outside our control obviously. It just shows up kinda randomly, naturally, I guess. […]
Creating The Character of The Mom
Patricia Arquette: Well, my character, when I first spoke to Rick, he had a very clear skeleton for the piece, the project, the character and what the mom was going through. […] And sometimes he would say, Ellar’s a little ahead of Mason, so we have to pull them back, the kids are a little cooler than their character. Also, the mom’s character was an amalgamation of a lot of different people’s experience. Cathleen would throw in her opinion, and Ethan, and we all talk about our experiences, or my mom, or Rick, and we would just together and make these decisions. A lot of them were really different than my own self, the way I responded when my own son went off for college. But they were all based on someone’s real experience, or inspired by something authentic.
And I think in a lot of our lives, we do have these blinders on. And like I’ve said before, this mother was really impacted by Mason Senior leaving, and feeling like she got left with the responsibility. And she really resented him . So much so that she never got to see what a great dad he was. Or all the other things he brought. Because she put him now in a box. And he put her in a box. One of the things that really resonated with me after seeing the movie was how much I do that myself. How much we all do that. How limited we are in our own perspective of each other and our past experience, and how it really was.
Journalist: […] My question goes to both Mr. Linklater and Ms. Patricia Arquette. Was it a deal from the very beginning that you should follow those kids growing up, because in the mean time, you also spent 12 years doing other things[…]?
Richard Linklater: Well, we sort of jumped in this together, knowing our lives would go through a lot of changes. I mean, Patricia got a kid between the first and second…
Patricia Arquette: I got married and divorced.
Richard Linklater: I had two more children. Ethan had two more kids. You know, a lot of this is a portrait of the kids growing up, but it’s also adults kind of bumbling through parenthood. But we were committed to our cast, to Ellar and Lorelei Linklater.
Patricia Arquette: And it was exciting. I looked forward to it every year. It felt like a top secret, real, true, artistic project that I got to work on with people I loved and considered really close dear friends. And I enjoyed my time, and missed my time, and was excited to see them. So, it was a pleasure. Really, the hardest part for me, it was last year when it was winding down and I said, “I don’t wanna give this movie to the world. I already love this movie, I love these people, and these kids, and […] this whole experience. I don’t wanna hear anyone else’s opinion if they think is good, or or boring, or stupid. I don’t care what their opinion is. And that was the part I was wrestling with.
Richard Linklater: Yeah, we all had our little separation, I think.
Anatol Weber: But maybe this is a question also interesting for Lorelei and Ellar, seeing Patricia and Richard growing up?
Lorelei Linklater: Well the changes between those ages are not as evidently drastic as are our ages.
Ellar Coltrane: Someone asked Rick earlier what he learned about being a father from the film, and I think it made me realize I learned a lot about being a son from working on this film. And a lot about my relationship with my mother, who is not here, but she is watching from Sony Square. But especially in the later years, just the kind of vulnerability of Olivia, and especially watching back on it and just helping write those scenes, I think taught me a lot about my relationship with my mom and how important it is.
Journalist: Two short questions. One for Ms. Linklater. How does it feel being dragged to the movie business by your own dad? And the other one goes to Patricia Arquette, how would you describe the relationship to your film children today?
Lorelei Linklater: Well, I wouldn’t use the word “dragged.” I was very, very interested in acting as a little. It was more of a favor.
Richard Linklater: What 8-9-year-old girl isn’t […]singing, dancing? You were very extroverted. At some point Lorelei decided she was a visual artist, a painter, a sculptor.
Lorelei Linklater: But it’s not a negative thing. It’s good. I feel very lucky to have been part of this project.
Patricia Arquette: What I felt about these kids now. I’ve felt really blown away by both of them. They were sweet, and kinda magical kids to begin with, like Rick could cast. Even though Lorelei was his daughter, she was also magical. That little language she makes, that’s her own, she had invented her own language. And so Rick incorporated that. And Ellar was daydreamy and poetic, and spacing out, and beautiful, and staring at things, and his own thing. But they grew up to really be these unique adults who have incredible values—moral, artistic interpretations of the world. And are incredible human beings, and personal ethics. And I’ve felt really blown away by them as artists, as human beings. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from them, their purity, and I will I could be as incredible as they both are.
Journalist: […] What was the special message on […] the presidential election in 2008 [and the social background]?
Richard Linklater: […] I knew the social background, whatever was going on politically, I tried to capture how you remembered it as a kid. Like, when I was a kid, I remember the presidential elections. I remember big things in the culture. But really, you are so absorbed in your own world, what’s in front of you. I remember putting some thought into “oh, a kid would definitely remember the Obama election, for instance, especially the ’08. You know, so it was an idea to have them out campaigning.
There’s moments throughout there, with the war in the background of your life, mentions of September 11, just a little bit of that. Just enough. And some of the bigger thoughts, kinda seen through the parents. You pick up on your parents’ politics. I was just trying to mirror that. I don’t think the film has any one specific message other than, you know, 12 years go by, time, we all get 12 years older.
Patricia Arquette: But I do think the middle class does often kinda shoulder the burden of the political establishment’s choices. This struggle is hard, and I remember at certain points we would talk, “yeah, remember those gas lines, Jimmy Carter, Iran, hostage crisis. These things were filtering through as a kid, and you were worried, but your parents were worried. Bouncing checks was a big thing when I was a kid, I remember. […]
Richard Linklater: So it was really more of the struggle, the working class, the struggle of single parenting, and all that.
Journalist: […] Could you please tell us about this whole process of financing?
Cathleen Sutherland: Well, ok, we had a small budget, and we have a really fantastic crew in Austin, Texas. And I have to say that with Rick being the director people were willing to commit to it, to give their time away a little bit more easily, and we had a lot of crew that stuck with the project. […] We had over 450 crew post-production people over the course of 12 years. […] You don’t really get that on a film. This was a sort of a unique process and how we did it.
Also, Rick is a really unique director and working with him, I mean, I really enjoyed working alongside him because he is a really great collaborator. He really collaborates with the cast, collaborates with the crew, the process at least in this element was very organic. If there were times when I was as a producer, “well, we can’t really do that, we don’t have the money to do that,” Rick was on board with it. There was an organic flow as to how everything went.
Richard Linklater: Everything about this movie was just different. You know, just very independent, low-budget film. But it was kinda epic. We had 143 scenes we shot and ultimately 39 days with a huge crew for a small film. Everything about it was just unlike everything I’ve ever experienced. No other way to put it really.
Boyhood: An Epic About Minutiae
Journalist [translation from German]: To me the message was that you should enjoy life as it comes because life consists of steps like going to school, going to work, going to sleep, eating, drinking, and all the other things that happen on a daily basis. And very often when you ask people, “how are you,” they say, “I am kind of bored, everything is kind of the same, life is so uniform,” but that is life. And I really think you touched on something important there.[…] Was that your conscious intention to bring across that message? And the second question, the film was a low-budget film. Wouldn’t it also have worked without the 12-year concept, and didn’t that make it more expensive?
Richard Linklater: Thank you about your observation about the small moments in life. ‘Cuz that’s really the last line in the movie that Ellar says. It’s funny, but it’s true that it’s always right now. That’s kind of a message we all go through struggling in our lives. And I remember being a young person, everything you get from the culture and parents, it’s really about the future. No one really says, I mean, childhood is to be enjoyed, but you are being groomed for something else that you don’t even know what it is.
Just your future. Being who you should be at some future moment. So, I remember that kinda thing, well, this is life right now. At some point you are supposed to start living your life and not just…It’s an interesting process, just being alive and being conscious of it is kind of an ongoing lifetime struggle, you could say. And that is The issue, maybe.
And your question about…, there’s nothing that would have been different if the budget was bigger. It was the right budget and the right working methodology to make this movie. If the studio would have given us more money, it would be more or less the same movie. […] There’s so much put in preparation. Usually, you prep a movie and then you shoot the movie. Well, every year, we had to prep for weeks like it was a big movie, and yet it, we were just shooting for three days or so. So you have to cast, you have to do location, you’ve got to get permits, all that stuff.
So we did all that 12 times instead of once. Casting, editing, so ultimately we spent about two years in pre-production and two years in post-production for this movie. I’d say I averaged several months a year on it. So, more that what you would spend on a usual indie. But, like you said earlier, we were doing other things too. I was lucky to get other films made during this time period and you know, everybody was busy with other things. So, it was working this into our lives.
Patricia Arquette: I just wanna say that, you know, Rick was always clear about his vision, about making it happen, and calmly making it happen. Bringing everyone’s schedule together. He was really masterminding this, and with a very calm focus on what it was gonna be and putting in all that time, months and months of time. There’s no way you could be financially repaid for that.
Journalist: You said everything was scripted and rehearsed. But I [remember] a sentence from Ethan Hawke, saying “we all improvised.” So how much improvising was there in the script and how much were the actors able to bring their thoughts into the script? For instance, did you respond to their personal interest, for instance, the whole photographic thing, is Ellar really fond of photos or does he actually hate [taking] photos?
Ellar Coltrane: I started taking pictures before Mason did.
Patricia Arquette: You’d better tell them about your website so that they could buy some pictures ‘cuz they’re really good.
Richard Linklater: Yeah, I was wondering what art form Ellar would pick. His father is a musician, so I would’ve predicted at age 6 or 7 that he would have ended up a musician, but he’s more of a visual artist, you know, he’s doing photography and other art work. So I was going to incorporate everyone’s life to whatever degree. I always worked like that, though, I mean, there’s ideas, but we would often, just the night before, take just the structure of a scene or what we were hoping to accomplish, and work up the exact dialogue. Sometimes, it’s not the script, it’s the ideas really than it is the exact dialogue. If it just needed to be kind of real, you can work that up. Sometimes rather quickly. So it was scripted. We weren’t turning on a camera and just seeing what happened, I’ve never done that. But it was very collaborative.
Ethan would come up with a lot of ideas, and you know, we would work on it over the year. I would tell Ellar, you know, “next year you are going to have a scene with this girl you have a crush on, you are meeting her in,” so we knew that was coming up. So I told him to write down every conversation he had, “so at the end of the night, write down what you were actually saying.” ‘Cuz the goal was to have an authentic dialogue. It’s not some old person remembering what teenagers talk like, but kinda closer to what they’re really talking like. That’s what I’m going for anyway. And the best way to do that is through the actors themselves and to work that into the process. So it was like that the whole time.
We were collaborating when they were very young too, and it just got more and more involved as they matured. […] It would only work or feel authentic if it felt like it came from the actors themselves. That was the goal.
Journalist: When you looked at the material, did you realize some changes in your directorial style, or maybe also during filming. Did you have sometimes regrets because you were not able to reshoot scenes because your actors grew older?
Richard Linklater: We didn’t have the luxury of doing any reshoots ever, but we did loop lines for the dialogue. […] But as far as my own maturity, I kinda set the visual tone the first year and tried to stick to it, but that was pretty easy ‘cuz I haven’t really developed much as a filmmaker, I feel kinda the same, I’m sorta stuck with myself. […]
The luxury of editing, it’s just been 12 years of editing, I mean, I am not gonna get that again. So I was going back to the early episodes. We would shoot, edit, and then attach it to everything before, watch everything, edit that, attach the next year, watch it all, edit the whole thing again. By the time we got to the end, […] we shot the last bit just in October. So we just put that, and then edited the whole thing. But I was still making changes out of year two, I think. There’s very little that got cut out completely.
It’s pretty much as we worked it. But I never regretted it, I never said, “Oh, I wish I could reshoot something.” You have to be very accepting of what it is. It’s kinda like how we are in our lives, you know. We are very accepting of ourselves, hopefully, and what’s around us. You just work with the reality in front of you. You just gotta work really hard at that moment to try to make it work the way you want to. It was a continual challenge, but it was a lot of fun.