In my opinion, Richard Linklater is a “Big C” creative. His most recent film, “Boyhood,” is destined to change the world of cinematography forever. Not only has Linklater created a touching coming-of-age story, he has also created an entirely new way to conceptualize the art of cinema.
All movies must address the passing of time at least indirectly: time passes as the characters live out the film, as the actors shoot the film, and as the audience watches the film. Most directors rely on their audiences to suspend their disbelief by either ignoring the fact that time has passed or accepting the use of different characters to portray vast gaps in time. However, Linklater brings the issue of time passing to the forefront by making it a key feature of his film. To do so, he filmed “Boyhood” over a 12 year period. He began filming back in 2002 when his leading actor, Ellar Coltrane, was only seven years old. By shooting a few days each year until Coltrane reached age 18, Linklater authentically captured the life of an American youth from childhood to high school graduation. This is a feat that had never been done before.
Linklater creates this extreme realism by seeking out actors he deems authentic and natural, even if they are not professionals, instead of just casting “big name” actors. He draws on real life experiences as inspiration for his films--such as his parents’ divorce which provides the model for Mason’s parents--and in doing so captures emotions that aren’t staged or forced--they’re real. He relies largely on his instincts to produce such authenticity, but also cites endless rehearsals as a key to his success. He also uses music to mark both authenticity and the passage of time--he uses the progression of music--from early 2000’s pop to more recent hits--to serve as a timeline.
The groundbreaking element of the film--the fact that it was filmed over a span of 12 years--came to Linklater in a way very similar to the description of “insight” provided by Jason van Steenburgh, Jessica I. Fleck, Mark Beeman, and John Kounios. Just as these thinkers define insight as a kind of “A-ha! moment” that results in a new interpretation and solution to an ongoing problem, Linklater similarly reported the idea coming to him all at once. He had been trying to figure out how to make a film on growing up in a non-cliché way for a long time before the new idea sprang into his head.
Van Steenburgh, Fleck, Beeman, Kounios, "Insight."