Like the Movie, This 'Boyhood' Book was 12 Years in the Making

Oct 23, 2014

Richard Linklater’s "Boyhood" is unlike any other film. Over the course of 12 years, the cast and crew gathered to create the critically acclaimed coming-of age-story chronicling the journey of a young boy, played by Ellar Coltrane, from childhood to adulthood. And over the course of those 12 years, photographer Matt Lankes worked behind the scenes, shooting moments the making of "Boyhood" and the transformation of its characters. 

Lankes captures those moments from the film’s production in his new book, "Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film." He tells the story of the creation of the movie through stills from the film, behind-the-scenes shots, and intimate black and white portraits of the cast during each year of filming.

Matt Lankes hooks 'em at the KUT studios.
Credit Emily Donahue/KUT

Lankes will appear on a panel discussing the book with director Linklater, actor Coltrane and producer Cathleen Sutherland this Sunday at the Texas Book Festival. He spoke with Texas Standard’s Emily Donahue in advance of the festival this weekend, and his appearance at Art Alliance Austin’s Pecha Kucha night Thursday at the Long Center.

Although he was originally hired to shoot stills for the film, as the project progressed, Lankes became more interested in making a photo book. He decided to begin taking portraits of the cast from year to year. The portraits are presented in series of each character, in chronological order. Accompanying the portrait series are essays by the cast, an idea suggested by actor Ethan Hawke.

“In fact, Ethan, early on, said we needed to do a photo book,” Lankes said. “I had already been thinking about that in my head, and he said, ‘I want to do the introduction to it.’ So that’s what turned into the essays being written that you see in the photo book next to the portrait of the character.”

Director Richard Linklater
Credit Matt Lankes / University of Texas Press

The book, like the movie it chronicles, is a dramatic illustration of the passing of time. Lankes said his photos are particularly effective at conveying the transformation of the characters and making a lasting impression.

“I just had lunch with Ellar yesterday to give him a copy of the book, and I could see when he saw it, it was very powerful to him,” Lankes said. “When you see things in still, as opposed to on the big screen in motion, it rests with you a lot more powerfully. It stays with you.”

Like those images that he hopes will stay with readers, working on the set of "Boyhood" has stayed with Lankes. He said it’s hard for him to say that working on the film is over, but the experience has influenced, in some ways, how he thinks about photography.

“I had already started shooting black and white portraits before I started that project, but the idea of documenting has definitely played more in my head lately. I like the idea of capturing things over and over and having this running encapsulation of time.”

Lankes hopes his book will give fans of the film an opportunity to relive the film and experience "Boyhood" in a new way.

Patricia Arquette's "Boyhood" progression.
Credit Matt Lankes / University of Texas Press

“I think this compliments the film,” he said. “You’re going to actually see a lot of different things that were done behind the scenes that you wouldn’t know of, a lot of the crazy moments that go on. And then get you’ll get a little glimpse into the characters that you only see for a small moment on screen. You get to linger on their portrait a little longer.”

Matt Lankes will appear Sunday at the Texas Book Festival at 3:30 p.m. in the House Chamber.