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Behind The Scenes | Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film

Behind the scenes with photographer Matt Lankes

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For years (11 in fact), photographer Matt Lankes would mention to friends that he was working on set shooting behind the scenes images for the then named “Untitled 12 year project,” a new film by Richard Linklater. He had been the on set photographer on Linklater’s Fast Food Nation, so most people would just kind of nod their heads. “After Boyhood came out, everyone would say why didn’t you tell us you were working on this epic project for over a decade,” Lankes, a native Austinite, says with a laugh. “And I tell my friends...I did tell you. I told everyone, but no one cared!”

Lankes joined the crew for the second year of filming when his sister and creative collaborator, Cathleen Sutherland became a producer on the film. He started with getting behind the scenes footage and was excited by the opportunity to take a portrait of the four main actors (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Lorelei Linklater) each year around the same time for the next 11 years. “It was really neat to see them grow and change—their hair styles, pimples would come and go, all those things,” he says.

The cast and crew would gather every year for 3-5 days of filming around Austin. It wasn’t until year 10 during Lankes’ portrait session with Ethan Hawke and the actor said that he wanted to write the intro to Lankes’ photo book that the idea for a Boyhood book started to take shape. “I had not even said it out loud yet,” Lankes says. “But I knew if Ethan was behind it, that it was going to happen!”

Armed with his 4x5 camera, Lankes took over 18,000 images throughout filming and narrowed the beautiful body of work down to 200 images for the striking coffee table book, Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film. Thoughtful essays by Linklater, the four main actors, Lankes and Sutherland are spaced out throughout the book along with other behind the scenes images of supporting actors, cast and crew.

"Throughout filming, I didn't see any footage, so I had no idea how it would be edited and how it would come together. The first time I saw the film at the cast and crew screening, I was blown away," Lankes says. "I have seen it six times, and now I can let go of all my thoughts about what was happening off camera here and there and just focus on the movie, and wow, it's really powerful."

Lankes shared a particularly special connection with the subject of the film, Coltrane, who was always interested in photography. The two started meeting up for photo sessions where they would walk along South Congress or other Austin spots together with their cameras shooting whatever caught their eyes. The darkroom scene in the movie was shot at Austin High, where Lankes spent time as a student there back in the 90s (his father was a staff photographer at the Austin American Statesman). Lankes and Coltrane have agreed to continue to meet up every year to continue portrait sessions of Coltrane (they shot the year 13 portrait in May). "It's been really strange this time of year because this is when we were usually filming," Lankes says. "It's been like missing my family, but I know the bond we all have over working on this project will never fade."

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