In case you haven’t heard, Boyhood is a coming-of-age film that is attracting a lot of awards buzz. The movie follows a boy named Mason, and his older sister, Samantha, as they navigate childhood–and later on, young adulthood. Both the story and filming spanned a whopping twelve years (from May 2002 until October 2013) allowing the audience to see the actors literally grow up before their eyes. This stands out as a highly unusual film practice as contracts that span so long are typically seen in television. The lead actor, Ellar Coltrane, discusses his experience of essentially watching a cinematic scrapbook of his physical appearance on screen.

Coltrane, now twenty years old, started filming at the age of seven. He explains that he not only “had a large part of crafting the character” but was “very aware of what the character was going through.” While previously having trouble watching himself go through the awkward stages of growing up in such a public way, he states that he has now gotten used to it. He called the aging process “brutal but beautiful.”

Since people cannot be contracted for longer than seven years, the cast was not under contract as they filmed. Coltrane praises director Richard Linklater for his direction and cites him for the film’s natural vibe. “[Linklater] has an amazing way of making you feel at home and directing you without you really knowing you’re being directed,” Coltrane shared. Boyhood is the not Linklater’s first outstanding feature spotlighting the same actors over the course of years. His romantic drama Before trilogy, which includes Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, showcased 14 years in the life of two characters played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

Overall, Coltrane has nothing but positive words to express about his Boyhood experience. “It’s incredible to have this portrait of myself changing because that’s something that’s hard to see. It’s hard to see how you’ve really changed or how you haven’t changed.”

Boyhood was released on August 15th for wide release. If a reputable director approached you for a multi-year film project with no contract, would you seize the opportunity or run the other way?