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Oscars 2015: After years editing 'Boyhood,' Sandra Adair cried as small moments came together

Sandra Adair, editor of
Sandra Adair, editor of "Boyhood," in her cutting room
Courtesy of IFC Films

When people comment on the fact that "Boyhood" was shot over the course of 12 years, they seem to gravitate towards the visible aging of the actors on-screen. But there were people working behind the scenes that whole time, slowly turning bits of footage into one of 2014's best movies.

One of the key people behind the scenes on "Boyhood" was Sandra Adair. She's edited over 20 of Richard Linklater's projects, and her work on Linklater's most recent movie has earned her an Academy Award nomination for editing, as well as the American Cinema Editors' Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film.

When we talked to Adair recently, we asked her about the unique advantages of editing a movie over 12 years, working on other movies while still working on "Boyhood" and the moment when she knew that "Boyhood" was something special.

Interview Highlights:

So what was the editing process for "Boyhood" like?

Rick would shoot for three or four days each year, and then I would come in and edit for three to five weeks, every single year. And there were certain years where I was editing another movie, so I would have to wait a few weeks or months until I wrapped whatever movie I was working on, and then I would jump over and do my month on "Boyhood."

But for every year that he shot, I did an editing stint. And then when we finally got to year 12, I had a more extended time for post-production. I think I worked on and off over six months in that final year.

It seems like that has a specific advantage for an editor, in that you can revise your work from years before while seeing it with somewhat fresh eyes. So when you're cutting year five, are you also taking stock of the work from the years before that?

Yes, definitely. We combined all the years that we had edited together and we were able to look at it, think about it, talk about it and put it away. We developed some patience about the whole post-production of the movie, and seeing the years combined every year would allow food for thought for the following year.

In terms of revising the earlier years, yes, I would have allowed myself the distance to come back to it and say, "This one part's bugging me, it bugged me last year and the year before, and I think it's time to really look at it to see if I can refine it, take it out or move it." 

I bet that when you're cutting a film that's not any good, you kind of know it. But did you know that "Boyhood" was extraordinary and different while you were cutting it?

I started to get the inkling that it was very special around year five or year six, when Rick and I sat down and watched our short assembly of half the movie. I was moved to tears in two different places in the first five or six years of the film, and this was just screening it for ourselves in the cutting room.

That's when I started to really get a sense of how all these little moments, that I'd been working on for so many years and that seemed so simple and so human, would come together. But seeing their cumulative effect really struck me hard. So I did begin to wonder, "What is this going to be like when we have 12 years like this?"

And it did slowly reveal itself, but I don't think I really had a sense of how it was going to resonate so well with people who see it. People are really moved by the film and it still blows my mind that we made this movie that people really, really relate to.

And here's something extra — Sandra recounts the first time she met Richard Linklater, and explains why they make such a good team:

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