IFC Films Boss: 'Boyhood' Became "Almost the Blueprint" for 'Mad Men,' 'Breaking Bad'

Jonathan Sehring touts the film's "spectacular" return on investment and says Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux made a mistake by not selecting it.

Despite signing off on a project that wouldn’t see any return on investment for well over a decade, IFC president Jonathan Sehring said Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-development Boyhood never felt like a “crazy” idea.

“Rick’s lawyer structured a deal to make it something that over 12 years wasn’t daunting for anybody,” he said, adding that in annual meetings at IFC’s parent company, AMC Networks, it would be simply mentioned as “the 12-year Richard Linklater project, let’s move on.”

Speaking at the Creative Summit, part of Creative Week, being held at BAFTA’s headquarters in London, Sehring said that each year’s shoot – which usually took place over two or three days during a two-week session – was budgeted at around $200,000. “Sometimes this would go up to $210,000 or $220,000.”

The terms of the deal meant that IFC had an option each year to pull out, leaving Linklater to find other backers. “But we never wanted to do that,” he said.

Sehring also pointed out that even while it was in production, Boyhood would come to be considered “almost the blueprint” for AMC’s long-form TV shows, such as Mad Men and later Breaking Bad.

“We didn’t really talk about it, but it did take on this mythological [status], especially for film geeks," he said.

However, the film didn’t prove an immediate success on completion. It was Sehring’s dream to take the film to Cannes, but festival director Thierry Fremaux turned it down. "Normally he’s right, but this one he got wrong," Sehring told the London crowd.

And screenings for other distributors – part of the arrangement that would have allowed the film to find a bigger deal if one was offered – fell flat, with many saying it was “nice, but too small,” according to Sehring. “A lot of people didn’t like it at all.”

Eventually, it was “sneaked” into Sundance, but not in the official selection. The film then went to the Berlin Film Festival, where Linklater won 2014’s Silver Bear for best director, sparking a frenzy of buzz that continued until the Oscars.

But he said it’s not just the box office, which neared an astonishing $45 million globally off a budget of around $4 million, that makes the film such a golden egg for IFC and Sehring himself, who Linklater insisted should be given a producer credit (he's normally down as executive producer).

Boyhood is just something really special," he said. "The return on investment was spectacular, but for many other reasons it shined a light on what we do.”