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The logistical mind behind "Boyhood’s" 12-year shoot

Kai Ryssdal, Tommy Andres, and Jenny Ament Feb 18, 2015
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There are countless names that appear in white print on a black background at the end of films. People who toiled away in roles many of us don’t know but who contribute greatly to the final product.

Vince Palmo’s name may never be engraved on an Oscar, but he had arguably the most difficult job on the set of “Boyhood,” the Richard Linklater film nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. As first assistant director, Palmo was in charge of logistics — no small feat for a 12-year shoot.

So what exactly does an assistant director do? 

“I try to make sure everything is in place so that on the day all the director has to say is ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ says Palmo. “We’re the first line of support for the director. We interact with every department. As soon as camera is ready the actors are ready, the background is ready, any special effects would be ready if necessary, so the director has to do as little as possible.”

The assistant director is a somewhat thankless job, but it wasn’t always that way. Back in the 1930s, the Academy actually created an Oscar for assistant directors and awarded them for five years.

Palmo didn’t know that, but he says he’s not leading the charge to bring it back.

“That could be the part of the ceremony where people decide to go to the kitchen,” Palmo says. “When they talk about the glamour of movie-making, I don’t know if people associate it with that.”

Palmo is also a screenwriter who penned the screenplay for the 2008 film “Me and Orson Welles,” also directed by Richard Linklater. Palmo says he does hope to direct a film himself one day, but he knows it won’t come easy.

“Man, it’s a big leap,” he says. “It’s like a nurse saying he or she would like to be a doctor. It’s a big step.”

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