‘How Do You Measure a Year?’ chronicles a daughter growing up from ages 2 to 18

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Marcelle Hutchins​

For 17 years, Jay Rosenblatt filmed his daughter on her birthday and asked her a series of questions, turning that footage into a short film called “How Do You Measure A Year?” Credit: YouTube.

Every year on his daughter Ella’s birthday, filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt got out his video camera and recorded her answering questions, keeping himself mainly off camera. He began filming when she was 2 and ended on her 18th birthday. The clips have been turned into an Oscar-nominated short documentary called “How Do You Measure A Year?” It shows someone growing up in the space of 30 minutes, and is a window into the intimate moments between a parent a child and their love for each other. 

“The questions, the ones that were constant were — I asked her what she thought the word power meant. I asked her what her favorite moments from the past year were, what were some of the less favored moments,” says Rosenblatt. “When she was really young, I would ask her what's her favorite food? What did she like to do the most? What's the most important thing to her? And then as she got a little older, I would add a few more questions that I felt were more age-appropriate, like if she was speaking to her 25-year-old self, what would she say?”

He points out that she went through dramatic changes each year up until age 15. On her 14th birthday, she said the most important thing was to be happy, but she was working on being happy. 

Then in their recording on year 18, she said, “I'm really glad you do these kinds of things, these traditions, it makes me really happy, and just reminds me how much you love me. But I don't really need reminder because you show it a lot in everything that you do for me.”

Rosenblatt says he didn’t expect to get so choked up when he watched that moment. “It was really a gift she gave me.”

He notes that parents have a particularly special reaction when watching the film, and his daughter was embarrassed by a few moments but overall feels good about it. She’ll also attend this year’s Oscars ceremony with him.



  • Jay Rosenblatt - artist and filmmaker, “How Do You Measure A Year?”