BFD: How do you spend opening night?
Bay: I always go to Mr. Chow’s for dinner with my producers, studio and marketing execs, my agents and lawyers. We get our first numbers there and then we hit the theaters. You’ve got to go there. And hope you see happy, smiling faces walking out. Last night, I tried to sneak in the side, but somebody noticed me and then they’re lining up for pictures. At the Arclight, somebody yelled “speech!” and I found myself talking to 900 people.
BFD: So you deferred on “Transformers” and the sequel, and the L. A. Times predicts you might make more than any director on a movie. How do you feel about these deals, which are becoming the new economics of Hollywood moviemaking?
Bay: Okay. I run my sets and my pictures tight and we came in $4 million under budget. There is so much waste in this business, directors who have big shows like this one, who keep a second unit for the entire time. We were able to make this for $194 million, instead of the $230-270 million that the average sequel of this nature seems to cost. I work with one of the best crews in the world, we work efficient 12-hour days. We don’t build $3 million sets and then the director walks in and says, “Fuck it, I’m not going to use that set.” The stories I hear from my crew members, of waste on other pictures, of directors shooting a six- or eight-hour day, it’s just staggering. Some directors will look a studio executive in the eye and say, “Sure I’ll come in at this budget,” and then they behave like terrorists. By then, you’re committed and screwed. The thing that “Pearl Harbor” taught me was you’ve got to become a partner with the studio and deferring makes you more invested in that. I think it’s important and I think you need to be honest with your partner.
BFD: Days before the release of your film, Paramount restructured its film group. How did that impact you and what does it mean going forward on the next film?
Bay: It doesn’t affect anything, really. Paramount has literally said, “Here’s your budget, see you later.” It’s staggering, really, but they trust me to come in on budget. I don’t ask for money when I’m shooting and stay on course. I’ve never even given them dailies. I’d assemble real rough cut scenes, sizzle reels, cut to music, so they can enjoy it and get what the movie is.
BFD: Considering your development on this movie was interrupted by the writer’s strike and you risked being shut down any moment by shooting after the expiration of the SAG contract, what was the hardest thing about making “Transformers: The Fallen?”
Bay: That could have been the hardest thing. With an impending strike, we had 12 pages of a treatment. I worked very closely with the writers, great collaborators, who suddenly went on strike. I said, “We’re going to start prepping this movie at full force, scout places I think are going to be in this movie and try and put this together as best we could.” There might be an actor’s strike, but I told the studio we’re going to shoot this on June 2, come hell or high water. We took a gamble that the writers would come back from the strike in time and we just made it. At one point, we were the only movie shooting in the country. But I had to gamble. I have a loyal crew and my job gives 2,000 to 2,500 people jobs. It was scary because so many people were out of work and you hear your crew say, “Wow, I might have to move out of my house.” You feel responsible.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Above the Line's Bay Interview
Variety's Above the Line blog (found via MB.com) interviews Transformers 2 director Michael Bay about making blockbusters, piracy and working with studios. Snippets below, full interview here.