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Michael Bay’s Essential Rules Of Filmmaking

By 06.27.14
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Halloween Party At The Mondrian Hotel

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YO. Michael Bay here. Now, I know what you’re thinking: what is Michael Bay doing here guest blogging? Shouldn’t he be off doing something super awesome, like filming Victoria’s Secret models polishing his weekend jet? Frankly, I wondered the same thing. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be hunting lepers on my yacht, or maybe it was leopards. Or now that I think about it, maybe it was hunting lepers with my leopards. To be honest, I can’t understand a damn word my assistant says since she got her latest round of collagen injections. Schedule’s a mess. Point is, I’m here, and we’re just hours away from the release of Transformers: Age Of Extinction, so I might as well talk about the subject on everyone’s minds: Me.

I’ve been in this business a long time and it’s given me a lot – an Olympic sized jacuzzi, a dozen skysurfing boards, Satriana or whatever her name is over there – and now I think it’s time I give back. Share some of what I’ve learned since cutting my teeth on milk commercials and Meatloaf videos. Figured this was easier than building dogloos for third world losers or whatever, and I can do it without getting dirt on my Jordans. Huge. Anyway, following these tips might not make you the filmmaker I am, but it may give you the sensation of having huge balls, if only for a few minutes.

1. Style. Style. Style.

If you take one thing from this piece, let it be what I told that pipsqueak reporter for GQ: I don’t change my style for anyone. Pussies do that. When people leave a Michael Bay film, they may not understand the story, or know what it was about, or remember anything about it, but they sure as shit know that Michael Bay made it. That’s how you get your name above the marquee, or spelled out in cocaine on the hood of a Lamborghini.

2. Be The Decider

I have a thing I like to call the two-second rule: If it can’t be communicated in two seconds, it’s not worth saying. I got my start making commercials, where if people aren’t hooked immediately, they’re flipping channels. That’s why you have to know what kind of thing you’re making in every second of every shot. You think an audience is going to think for themselves? WRONG. You’re the one with the camera, you do the thinking for them. That goes true whether the message is BUY THIS SOAP or THIS ROBOT’S AWESOME. Everything’s gotta have a message. More meaningful that way.

3. Sluts Or Clowns? The Eternal Question.

Once you’re the decider, one of the main things you have to decide is whether a character is a slut or a clown. One of the things they don’t teach you in film school is that everyone in the world is either a slut or a clown. The big buff guy doing curls, his daughter played by a South American pop star, the Victoria’s Secret models doing crotch lifts in the background while the robots are punching – those are the sluts. Thing about sluts is, you can never have too many of them. If there aren’t enough sluts in the movie, guess what, write them in. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Script calls for a gun fight at a pizza place? Guess what, maybe it takes place at a high school girls’ pool party instead. Does the script have a super serious scientist guy in it? Put some glasses on a European porn star and BOOM, now it’s a super serious slutty scientist with huge cans. In fact, that makes it even better, it’s important to have a variety of sluts in your movie. Shows versatility.

Of course, the characters can’t all be sluts, because you have to have conflict. Without conflict, it’s just one long bikini pool party and I already shot that for a Kraft singles commercial. For me the ultimate conflict is between sluts and all the clowns they have to share the planet with. No reason to get down about it, moping is for suckers. The upside is, clowns make great comic relief. Maybe they’re too fat, or too hairy, or their short clown feet don’t reach the floor when they’re riding a jet ski or when The Rock is holding them by their neck for fun. That’s funny! Don’t be afraid to get really comedic with it. Another thing that’s always funny is a clown that’s horny for a slut. Maybe the hotel paying you to shoot there has a maid who no speaka English but who sees Will Smith and has to have a piece. Maybe there’s a gaywad that loves The Rock, or a horny midget robot who wants to hump Megan Fox – the possibilities are endless. Midgets, fatties, homos, nerds, Mexicans – the world is my crapestry.

4. Planes. Love ‘Em.

If you’ve watched my movies, you’ve probably noticed that I try to put a plane flying overhead in the beginning of all them, regardless of what they’re about. Nothing grounds a story like a plane flying over head. It’s a metaphor, stupid. Anyway, when I’m not shooting planes, I like to be shooting from planes. Like I said, style is everything. So you gotta ask yourself, what’s more important in this story? The characters, or the Samson-maned Adonis circling overhead shooting them from an Apache? It also makes a great contract rider. You know how Van Halen demanded a highball glass full of brown M&Ms or else they wouldn’t go onstage, just to make sure the promoter was paying attention? It’s the same with me – no chopper, no movie. Also, I don’t shoot without Cherry Starburst. Fact.

5. You Can Never Have Enough Flags

The cool thing about America is that the American flag is a badass. Shoot that sucker from a low angle, spinning around it with teal and orange filters and it looks almost as pretty as a slut. Another great thing is that everything can be a metaphor for America. EVERYTHING. Bodybuilding thugs? America. Black cops in sweet rides? America. Island prison? America. Shape-shifting robots? America. Asteroids? America. America? America. Making stuff look great gets butts in the seats, but it’s that subtext shit that keeps them there.

6. All Minor Characters Have One Obsession

Every person in the world has one thing about them that makes them memorable. It’s boring if a minor character is just a “cop” or a “urologist.” People remember my movies because I treat minor characters the way I treat nicknaming my assistants. Chubs. Tongue Stud. Star Wars. Stryper Guy. Pube Face. Don’t overthink things, just take a look at someone and immediately classify them. Remember: two-second rule.

7. Everything Is Cocks

Like I said, everything is a metaphor for America. But a leitmotif also helps, and I find one that’s really helpful is dicks going into stuff. Car crashing into building? Cock. Sword stabbing a robot? Cock. Giant drill drilling into an asteroid? Cock (wasn’t even very subtle with that one, was I). You gotta get people hooked, and what do people like more than sex? Nothing. Think of every scene as a porno.

8. The Camera Is A Shark

This nerd assistant I had for a few weeks one time told that sharks die if they stop swimming or something. The camera is like that. It should always be moving. Just pretend it’s a shark, paint teeth on your lenses like a WWII fighter if you have to. Tracking, spinning, tilting, craning, flying overhead in a decommissioned Warthog – as soon as the camera stops moving, people fall asleep. For my next film I’m thinking of hiring a juggler and having him just juggle three IMAX cameras while the sluts are dancing or whatever and then I’ll just cut real fast between the three. Kinetic! Excitement! Wouldn’t that be awesome? Whoa, I just had a vision of a guy juggling sharks and split the front of my Under Armor All-Weather Track Pants.

9. Catch Phrases.

Like I said, you don’t want these toads thinking for themselves. But if you just borrow the way they talk, it’ll make them feel like they’re participating. “I’m in Miami, bitch.” “The needs of the many outweigh the few.” “My bologna has a first name.” Just grab them from wherever – rap songs, Star Trek, 30-year-old commercials – and sprinkle them liberally throughout the script. Nothing makes toads feel like they’re involved in your world like speaking to them in their own croaks and ribbits. That I’ve always been a populist filmmaker is one of the keys to my success.

Okay, people, that’s all the time I’ve got for now. Remember what we’ve learned here today – clowns, sluts, sharks, catch phrase, porno, flags, two-second rule, and above all, don’t be a pussy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment to get to. Getting my scrotum ironed, it’s the hot new thing. Heard about it from Clooney. Bay out.

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