Directors Who Matter Michael Bay (

Date: Sunday, December 18, 2005

Age: 40

Most Recent Film: The Island

Best Film: Pearl Harbor

Most Underrated Film: The Rock

Did You Know: Won the Gold Lion for The Best Beer Campaign (Miller Lite) at Cannes.

Why He Matters: With James Cameron busy with his documentaries and enjoying all the money he made off of Titanic, Michael Bay is now the go-to-guy for big summer event movies.

"I shoot a lot of film," admits Bay. "Most directors get 20 set-ups a day. A lot of times I'll get 70. I also do a lot of improv, and I'll add funny stuff that wasn't in the script and add action all over the place. I make shit up. Every single movie, some of the stuff I made up is some of the stuff people remember the best, and it comes from working with the actors when you start building characters."

The Island was a bit of departure for Bay in that it had more science-fiction overtones than his previous action flicks Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon. It was also a movie that had a lot to say about current society focusing on two clones (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson) who realize their reason for existing is to simply be harvested for their body parts for their non-clone human counterparts. Naturally, they escape and go on the run where things crash and blow-up in an impressive widescreen spectacle.

"It's a big movie," says Bay. "There's a scope here. It has sci-fi elements, but it also has some unsettling parts about it. And on a human level, it's creepy. You see the birth of these adult-sized clones. It makes you feel sad, as well. And visually, it's really cool."

Technology has changed drastically since Bay first started out. He's shocked that movies can now be made with video cameras and edited on laptops for a fraction of the money it used to cost film students when they had to beg, borrow and steal Super 8 and 16mm equipment.

"It's amazing what you have access to as a film student now," says Bay. "If I had the tools to cut on an Apple instead of working night jobs to be able to rent a moviola -- just think having it on a tiny little computer and how much it frees you up. You used to be a prisoner as a film student getting those tools, and now you actually make something on a little video camera and you can make it damn good."

While technology has been a boon to the industry, Bay still admits he likes doing many things the old-fashioned way. He's still a big proponent of shooting on film, and he also likes to shoot as many elements practical and on-set, enhancing them later, as opposed to creating everything completely in the computer.

"I think you can never underestimate reality," says Bay. "I like supplementing reality and adding to it. The amazing thing about Pearl Harbor most of that is real and then there's stuff that is added -- and lot of people think it was the other way around. On The Island, we (had) 200 effects shots. So my motto as a director is to show big bang shots and spend more money on that, rather than doing a bunch of dinky little ones."

Getting his start as a commercial and music video director, Bay's first inkling that he might want to be a director goes back to when he was a kid working at Lucasfilm and archiving the storyboards on such little films as Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

"I remember filing every storyboard on Raiders and told all my 15-year-old friends that Spielberg is making this movie and that it's going to suck," says Bay. "And I had read it like a comic book, the entire movie, and I vividly remember going to Grauman's Chinese [Theater] and seeing it and going, 'Oh my God, I want to do this.' That's about as vivid as it gets for me."

"As a kid, these guys were my heroes, and now Spielberg talks to me and comes to my office it's weird," admits Bay. Even better, Spielberg plans on producing Bay's next film, Transformers, next year.

"It's the first movie he's produced in ten years," concludes Bay. "He asked me to do it. He said, "I want to be your Jerry Bruckheimer'."