Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
We’ve already run through all the new story details and character information from Transformers: The Last Knight in the first part of our report from our visit to the sequel’s set last summer. But that doesn’t convey just what it’s like to be on the set of a movie directed by Michael Bay. The man is known for getting worked up on set and working fast and frenetically, and he demands the best out of his cast and crew, so much that it even sparks them to become more innovative to satisfy his work speed. This is truly something to behold when it’s all happening in front of you. As one of the crew members said, “It’s the Super Bowl every day.”
In the second part of our Transformers The Last Knight set visit report, we discuss what it’s like to watch Michael Bay at work, complete with insight from his crew members that are always kept on their toes while completing 90 setups a day, and some details on the huge action sequences we’re going to see play out in theaters next summer, including some with flares of Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.
It’s August 5th, 2016, a sweltering day up in Pontiac, Michigan. Me and about a dozen other reporters and bloggers are standing in the middle of what looks like an abandoned lot, but is actually part of the land owned by a state-of-the-art movie studio that feels a bit out of place in the Midwest. It has all the production offices and sound stages of a studio you might find in Los Angeles, but here it is in the Midwest. We’ve heard that since the tax breaks in Michigan are no longer available, the studio rarely gets used anymore. But it’s definitely getting used now.
Today, the production of Transformers: The Last Knight is shooting an action sequence with plenty of gunfire and explosions. We’d heard some bombs were going to go off today, but we haven’t seen any explosions yet. That’s about to change as we’re each handed some ear plugs. Every now and then you’ll get these on a set just because there are some people who don’t like the loud noise that a film set can bring, especially a blockbuster. But it’s usually an option. This time, we’re very explicitly told that we need to have these ear plugs in, and a few short minutes later, we find out why.
Sitting in front of us is a piece of a crashed osprey (which is actually a disassembled CH-47 Chinook, a dual-engine helicopter), one of those vehicles that has the body and wings of a cargo plane. But instead of jet engines or vertical propellers, there are two horizontal propellers, just like the top of a helicopter. The destroyed osprey is sitting in the middle of a pile of black dirt, surrounded by film equipment including green screen walls, with cranes holding giant shades above to shield the set from being blown out with natural sunlight.
The vehicle is sitting in such a way that the back of it has split open, allowing a group of soldiers to run out of it, including Josh Duhamel and Santiago Cabrera, geared up, armed, and ready for a fight. The two stars are accompanied by a band of soldiers, all firing their weapons, hiding behind debris chunks, running up small dirt hills, taking cover as giant fans blow dirt in their face, all that good stuff. Some fireballs go off into the sky nearby, while chunks of dark, styrofoam are launched into the air around them.
The troops are escorting Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock, both wearing military flight suits, while Isabela Moner is wearing street clothes, taking cover and moving stealthily with their protectors. The soldiers fire at an unseen threat, but we’re told there are a bunch of Decepticons descending on their location and attacking fiercely. Some of the Autobots are helping, but obviously, they’re not on set. Though we do see on one end of the set a long stick with the cardboard head of Hound, giving us an idea of scale and position of at least one of their Transformers allies.
We can’t tell you exactly where all this is taking place, but let’s just say it’s happening on a location that will be very familiar to Transformers fans. We can’t spoil much more than that because this is a sequence from the third act of the movie.
Everything we just described is shot over and over again, just with different camera set-ups. Sometimes Michael Bay is right in the middle of the action, using his handheld camera to get in the face of the soldiers as debris engulfs him. One take sees him laid out on the ground, his head mere inches away from the Porsche Cayenne camera rig vehicle after it drives in swiftly for a sweeping shot of the soldiers attacking the off-screen Transformers.
Michael Bay is not fucking around. He’s always moving fast, though he does take the time to talk to us several times throughout the shoot, which he jests is slowing him down a bit. After takes, he goes to video village to check out what they just shot. This particular sequence is using five cameras, so he has five monitors in front of him, glancing around at each one, making sure he picked up what he wanted on camera. We don’t have any photos from this sequence, but this GIF that we’ve posted before provides the best example of what we were watching (though some takes had even more explosions):
— Ethan Anderton (@Ethan_Anderton) August 5, 2016
One take wasn’t up to Michael Bay’s standards for a very specific reason. Apparently the prop guns that were being used on set were not firing properly. After a botched take, we witnessed the Michael Bay that we were hoping to see. Bay storms onto the set, yelling, “What’s going on with these guns? These are the shittiest guns I’ve ever had on a set. I’ve got people in front of my camera who know how to fire guns, and they’re not working.”
Bay is referring to the real Navy SEALs who are part of the production, and he’s not a fan of giving them prop weaponry that they can’t effectively use for a take. This just goes to show you how involved Bay is in every facet of the production and how meticulous he is with regards to every single department. How do his crew members and the cast feel about that? Find out on the next page.