We all know Michael Bay as the hyper-active director of full-on action, and huge budget, flicks like Transformers, Armageddon and The Rock. But it wasn’t always like that.
Like everyone, he had to start somewhere.
Bay often traces his interest in action films back to an incident during his childhood. As a boy, he attached some firecrackers to a toy train and filmed the ensuing fiery disaster with his mother’s 8mm camera. The fire department was called and he was grounded.
Bay got his start in the film industry interning with George Lucas when he was fifteen, filing the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he thought was going to be terrible. His opinion changed after seeing it in the theater and he was so impressed by the experience that he decided to become a film director.
He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1986, majoring in both English and Film. He was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity and a favorite student of film historian Jeanine Basinger.
For his graduate work, he attended Center College of Design in Pasadena where he also studied film.
Michael Bay began working at Propaganda Films, directing commercials and music videos, two weeks after finishing his post-graduate degree. His 90-second World War II-inspired Coca-Cola advertisement was picked up by Capitol Records.
His first national commercial for the Red Cross won a Clio Award in 1992. He directed Goodby, Silverstein & Partners Got Milk? advertisement campaign for the California Milk Processors Board in 1993.
Bay’s success in music videos gained the attention of producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, who selected him to direct his first feature-length film, Bad Boys. The film was shot in Miami in 1994 and starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
The action film proved to be a break-out role for Smith, who was segueing from television to films at that time. Shooting in Miami was a good experience for Bay who would later own a home in the city and spend a great deal of time there.
The film was completed for $19 million and grossed a remarkable $141 million at the box office in the summer of 1995. Bay’s success led to a strong partnership and friendship with Jerry Bruckheimer.
He’s now known for his Bayhem style of action moviemaking.