You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bay Tuned In To Tuners

Study of classic musicals shaped helmer's commercials

Michael Bay is known for bold images in commercials and fast action in features. According to his longtime producer Scott Gardenhour, Bay’s visual style has a strong influence from an unlikely source: musicals.

Yes, the visual stylist behind the hard action of “The Rock” and the Transformers franchise studied musicals carefully during his time at Wesleyan U. and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

“Not many people know that,” says Gardenhour, who is Bay’s partner in his commercials production company the Institute. “But I think it actually translates to a lot of what Michael does. There’s a tremendous, efficient choreography in his work that sets him apart. I find that fascinating.”

Gardenhour cites the Chevy “Car Carrier” commercial as an example. “There so much going on there, so many things happening in the frame,” he says. “The ability to have all these elements work seamlessly together is extremely rare, and I think it’s rooted in his thorough knowledge of cinema history.”

Bay’s earliest successes came at Propaganda Films, where he put his distinctive stamp on musicvideos and commercials, including a national Red Cross spot that snagged a Clio in 1992. In 1993, he brought to life the now-iconic “Got Milk?” campaign, along with creative directors Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein. Bay’s deft touch caught the eye of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who brought him into the feature realm for “Bad Boys,” which reportedly cost $19 million, then grossed $141 million.

“If you look closely at those Aaron Burr ‘Got Milk?’ spots, you see that they have a great visual style, and they have scale as well as intimacy,” says Gardenhour. “You think of it as a funny spot, but at the same time, every shot has a bigness, a scale to it. You see the shafts of light coming from above. That versatility really set Michael apart from the beginning, and helped him transition to the feature world.”

Goodby, co-chairman and creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, has worked with Bay on numerous commercial campaigns, including Isuzu’s “Toy Store” spots and the “Got Milk?” ads for the California Milk Processors Board. He says Bay’s humor is actually very nuanced, pointing to the Aaron Burr ad as an example.

“When I think of Michael, I think of two things: spectacle and connection,” says Goodby. “His work always has high points of surprise and alarm that make it unforgettable.”

Ed Razek, chief marketing officer for Victoria’s Secret, says Bay’s instincts are “spectacularly commercial.”

“Last year, we were the No. 1 most recalled brand in the month of December, the most competitive month,” Razek says. “That is the result of his deep understanding of our brand identity, and his singular focus during the shoot. We shot some of those supermodels in 110-degree heat, but Michael insisted on shooting and reshooting until it was perfect.”

Michael Bay, seriously | Bay’s ‘bots boffo in Japan | Bay tuned in to tuners | Bay directs with tough love | Good words for a bad boy | Two “dads” mentored Bay | Bay’s tough-love tutelage

More Music

  • Endeavor Sued Over Idaho Country Music

    Endeavor Sued Over Idaho Country Music Festival

    A former county official in rural Idaho sued Endeavor on Wednesday, alleging she is owed more than $190,000 in unpaid loans arising from a troubled country music festival. According to her complaint, Bonnie Layton was the economic development director for Elmore County, Idaho, when she came in contact with the organizers of the Mountain Home [...]

  • 2019 Variety Predictions

    2019 Predictions: What's in Store for Film, TV and Music Next Year?

    It would be hard to top the drama of 2018. From media mega-mergers to the rise of Time’s Up, it was a year that had more than its fair share of twists and turns. Leslie Moonves resigned in disgrace, AT&T snapped up Time Warner, Disney inched closer to subsuming Fox and “Black Panther” shattered box [...]

  • Tencent Music Raises $1.1 Billion for

    Tencent Music Raises $1.1 Billion for IPO, Much Less Than Expected

    China-based music streaming company Tencent Music Entertainment Group said it raised nearly $1.1 billion in its U.S. initial public offering, according to Reuters. Earlier this year, the company was expected to be valued at as much as $30 billion and raise $4 billion for its IPO, but those estimates were slashed in September. he IPO [...]

  • Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten Partner

    Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten Partner With Warner Bros. for New Label

    As previously reported, hit songwriter Justin Tranter and Warner/Chappell Publishing’s Katie Vinten are launching a new label in partnership with Warner Bros. Records, the company announced officially today. In her new role, Vinten, most recently the company’s co-head of A&R, will also serve as an A&R Consultant to Warner Bros. Records and will continue with [...]

  • Ella Mai

    Ella Mai Signs Worldwide Deal With Sony/ATV Music Publishing

    Singer Ella Mai, who is enjoying a worldwide smash with her song “Boo’d Up” and was nominated for two Grammy Awards last week, has signed a worldwide deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The song peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been streamed more than 650 million times in the U.S. [...]

  • Phylicia Fant Shawn Holiday

    Shawn Holiday, Phylicia Fant Named Columbia Records' Co-Heads of Urban (EXCLUSIVE)

    Columbia Records has named Shawn Holiday and Phylicia Fant Co-heads of Urban Music, it was announced today by the label’s chairman and CEO, Ron Perry. The two will each hold the title of Co-head of Urban Music. Previously, Holiday was Senior Vice President of Urban A&R for Columbia, while Fant joins Columbia from Warner Bros. Records, [...]

  • BTS puma collaboration basket sneakers shop

    BTS Escape Injury After Tour Bus Accident in Taiwan

    Korean boyband BTS have escaped injury after a collision that involved three of their tour buses, according to news reports. The superstar pop band were on board the buses after having performed a gig at the Taoyuan Baseball Stadium in Taiwan. At least seven vehicles were involved, according to local reports, but no one was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content