Trans­form­ing the sum­mer block­buster

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Film -

It makes per­fect sense that the most im­por­tant workspace in Michael Bay’s pro­duc­tion house is called the war room. For or­di­nary meet­ings, the di­rec­tor of the Trans­form­ers films, Ar­maged­don and Pearl Har­bor has an airy con­fer­ence suite at his Santa Mon­ica head­quar­ters. But for the stuff that re­ally counts, there’s a win­dow­less cham­ber at the build­ing’s core, where big ideas – typ­i­cally in­volv­ing big ex­plo­sions – can be thrashed out in Strangelovean seclu­sion.

“Essen­tially, it’s where you go to get stuff done,” says Matt Hol­loway, a screen­writer who spent up to ten hours at a time in there with his col­leagues Art Mar­cum and Ken Nolan, dur­ing the four months it took to piece to­gether the script for Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight. Bay would some­times swing by with ideas of his own, tap­ping them out on his lap­top at the same table, while lis­ten­ing on his head­phones to Hans Zim­mer’s score for Man of Steel, the re­cent Su­per­man film, to get in the ap­pro­pri­ate mood.

Sus­te­nance, mean­while, came in the form of a bot­tom­less sup­ply of cof­fee from a lo­cal ar­ti­sanal mi­cro-roast­ery: the film was ba­si­cally built on ket­tle­drums and caf­feine. For any­one fa­mil­iar with the Trans­form­ers fran­chise – block­busters cel­e­brated mostly for their cock­tail of car­nage, speed and su­per­mod­els – the fact they are made like this will come as no sur­prise.

But, in fact, The Last Knight, the fifth in the fran­chise, which was re­leased this week, was the prod­uct of a creative process nor­mally em­ployed on nov­el­is­tic, award­win­ning TV se­ries like Mad Men, House of Cards and Break­ing Bad. More than a year be­fore Nolan, Mar­cum and Hol­loway en­tered Michael Bay’s war room, they’d all been part of a team of a dozen highly-ac­claimed screen­writ­ers as­sem­bled by Para­mount Pic­tures to brain­storm ideas un­til a rough sto­ry­line and key scenes emerged – a con­cept known in the in­dus­try as a writ­ers’ room.

In the cur­rent Golden Age of

For his lat­est film, Michael Bay blew $2.4 m on a brainain­storm­ing ses­sion. Was it worth it, asks Rob­bie Collinn The writ­ers were re­port­edly paid $200,000 each for two weeks’ work

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