Last week Back in August TFW2005 was on location in Michigan for filming of Transformers: The Last Knight. It was a last minute thing that we were super excited to finally do thanks to Paramount and Michael Bay. Their handling of the latest movie has been proactive and inclusive, sharing behind the scenes looks and character reveals via all forms of social media almost constantly. It’s a fresh way of handling media in a modern movie production landscape and we’re happy to have played a part!
Read on to check out our experience on the set!
First things first, we saw a lot of cool stuff. Both in scope of how movies are made and plot points. Most of which we can’t talk about specifically. We’ll do our best to convey our time below, but don’t expect any bombshell reveals.
We arrived at the stage area first. This is a giant complex made of two primary buildings. One is a closed set, what you think of when you see stages with props and lighting and all that. Several giant spaces are set up in there, I’d estimate one was half a football field. Both were at least 3 stories tall, possibly taller. On each, a different “set piece” was built and staged for a scene. Big things. Things that if I saw it in the movie, would assume was done via CGI and green screens. It wasn’t. The entire environment, large props, fine details, all done, physically there. One thing that caught my eye in all this was the lighting. Pretty much everyone else would not care, or causally marvel at it and move on, and it probably wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for someone that works on movie sets. But, since I’ve been dabbling in studio photography over the last several years, seeing the sculpting of light on a football field level scope was awesome. They had top down soft boxes the size of an average house. PA’s tapping giant colored reflectors to simulate light coming off moving water. Was awesome. But yeah, I know, not important here so let’s move on :).
We got to see two scenes being filmed during our time there. Both involved Mark Wahlberg‘s character Cade and newcomer Laura Haddock. Here is one of those points where you’d like to know exactly what we saw, and we can’t give you the goods! Big scenes, awesome scenes, key to the plot going on here. They both interacted with these large set pieces in a way that shows their scale. Humans will look tiny walking around in here. I’m sure when Michael Bay works his magic it will look even grander. These were done multiple times, from multiple angles. All to capture a minute, maybe less, of footage to be used in the final cut. Something that took all afternoon could be cut in editing later as an afterthought. I can imagine it being draining for everyone involved, but that’s why they’re pros.
One cool moment that stands out during our time in here – Michael Bay popped over to chat. We all introduced ourselves and basically just BSed with him between takes. Some of what was said can’t be repeated as it references what was going on in that scene, and things happening later that isn’t public yet. A key take away seemed to be focus on the Writers Room. It’s influence will be felt here in this flick. This one will tie up and connect the previous four, giving it all a bit more depth. Show layers and threads that connect them all. All while allowing for new paths to be taken from here. It was a similar explanation to what we’ve heard before, but specific to this scene, movie, and coming from the director’s mouth. It has a different weight when you hear the guy in charge of a billion dollar property say it to your face. So it seems like the Writers Room provided some deeper lore points, they are using it here, and know they want to dig deeper from here. Those are all good things if they are acted upon in the final product. Bay kept chatting nerd about all this stuff with us to the point a rep had to interrupt forcefully to remind him he needed to go shoot the scene. May be silly, but I thought that was cool. I would have assumed that if he did this kind of stuff at all, it would be blah-blah done, not something he wanted to do. But he was into it, so props to him for that.
In-between our time on the stage sets we took a ride down to a lot where the vehicles were kept. The stage time was awesome as I’ve never been on a movie set, but this is Transformers, and there are no walking talking robots working with the actors. So getting some up close time with the vehicles is the next best thing. You’ve seen our coverage from this session in August. We got to interact with and shoot Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Drift, Hound, Onslaught and Barricade. There were other filler cars on the lot as well, and even some rides that look like they will be featured but probably not robots. Personally, this is one of the coolest parts of the trip. I like awesome cars and being close to them to shoot and gaggle over is the next best thing to owning them. Autobot symbols make it even better. :). As most of us know, these things are not slapped together props. Bumblebee is a functional highly customized Camaro. That custom front end and spoiler, side vents, that’s real deal. These are expensive cars with top of the line customization applied. No shorts here. When you are up close, you can tell, so have no doubt.
Now, in the other building from where the stages were was basically a mini army of people doing things related to production. Wardrobe was about the size of a department store with racks and racks of clothing. Up front had racks for each main character, marked off, sorted. Behind was just rows and rows of go-to clothing for all possible scenarios. Standard and custom military gear. Pieces from prior movies. All just there in case it’s needed. Many from the department were working on custom pieces due to be used later on in their UK filming. Pieces that are custom made from scratch. This is another example of scope that the average Joe doesn’t know or think about related to these movies. Things that will be seen on someone in the background of a shot, MAYBE, is being crafted from scratch. Things that were supposed to look metal but not, sitting right in front of us, needed to be touched to confirm they were not metal. That level of detail, as background fodder. Very cool stuff.
Another area of this building was the Aging department, whose sole purpose is to take these items, new or old, custom or store bought, and make them look used, real, not fresh. The team in here went into detail about their process, showed off some metal and leather goods. It was impressive. It reminded me of what the customizers do in the Radicons area of our 2005 Boards to add realism to our toys. But on a giant ridiculously larger scale, on pretty much everything you could think of.
Another “whoa” moment for scope of this movie making process, a warehouse level storage area for just – stuff. Bikes, furniture, lamps, street signs, you name it. They have a cache of pretty much any “thing” you could need to fill in a scene and make it look real. All of this is just toted location to location so it’s ready if needed. They also go out and get things needed for specific scenes once the script is done, some bought, some rented, some borrowed. All of which sits here until production is done. It’s scale and attention to detail is again, impressive.
Lastly, a key stop in the production building – a room full of concept art. The artwork being released officially that we’ve seen
over the last week or two back in August – that stuff plus a whole lot more. Plastered up like wallpaper covering all 4 walls. Concept art by multiple folks, very similar to what we’ve seen released after the fact for previous movies. Digital paintings depicting key scenes from the movie, key characters in environments. The stuff you’d see in a book or Blu-Ray extras piece. We were specifically told not to take pictures, notes or speak about what we saw in here. But I can say that there is a lot more coming, there are key points of the film no one has discussed yet. There are characters no one has seen or heard of yet. Some of the things were a shocker, some were still a mystery after we left. There were a lot of Movieverse-first characters and ideas depicted, and a couple nods to past characters and lore up on these walls. What we saw was a lot of new angles with a familiar tone. A tone set by Michael Bay and the team over the last four films. I’d expect another wild ride in this universe we know when it’s all done.
To wrap up, this was an awesome experience. I know the film sites do this constantly, but for us being a Transformers fan site and focused on Transformers only, and usually Transformers toys first, it was a new experience. The mini-city that exists within those fences, the army of people working on it is something that shouldn’t be written off. As a fan of the original series (key demo in 84 baby) the Movie universe has of course taken a while to get used to. But it’s here, and has been for almost a decade. It’s part of our fandom. They’ve made some moves and seem to working towards incorporating a deeper universe here, not just pretty cars, girls, guys and explosions. But there will be that too, don’t worry. 🙂 I think we want both, and looks like we could get it. We’ll all find out in 2017 when Transformers: The Last Knight drops! Enjoy a couple more vids and pics below, see you on the boards!
The first official trailer drops sometime today so keep checking back and join us to discuss later on!