While Michael Bay is famous for directing blockbuster films including Transformers, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys, he first made a name for himself back in the late ’80s and early ’90s as a commercial director. Now, he returns to his roots in advertising by playing a major role in Doritos’ latest Crash the Super Bowl ad contest. In addition to helping to judge the entries, Bay will give the winner a job working on the upcoming fourth installment of his Transformers franchise. "When I was young, I would have killed for an opportunity to do something like this," the director tells Co.Create.
Entering its seventh year, the Crash the Super Bowl contest once again finds Doritos looking to the public to create and produce 30-second Super Bowl commercials. Doritos will run two of the consumer-generated spots during 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII, which airs on Sunday, February 3 on CBS. The finalist whose ad ranks the highest on USA Today's Ad Meter will snag the dream gig with Bay, and if this amateur filmmaker’s commercial actually tops the Ad Meter, its creator will be awarded $1 million by Doritos.
Those who want to enter the contest can upload their spots October 8 through November 16 via the Crash the Super Bowl app on the Doritos Facebook page. The app, which is new, brings a higher level of connectivity to the contest, allowing for social interaction between participants, who are encouraged to help each other with everything from props to talent through a collaboration tool called Pitch In.
Bay agreed to get involved in this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest after he reviewed the work that had previously won. "I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I thought pros did these spots.’ They were fantastic," he says.
Given that he will now be involved in the judging process, what does Bay expect from the entrants? Action, maybe? A few laughs? "I’m just looking for a good spot," he responds.
Whoever wins the contest will have a phenomenal opportunity to showcase their creativity and talent, according to the director, who muses, "It’s almost too good to be true. This just doesn’t happen."
"I lecture at film schools, and a lot of people ask me, ‘How do you break into directing?’ And I’ve got to tell you, I think it’s harder today to break in than it was when I broke in," Bay says. "Granted, there are more TV opportunities today. Because of cable, it’s really exploding. But they’re making fewer movies."
As for the commercial world where Bay put himself on the map back in the day with ads for clients like The American Red Cross, Nike, and Budweiser, it is more competitive now than ever, he says. "There are so many more directors doing commercials. When I started, it was a concentrated group of directors," explains Bay, who worked out of famed commercial and music video production house Propaganda Films. "There was a core group that Madison Avenue kept going to. We were always competing against each other, but you were able to assemble a really good collage of work."
Opportunities to fashion a brand-backed kick-ass showreel aren’t as readily available today, so Bay encourages would-be filmmakers to create and produce their own projects, everything from spec spots to short films to music videos. "Do a good piece of work, and start to show it around however you can. There are lots of ways to get your work out there through YouTube and all that, and people can see it very quickly," Bay says, pointing out, "That’s a plus now versus when I started."
If you do good work, you will get noticed, he insists. "The cream always rises to the top," says Bay, who encourages filmmakers of all backgrounds to enter the industry whether or not they’ve attended film school.
Despite the competitive landscape in advertising, Bay recommends young directors try to break into commercials, stressing that the shorter-form assignments offer creative challenges as well as valuable experience working with clients that will translate to the feature film world. "Commercials are a great way to learn how to deal with the studios because you are dealing with a corporate hierarchy," he reasons, "and you’ve got to deal with politics."
Not to mention budgets. "Sometimes people forget that filmmaking is a business," says Bay, whose movies have raked in $4.5 billion in ticket sales worldwide. "When I lecture to film students, I say, ‘This is a business, and you’ve got to learn that business. People are giving you money. How are you going to get their money back?' It’s a fine line between art and business."