Watch: 'Transformers: The Premake' Video Tackles Fans vs Hollywood
by Alex Billington
June 17, 2014
"There are cameras everywhere." One of the best video essays on Hollywood in, well, a long time. In just a few weeks, we'll be experiencing the latest in the Transformers franchise, Michael Bay's fourth movie about giant alien robots Transformers: Age of Extinction. As is always the case with movies on this scale, fans follow the production all over the world, capturing videos and photos of the filming in Chicago, Detroit, Texas, Hong Kong, China, all over the place. But, as always, Hollywood is sensitive about certain content. Using a simple computer-screen narrative, this essay examines the struggle between fans and productions and the (financial) politics of filmmaking. It's a fascinating must watch, even if you don't like Michael Bay.
This video essay contains no narration or dialogue, aside from sound clips. It's composed of mostly footage from YouTube, news posts, Wikipedia pages, and other articles that bring up concerns and discussions surrounding the production of Transformers 4. There are always tons of video essays to be found, but this one really struck a chord with me, in the way it examines struggles between those with the money, and all the fans who give them their money. It's better not to attempt to explain any more, I suggest diving right in.
Here's the complete video essay titled Transformers: The Premake, by Kevin B. Lee posted on YouTube:
Thanks to Jordan from The Film Stage for the tip on this video. Transformers: The Premake is a "desktop documentary" made by Kevin B. Lee - for more info on this essay, visit his site at alsolikelife.com/premake.
What I found fascinating about this is the way it examines a few of the major struggles in Hollywood today. First, he addresses the "consumer culture" we now live in, where people promote the crap out of brands they love for free thanks to services like YouTube and Facebook. However, he compares this to the other side of the system, Hollywood, where tons of money is thrown into the production of a movie, but nothing at all is given back to fans. Instead, the fans get their videos get removed because studios are afraid of something, or nothing, being spoiled. It all comes to a head with the response from the YouTuber whose TF4 set video was removed saying he's still "looking forward to seeing the movie" (to Hollywood he's already sold and in theaters). Then Lee uploads his own copy of that exact same video, showing just how easy it is. Hollywood can't win this fight any more; however you can see how badly they treat a fan for trying to walk nearby a set.
It also gets into very interesting political territory looking at Hollywood's relationship with China, and other places like Detroit. How, as the lady says in one of the videos from China, this "propaganda" will bring interest and excitement back to China. His examination seems to indicate that Hollywood is starting to act like a propaganda machine again, and we're completely oblivious to it. From the way Detroit is giving major tax incentives, and possibly losing good money it could use, in order for movies to shoot there and make it look like a great place; to the way China is covering up their own poverty and rough conditions by bringing in Hollywood to make it look like a wonderful place - even building big sets in Detroit to double as China.
All told, I found the presentation of the footage in this video essay to be very intriguing, provoking further discussion around the hype-machine and Hollywood's excessive interest in money more than fans. There's obviously a lot going on behind-the-scenes that we don't know about, from the execs down to the production and security, to everything in Michael Bay's head. I like the way this video uses all the public footage already on YouTube to show us a different version of the story than we thought we already knew. Your thoughts?