A taste of BotCon, sorta...
(Sydney Advance Screening of the Transformers Movie and Press Conference.)

Continued from here - part one.

(note - any photos not belonging to me are noted, and none are to be used without prior permission from me or the other owners)

Day two - Wednesday 13th June.
Had to kill some time in the morning, so headed into the city with dirge (who had to work), and then made my way to Redfern station around 11am.  Found Carriageworks within 20 minutes (stopped on the way to get a notebook), and reported in at the 'front desk'.  Those who were official Press were given 2 CDs and/or 2 Beta Videos (depending on if they are TV or Internet Media).  One CD/Video was 26 Minutes, the other was 47 Minutes.  Not sure what was on the longer one, but since I was given a copy of the smaller one, I can say what was on it - 3 clips from the movie (Caryard with Bumblebee, Scorponok attacking soldiers, Mikaela checking Bumblebee's engine) each in 3 different audio formats, plus a 2minute 10second featurette on Michael Bay, showing some behind the scenes shots.  The other thing being given out to everyone, including fans, was a 131 page Movie Press Book, with info on just about everything and everyone involved in the Movie.
The location looked old and rusted on the outside, but renovated and modern inside. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and walking to the venue would have been out of the question at night.
Board member Rollerforce and his three friends were already there when I arrived, plus a few of the other fans from the TFW2005 forum who emailed me for seats.  Kup showed up a little later.
The 'foyer' had the Vehicle from the night before, plus a small stage set up ready for photographing the guests on when they arrived.  After taking a couple of photos of the car, my camera died because I didn't notice that it was low on power from the night before (should have bought batteries when I got the notepad).  Fortunately Rollerforce was there to save the day - he was kind enough to take photos with the promise of getting me some copies. My hero :p
I think the Movie people didn't arrive until 12.45-1.00, so we were all waiting around for some time in the foyer and in the auditorium.  When they did arrive, the girls came in first (and I thought her dress was short the night before, this time I could see her butt when she walked in front of me), who distracted the photographers while Michael Bay came in after them and stood to one side.  Rollerforce and I pounced, getting his attention, taking photos and asking some questions.  One I asked was if it was Devastator or Brawl in the Movie, and he said that to him it is Devastator and that's who it is supposed to be.  He said he chose the name because it sounds more evil.  He also mentioned that he hadn't heard of BotCon (which I thought he might be at to present the movie to *the real fans* ) but maybe now that he knows he might look into it.  He had the face of someone who had a lot on his mind (perhaps the fear of risking $145million on a movie) as well other projects, or he was just getting bored of us fans (because he was making an action movie with Transformers, rather than a Transformers movie). At this point I think he was happy to be rescued by his minders, who pulled him over to join the girls on the mini-stage for some group photos.

Board member Rollerforce in front of the Autobot side of the Hummer (his photo, taken by a friend)

The Hummer inside from the back, taken by Board member Sideswipe2005.

The Hummer again from the Decepticon side, with one of the Paramount people so that the photographers know where the Movie people would be standing.

Hummer from the front, stage at the back, and the 'foyer' area showing the interior of the building (old train yard building). Photo by Sideswipe2005.

The mini-stage, taken by Sideswipe2005.

And now, the girls.  Megan on the left in black, Rachael on the right in yellow.  Photos by Rollerforce.

Sneaking in from behind, Michael Bay.  Photo by Rollerforce.

The three together, taken by Sideswipe2005.

Same pose, but taken by Rollerforce (or me holding his camera above the media pack).

Michael Bay taking time to meet the fans, here with Rollerforce (his photo).

And with me (photo taken by Rollerforce).

The three posing at the mini-stage for a few photos. Photo by Sideswipe2005.

Everyone was directed into the auditorium.  The extended trailer was played on a big screen (sound was too loud), and then three guests made a big entrance with lights and smoke.  They seated themselves on the centre of the stage and started answering questions from the audience, both fans and media. It went for just on 40 minutes.

Just like at the Movie event the night before, another Transformers welcome mat. Photo by Rollerforce.

Inside the auditorium.  Projection screen in the middle, and the 'grand entrance' arc over to the right. Photo by Rollerforce.

The seated, taking questions. Photo by Sideswipe2005.

And another shot, by Sideswipe2005.

The Q&A.

Before the Q&A started, one of the event organisers made it absolutely clear that Megan Fox has to have her name pronounced 'May-gan'. (something that didn't surprise me after seeing how she presented herself visually and showed off herself to the media like any other Hollywood ego) I think it was funny that I didn't hear any of the audience pronounce her name the way she wanted it.

- First question asked about why he included some Classic Transformers Phrases.  Bay didn't know about Transformers before he started and when Steven Spielberg rang him to see if he would direct it, Bay turned him down thinking it was just a silly toy movie.  It was only when Bay was convinced to go to the Hasbro offices to learn about the history of the toyline and of the storyline from the last 20 years that he really took it in and saw the potential to want to take on the project.

- Question about Fan interaction during the production of the movie, Bay said that he read blogs and listened to suggestions, but wasn't going to change the need to reinvent Transformers for this movie. He could see that the fandom was very negative at first, but has been happy to see it turn around so much that the movie has even won the MTV award for 'The Best Movie yet to be seen'.

- The Human perspective, Bay wanted to focus on the Boy. The Transformers are not the central theme, and he wanted to make the movie more for the *non-fans*.

- Did the fan reaction affect him?  No.  Bay also mentioned that there must have been so much interest from people out there that by the beginning of this year their server had had 39,000 attempted hacks .

- Question for Rachael about using her Australian accent in the movie. She said that Bay wanted the accent for her character.

- Bay was asked why Hugo Weaving was chosen for Megatron and not Frank Welker. He said that Welker sounded too cartoony.  The reason why Peter Cullen was chosen for Optimus was that he actually went through the audition process like everyone else and just managed to pull off the best performance.

- The girls were asked about what it was like acting in the movie, and they responded by saying that a lot of it was reactive acting, because so much was added in visually after it was shot.  They commented on having to react to temporary props (like a face on a post) or to nothing at all.

- Asking about the visual side of the movie, Bay mentioned that with Optimus alone, there are over 10,000 indiviually animated moving parts.  He mentioned that the lighting ended up being the biggest issue in post-production, trying to get it looking right on every character in every frame.  And it was worked out that each frame would take about about 38 hours to render (if done by one person), so multiply that by 24 (frames per second), then by 60 (seconds in a minute), then by another 60 (minutes in an hour), and then by 2.25 (for the length of the movie in hours).  (It means that it would have taken one person about 843 years to do all the Computer Animation in this movie, so there must have been a heap of people working on the renderings in this movie.)

- There were some comments on Bay's style, and being mentioned that the movie was totally finished only four days ago.

- Bay's favourite Transformers character in the movie... Bumblebee, for the emotion element and the 'cute' factor.

- Spielberg's favourite - Bumblebee.  Spielberg was a big fan and has a huge collection (apparently).

- Megan was asked if she is a fan of Transformers. She says she is a bit now, but since she was born in 1986, she was more a fan of TMNT (Turtles) when growing up.

- Bay mentioned once again that this was not a movie about toys, it is a movie for everyone. One for the whole family, not just kids or fans.

- The involvement of the military was brought up, and his history with the US military in his films. Bay said that the involvement was very good, and got to use a heap of equipment, and actual military personel (all of them volunteered, so it wasn't at a cost to the taxpayer).  He mentioned that the military personel would make suggestions with lines and pace and he would work them in to get a more accurate account of how the US military would react in this situation.

- What was the hardest decision he had to make?  Trying to get everything done in the movie within budget, which was at $145 million. He said that he had to try to make special eeffects more affordable, so that he could have a movie that was as visually spectacular as Pirates, with about a third of the budget.  He talked about the exploding bus sequence, which had an actual stunt driver and wires pulling the bus around while charges were set off, and said that most films these days would do that as a digital effect, but he wanted to do it for real to make it look more real.  But it was a big risk because it was an expensive shot that they could only afford to try once.

- Most difficult sequence?  Desert scene when Scorponok attacks.  It was about 40+ degree heat and several days of filming.

- Hoover Dam, was it meant to reflect an episode in the original series cartoon?  No, it was just coincedence. (IMO, I couldn't see how having Hoover Dam in the Movie could have been seen as having any relevance to Sherman Dam in one episode of 98 episoide original series. If the Statue of Liberty had been included or an oil rig, or any of the hundreds of other locations from the original series cartoon had been included in the Movie, it's just coincedence.  Other than it being a location in the Movie, there is no other similarity to Gen1 because the fighting doesn't happen at the dam.  It was a fanboy question that had to be asked though to see if Bay was a fan in disguise...)

- Filming took 83 days, which is said to be very long for a movie like this, with the average time being about 50 days.

- Some characters Bay wanted in the movie?  He wanted to have an Aircraft Carrier Transformer (maybe Broadside could be in the sequal?), but it would have been too expensive.  He also wanted a Boombox character, which could be why Frenzy ended up turning into one in the movie.  Of the 13 Transformers characters that ended up in the Movie, Bay wanted Optimus, Megatron and Bumblebee. All the rest were chosen by the writers, with some later changes to names and forms.

- Bay said he is both nervous and excited.

- I got to ask a couple of questions, but wasn't able to take notes as I was asking them, and was too excited to remember what they said to write down later.  I asked the girls how they felt about being in their biggest movie role so far, and I asked Michael how he felt about the fandom being more positive towards the movie as the release date got closer.  By this stage it should have been obvious to me that he didn't prioritise the fans when making this movie, and wasn't too concerned about how they reacted, because with a budget like this, he needed to make the movie for the general public first, then the fans second.  However, it was the only question I could think of at the time, so I stuck with it.

- The last question to Bay had a responce that was probably the most disappointing to me as a fan. When asked what he thought of the audience reaction to the screening the night before, he mentioned that he was surprised and confused at the fan reaction to certain things, like the first appearance of Optimus in truck mode.  These are the fan Icons from the last 23 years, and he despite pouring in the last year and half into this movie and supposedly reading comments from fans, he just still doesn't get it.  It may just be a truck, or a phrase to him and non-fans, but to us, they have been around so long they are Iconic.  It may not be the classic red cab-over truck from Gen1, but it is Optimus-as-a-truck driving onto the big screen in a live action movie for the first time, which sends shivers down the spine of any fan, and if cheering that Iconic image because of how exciting it is to see it, is confusing, he probably needs to spend a little more time back at Hasbro HQ brushing up on Transformers before the next Movie.  He did a great job, and I have to give him credit for that and for not being one of those people who claims to be a fan just to win fan support, but I just feel a little surprised myself - because he spent so much time around Transformers and didn't pick up much from the fandom about our Iconic history, or become a fan himself.

When the Press Conference was over, the press and fans left the auditorium and some of us hung around in the foyer area for a while, chatting and scoffing the free food.  When it looked like the Movie people were not coming out any time soon (lunch was taken out the back for them), I left with Kup to the trainstation and headed back to the airport for my flight home.

In case any of the event organisers or PR people actually read this - a huge thankyou for giving me (and the other fans) access to the event. It was worth the expense of interstate airfares and half a day off work unpaid (stupid manager tricked me into thinking I was covered).

One of the many things I brought back from Sydney was a cold, which is still effecting me over a week later.  That tying up a few days and slowing me down since, along with all my usual work commitments has meant this report was over a week late.  Lucky I don't work for a newspaper.  I am still yet to review the Movie Press Book, which is the next thing for me to do.

Stuff I got from the 2 day event.  From left at the top - one of the two CDs given to the Press at the Press Conference, The Media pass, The Movie pass, an autographed postcard by Michael Bay, and at the bottom is the Movie Press Book.

Another photo showing the back of the Movie pass, the front of the postcard (which I took to the event myself), and the cover of the Movie Press Book.

Thanks for reading.  Any comments or questions can be directed to me at griffin @ otca.com.au

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