Talking with the lighting expert from the set of Iron Man and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

By: Steve Mathie
Staff Writer

November 1, 2008

I caught up with Michael Bauman this past weekend in the midst of filming on location in New Mexico. Bauman is the head lighting technician on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the second installment in the Transformers series from director Michael Bay.

For those property owners and movie enthusiasts who are interested in the behind the scenes of a production, talking with a gaffer like Bauman gives you a pretty good idea of how passionate and committed the crew is - and how essential the role they play is in the production process.

You’re probably wondering what in the world a gaffer is. It’s the head of the electrical department on the set, and they develop the whole lighting plan throughout the course of filming.

A gaffer is often credited as the “Chief Lighting Technician” on movie sites such as IMDB. So how does one become a gaffer?

“I got in with the American Film Institute after college, then started working out in L.A. doing lower budget projects with some of my buddies who were in college,” says Bauman. "I was working from the ground up, definitely not making a ton of money.”

Bauman worked as an electrician while doing a few side projects, including some music videos for then powerhouse record label Death Row.

“Death Row was really putting a lot of stuff out at that time, and I worked on a few 2Pac and Snoop videos, it was pretty fun,” says Bauman.

It was around this time Bauman started working on movies like Quiet Days in Hollywood, shot in Los Angeles, a location that Bauman describes as one of his favorite places to shoot.

After working on sets as an electrician, Bauman worked as a “best boy”, the gaffer’s right hand man. Bauman’s first credit as a gaffer came on the $100 thousand production Benders, a slightly lower budget than his most recent project.

Bauman was the gaffer for the $140 million Iron Man, one of this year’s most successful films bringing in $572 million worldwide.

“As the gaffer I collaborate with the cinematographer, director, and production designer on what the movie is going to look like when it hits the screen,” says Bauman. “We always have to pay attention to how each scene being shot is going to be lit, right now I’m in New Mexico paying attention to how the sun is acting.”

While Bauman has worked alongside directors like Michael Bay, Jon Favreau, Steven Spielberg and Antoine Fugua – he has seen some of his projects come out successful at the box office. Yet in talking with Bauman you find that the real pleasure comes in whether or not he actually likes the movie. A lot of the pleasure also comes in filming on location across the country.

“There are several classic locations in California to shoot at, so those people are always open to filming because they have seen it going on,” says Bauman.

“I have worked with really cool property owners in different states who are excited about having filming at their place, yeah. I’ve also seen a lot of really cool locations. People are very welcome to filming and it does generate a lot of revenue for local companies.”

Revenge of the Fallen is supposed to be released sometime around the 4th of July next year, and publicity for the film is likely to start pretty soon. Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are back for the second time around. Perhaps a few magazine photo shoots are in store for the 22 year old beauty Fox to help drive people to theatres.

For now Bauman says he’s sticking to working in lighting, and absolutely loves what he does. We’ll be sure to catch up with him next time he’s on location.

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