Transformers: The Premake

Everybody is a filmmaker. The tools of the trade have become democratized over the past decades, to the point where we now all have a camera in our pockets all day long (try finding a smartphone without one).


Kevin B. Lee used footage shot by hundreds of film enthusiasts, fans or just passersby to craft a 25 minute documentary on the fourth entry into the Transformers franchise. He scoured the internet for amateur recordings of location shoots for the blockbuster in Utah, Texas, Detroit, Chicago, Hong Kong and mainland China. Using that footage, he edited together his “premake” version of the movie before it was even released in theaters. His video essay is a commentary on Hollywood and reality, on big budgets versus tiny smartphones, on the way movies are born on small screens before they move on to the multiplexes.


The form he uses is that of the so-called desktop documentary: “This form of filmmaking treats the computer screen as both a camera lens and a canvas, tapping into its potential as an artistic medium. If the documentary genre is meant to capture life’s reality, then desktop recording acknowledges that computer screens and the internet are now a primary experience of our daily lives, as well as a primary repository of information. Desktop documentary seeks to both depict and question the ways we explore the world through the computer screen.


Transformers: The Premake is as epic as Michal Bay’s blockbuster is. Here, the battle is waged between screens of all sizes, with dueling camera’s. It’s a visual treatise on how one kind of representation can strip another of its artificiality.