Michael Bay: How to 'wing it' without a script
- 7 January 2014
Transformers director Michael Bay suffered a teleprompter malfunction during a presentation of Samsung televisions. After stumbling over his lines, he walked off the stage. Colm O'Regan offers tips for the tongue-tied.
In the greater scheme of things, it's not that important. Michael Bay attempted to "just wing it" and then looked like Wile E Coyote after he realises there is no cliff underneath him.
Everyone will get on with their lives. The remorseless advance of technology will not be halted. Next year, the Edible SmartPhone and the Ingestible Tablet (or Suppositori) will be launched by someone who isn't Michael Bay.
I felt for him. A few years ago I was doing a gig at the Montreal Comedy Festival. Two minutes in, I couldn't remember a single word. I stopped talking for what seemed like an age and stared at the audience. Eventually the hourglass symbol in my brain changed to a cursor, clicked on a file named <humorous-observation-plus -sweeping-generalisation6.doc> and I carried on. Fortunately it turned out afterwards the audience hadn't noticed.
It's probably too late for Michael Bay, but it is possible to get out of these situations a little more gracefully than running.
It's crucial to ignore the fight-or-flight impulse. Evolution has not equipped us for launching curvy TVs. Michael Bay's body was preparing him for a scenario where the teleprompter failed because a bear had eaten the operator. Convince yourself you're not going to actually die, take a breath, and a sip of water.
Remember, the time passes much more slowly for you than it does for the audience so take your time. If you're blanking make it look like it's an enigmatic pause that you've left for the audience to take in the full import of what you've said.
If it's clear to everyone that a machine has failed, tell the audience in a good-humoured way and make it look like you're all in this together. (Although there is a limit to how much Dunkirk spirit you can dredge up when doing a presentation on the new Time Recording System at your company.)
Finally, prepare a back-up story just in case. Surely Michael Bay must have been in a similar situation on at least one of the Transformer shoots where a crucial piece of equipment - like a script - failed?
Or maybe a Transformer malfunctioned and changed into a fridge. "How we all laughed." When you go off the cuff, an audience will be in the palm of your hand.
And hopefully by then, they'll have fixed the teleprompter. Unless, there actually is a bear. In which case, like Michael Bay, it's best to exit stage left.