ShoWest honoree: Michael Bay

Vanguard Award for Excellence in Filmmaking

His seven films have grossed a combined $2.5 billion worldwide, so it might come as a surprise to learn that Michael Bay had only slightly more modest aspirations than directing as a child.

"In eighth grade, he wanted to be a cinematographer," says entertainment lawyer Robert Offer, who grew up with Bay and took photography classes with him at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica. "His work was head and shoulders above everyone else in the class. The lighting was beautiful, the composition was beautiful. There's no surprise that Michael is as successful as he is."

Bay went on to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, then began directing music videos and commercials, including the famous "Got Milk?" campaign.

His first feature, 1995's "Bad Boys," set the stage for a string of big-budget megahits including 1998's "Armageddon," 2001's "Pearl Harbor" and 2007's "Transformers" -- films that have introduced a new generation of moviegoers to the concept of a summer blockbuster.

"He has a unique ability to connect with what young people want to see," Offer says of Bay, who will receive this year's ShoWest Vanguard Award for Excellence in Filmmaking in advance of his latest film "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." "In his 20s, it didn't surprise me, because he was so close in age. But now he's 44 and he can still do it."