Bayer was born in Syracuse, New York. A graduate of New York City’s School of Visual Arts in 1987 with a degree in Fine Arts, he moved to Los Angeles in 1991, and became a popular director during the alternative rock era.
He has shot and directed videos for The Strokes,Nirvana,Holeand Green Day. Bayer claims that the reason he was chosen to direct "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was because his test reel was so bad. Bayer won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Direction in 2005 and 2007.
Several of Bayer's commercials have won the Clio. Clients include Coca-Cola, Toyota, Intel, Cadillac, Acura, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Pepsi Cola,Lincoln Aviator, Sony,The U.S. Army and Jeep. His Nikespot won an Association of Independent Commercial Producers Award for Best Direction in 1997. New Line Cinema and Platinum Dunes selected Bayer to helm their remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.