Artistic License – Film Production
aka: You Fail Film School Forever
"Television may have an excuse for putting on all those unrealistic Medical Shows and unrealistic Police Shows and unrealistic Lawyer Shows and unrealistic Western shows. After all, Television writers don't have any first-hand experience at being Doctors or Cops or Lawyers or Cowboys. But what's the alibi when Television puts on an unrealistic Comedy about
A situation that would normally be chalked up to a lack of research, but can't really be put in that category because movie shooting is being inaccurately portrayed... by people who are in the process of shooting a movie
or making some other form of visual entertainment! Scenes are shot in a single take, often in sequence, with the camera kept at a great distance where it couldn't possibly be getting the right angles or close-ups to make the scene convincing, and they never do a retake. This is especially annoying in action scenes, although it can often follow the Rule of Cool
Not necessarily a bad thing
: the entire process of filmmaking is rarely the point, so a bit of Artistic License
, so that the viewers have an easier time understanding it, or to prevent a subplot from dominating the movie can be a wise choice.
Acceptable Breaks from Reality
- Showing scenes being filmed in order, or at least in an order that makes dramatic sense, because otherwise, the Show Within a Show could be very hard for the audience to understand. In Real Life, scenes are usually filmed out of order for practical reasons (limited availability of sets or location shootings, actors' schedules, high costs of shooting certain scenes etc.).
- Showing multiple takes can easily bore the viewer. Can be got around somewhat with editing it down to the mistakes that ruin the take, or other such tricks, but it'd be hard to have a realistic number of takes for every scene.
- Special effects will tend to be of the sort that's fun and interesting for the audience to see. Animatronics will be preferred to CGI or stop-motion monsters (unless these can be played for comedy), and you'll almost never see an in-camera matte shot.
- "But the camera couldn't have got that shot!": Maybe there's a few angles in the final shot which the cameras we see couldn't have got. But it'd be annoying to the viewer to show the alternate angles being filmed in separate takes.
- The director screaming "Cut!" after every minor little flub. Good if you want the Show Within a Show to end to get on with the actual show, but in real life, getting all the moving parts required for a take of a film or TV show (lights, camera, microphones, sound, etc.,) to start at once, is pretty arduous, so slamming the brakes for something minor is pretty rare. You'll notice if you ever watch a gag reel, if something minor happens like an actor tripping over their line, they'll simply mutter a quick apology, say "Let me start over," and do just that. It's a lot easier to edit out an earlier mistake than to sync up a crew of dozens to start a new take.
- Lots of simplifications: For example, in real life, an action scene may be stitched together from dozens of takes, each a few seconds long, in order to allow special effects and other things to be worked in. When the actors aren't in closeup, they'll probably be replaced by stuntmen. Reaction shots and what's being reacted to might be filmed weeks apart. And that's not even getting into matte shots, where the actors and the background are filmed separately. All this is confusing for the viewers, and would take a long time to establish, so why not pretend the action scene is all one take, and that the special effects are really happening at the same time?
Other times, they just think Viewers Are Morons
and won't notice the glaring mistakes.
There can often be some overlap with Magical Security Cam
and You Just Ruined the Shot
Anime and Manga
Film - Animated
- When Renge decides to make a movie out of the titular Ouran High School Host Club (with a Hollywood camera crew handy), the intended Throw It In scene with Tamaki fighting young Yakuza thugs couldn't have been filmed from the position the camera was in (not to mention it wasn't there when the fight started).
- Subverted in Perfect Blue. The scenes from the show-within-a-show filmed out of order, but it could be argued that it adds to the movie's dreamlike atmosphere. In fact, near the end of the movie when they call a wrap, the scene they're filming doesn't even seem finished.
- In Pokémon Special, the X Transceiver commercial shown could not have been filmed in one shot and would have required a fair bit of editing. Furthermore, there is apparently only one film director in all of Unova, as he is working on several projects across mediums in a relatively short amount of time.
- There is an episode in the early Kanto series where the heroes participate in a movie. The director then proceeds to shoot the last scene of the movie, saying "I always shoot the last scene first, so I know how the movie ends". From the way he says it, this is implied to be a silly, comical quirk of his.
- Averted in Best Wishes with Luke and his movies, as their production is presented in a fairly accurate method; with the Pokéwood episode showing the necessity to shoot scenes out of order, then edit them into the correct order in post-production.
- Street Fighter II V, with the Fei Long episode, where Ken is hired to play the bad guy, and the two of them start Ad-libbing the fight (so to speak). The director calls it off and vows to destroy the footage simply because Ken eventually managed to tag Fei Long in the face with an attack. Jackie Chan has to be spinning in his grave, and he's not even dead yet!
Film - Live-Action
- The film Bolt uses this, with the dog convinced that the show is real. This is hand waved by saying that they wanted the dog to think the girl was actually in mortal danger, so they'd get a better performance. Still, method acting didn't come close to justifying the absurd expenses and dangers incurred by the type of shooting they were apparently attempting. A network TV series in particular simply wouldn't have that kind of budget.
- Legality and budget aside, the director is shown as being a bit insane. The network executive certainly thinks so.
- Bowfinger is all about this. It even has a shoestring guerrilla film crew shooting around an actor who doesn't know he's their star. With a crew made of illegal Mexican immigrants. And a cult in the mix.
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story has an action sequence where Bruce fights a mercenary for several minutes, in one take as the camera follows them. Not only that, but the fight is real!
- Subverted in Ed Wood, as he does do all those "simple mistakes". Except that he is shown shooting scenes out of order. He must have been awake that day in film school.
- Johnny Cage's introduction scene in Mortal Kombat. They shoot an entire fight scene (until a last-move screw-up) in one take.
- Ironically the ending of the snuff film hoax Snuff, which was actually supposed to look like a real film shoot, looked nothing like a real film shoot.
- Charlie's Angels has Matt LeBlanc's character acting in a movie - the inaccurate portrayal, in this example, was a device to show that it wasn't reality. This is similar to the Mortal Kombat example above.
- The first scene of Austin Powers in Goldmember, which has an action scene filmed in one shot for a Movie Within A Movie of Steven Spielberg's Austin Powers. Rule of Funny.
- It's not entirely clear if the opening of Tropic Thunder is intended to be this, or if it's intended to be a Movie Within A Movie that then cut to the actors. The camera is never seen, so it might not be intended as a single take.
- The Truman Show is pretty good when it comes to the visual footage — the show does have the wonky camera angles, lack of/awkward use of camera movement, inappropriately close or far-away shots, etc, that you'd expect from a live show captured with hidden cameras. What is more problematic is the sound. All the dialogue is very clean and clear, as though caught on a high-end unidirectional mic from a couple of feet away, including a scene on a beach (beaches being notoriously awful places to record sound even under ideal conditions, usually requiring some degree of ADR for dialogue to even be comprehensible). At one point it's suggested that certain passers-by are concealing little shotgun mics on their person, but it's a Hand Wave at best.
- An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn desperately tries to justify using this trope, by portraying all the actors in the fictional movie as being total assholes who will only ever do one take of a given scene, which later becomes a sticking point when the director steals and destroys the film's master print. Like everything else in Burn Hollywood Burn, though, it fails dismally — not least because the fictional film is shown being edited on a computer at one point, meaning that a completed version of the film would probably survive in some form, even if the audio-visual quality was degraded.
- The Burt Reynolds film Hooper is nothing but stuntman scenes and stuntman activities, but runs mainly on Rule of Cool instead of accuracy.
- Francois Truffaut's Day for Night is basically a response to this trope. While it does show things like multiple takes (from different angles to keep it interesting) and the difficulties of making films, it goes a bit dramatic with worst case scenarios, including actor death.
- During Gordy, a camera has its ordinary lens secretly replaced with a wide-angle lens, which will cause the commercial being filmed to be distorted. The cameraman apparently notices while he's looking through the camera, but all he does is rub his eyes. No one apparently noticed when the footage was being edited together. Sabotage of this kind would require striking the whole film crew with blindness.
- The opening scene of Mrs. Doubtfire features Daniel recording for a cartoon. For the most part in the West voice recording for animation is done before the actual animating (Japan however animates then records). Chris Columbus DID acknowledge this in his commentary and figured it could be taken as Daniel dubbing a foreign cartoon. However, this doesn't make sense either as the lip-synch in the cartoon (produced by Chuck Jones) is clearly English. Daniel is more than likely just doing post-production looping, either to just do touch ups on certain lines, or maybe Daniel replaced another actor, and is recording over the previous actor's work. Which makes sense from his conversation with the producer who complains that this session is already costing the studio and they're on a deadline. Also, you don't typically have a censor board overseeing the actual dubbing/recording of a cartoon... that would waste far too much of their time. (Maybe they were just there to hotbox inside the booth?)
- The Tekken movie features a scene where Jin fights Marshall Law inside a cage. The fight is televised and we see plenty of shots on the TV from inside the cage...except there's no camera in the cage and no sign of any filming equipment around as the fight is going on.
- Averted in one story by Ephraim Kishon where he demonstrates how different real filmmaking is from this trope: Production runs up costs even if nothing happens on set, continuity is Serious Business, and a simple scene may need twenty shots until it's right. Add a Primadonna Director... let's just say, it's not fun for the poor guy who ended up as an extra (even worse: unwillingly), having to play the role of the random guy who cries "Oy!" when the star steps on his foot.
- Tyler Durden in Fight Club is a part-time projectionist who likes to prank audiences by inserting single frames of pornography into children's films. The narrator explains that the pornographic frames are so brief that the audience doesn't consciously notice them, asking the reader to "divide a second into sixty equal parts" to illustrate the brevity. In fact, the industry standard framerate in films is 24 frames-per-second, rather than 60, so the pornographic frame would appear onscreen for 1/25th of a second. This could potentially be chalked up to the narrator's own ignorance, except that Tyler is the narrator's split personality, and would be expected to have an understanding of framerates.
- The deservedly forgotten ITV sitcom Finest Half Hour was set in a TV station but bore no resemblance to a real one. Wasn't funny either.
- The Fall Guy
- Extras has this trope in-universe, as the director of "When the Whistle Blows" is deliberately shown to be totally incompetent.
- Viciously subverted in Frontline, where the current affairs show within a show's tricks are exposed time and again. A notable early example is the filming of an interviewer's reactions AFTER the interview is finished.
- Power Rangers Time Force at least acknowledged the need for multiple takes, although the movie was quickly revealed to be a trap, so we didn't get to see much more of the normal shooting.
- Lost Galaxy plays with the trope when Kendrix must fill in for an injured actress. The film is a romance and the scenes we see being shot appear to be in chronological order. The last scene filmed is the ending and they're apparently using just the one shot since the only re-takes they have to do are down to Kendrix forgetting her lines. Of course it's not too glaring since it is established that 90% of the movie has already been shot.
- iCarly tends to take creative liberties with live podcasting. For example, using a studio quality camera for shootingnote and relatively stable shots despite no tripod.
- Comic Book Men featured shooting a commercial one episode, it all seemed genuine until the very end when the cast members gathered outside the store and delivered a line to conclude the commercial. This required several takes and the last one where they got everything perfect an old lady on the street walked into the shot. This of course ruined the shot, even though they could have easily used the audio over one of the other takes during editing.
- Not a movie example, but related; Glee's "The First Time" features Rachel and Blaine, the stars in the school play, rehearsing about a week before their debut. They're not blocking any scenes, or even off book! This despite the fact that both Darren Criss and Lea Michele (not to mention many other cast members) came to the show from theater/musical backgrounds.
- Justified on 30 Rock. Much like Saturday Night Live in the real world, the in-universe show is taped live in front of a studio audience.
- Walt Disney Presents shows the production of Disney movies as clearly staged and simplified and thus not entirely accurate. This is especially significant with episodes showing the production of animated films. To see this particular trope in action here, take a look at no less than two episodes on the production of Lady and the Tramp, "A Story of Dogs" and "Cavalcade of Songs".
- In Spider-Man, MJ was to star in an action flick. One scene involved a brawl in an elevator. Only the two actors were anywhere near the elevator. Apparently there were no microphones, no lines, no choreography, and two unmanned or remote-controlled cameras. Small wonder that it went horribly wrong.
- The Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Disney Hollywood Studios suffers from this, but since it's more about watching cool stunts than getting an accurate portrayal of a film set, it's somewhat forgiveable.
- The old 'Titanic' ride at Fox Studios Sydney is set during the filming of the 1997 movie, but lacks the camera/sound crew and other production personnel that would be there if this were a real film shoot.
- The Movies. This game is about running a studio and making movies. However, you have to shoot all the scenes in order—which can mean that your cast and crew will shoot a scene on one set, then run to another set for the next scene, then back to the first one if that's where the next scene takes place. And if another movie is shooting on the set, they have to wait instead of shooting another part of the movie. And scenes are shot in a single take.
- This can get particularly irritating if one cast member is out of action, usually due to alcoholism and stress. The entire shooting schedule has to be put on hold while said thespian is cured of his or her ailments, rather than e.g. letting the camera team film shots where the actors are not needed.
- How do they shoot the killing of movie-monsters? By literally putting a blade in the actor's neck.
- The Saints Row: The Third expansion Gangstas In Space has the Boss playing the lead role As Himself in the titular sci-fi movie. Apparently, depicting an Alien Invasion of Stilwater involves building working alien fighters and using them to attack the lead actors, and the shootouts between the Boss and the aliens are shot with live ammunition and working laser pistols. But hey, this is the same game that features a Zombie Apocalypse, lucha libre gangsters, a boss fight in virtual reality, and a lethal game show/arena deathmatch, so it's all fair.
- In Stuntman and Stuntman: Ignition, long car-chase scenes are shot are shot in sequence, with very little props - even when the scene involves a helicopter chasing a sports car through San Francisco, shooting just about every single thing with missiles. But hey, otherwise, it wouldn't be cool.
- Ignition makes it a bit worse with the new effects and ragdoll physics on the actors. The director no longer seems to care if you just smacked your sports car into an extra on the sidewalk and sent him cartwheeling into traction. They also seem to have everything possible rigged up to explode; in the first scene of Overdrive you can optionally smash through a gas station and send it up in flames, while in the first scene of Whoopin' n' Hollerin' II the monster truck can crush every car, whether or not they're marked.
- Subverted in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. The films made at Pokéstar Studios go through multiple facets of production, as the script has to be read in order to choose the best response and action. Following the stage directions properly can make your film a hit, while going against them can make it a Box Office Bomb. The films also make heavy use of Chroma Key special effects that require editing in post-production.
- An episode of Tom And Jerry Kids did this.
- An episode of The Powerpuff Girls did this, although the movie was actually part of a scam to rob the bank.
- An episode of The Flintstones not only did this, but had a director filming Fred and Barney, with no apparent script, who didn't even know they were in a movie, while they were being chased around and hit by boulders.
- Used justifiably in Home Movies because the filmmakers are kids who don't know how the process actually works, and only have a home video camera to work with. In one episode, when it suggested that he should be shooting a different scene, Brendan replies, "Yeah, well we don't really have any editing equipment, so we kinda have to shoot in sequence."
- A security camera example: In The Simpsons episode "The Blunder Years" we see thirty year old security footage, complete with sound and in color, and it's filmed from different angles. It looks more like a Retraux television show.