Shoot the Money

"Look, we paid for the van, we're gonna film it!"

When a television or movie production has paid a lot of money for an extra-special effect, prop or to get to an exotic location, then they are damn well going to get their money's worth. So we see a lot of that big budget item:
  • If it is an expensive locale, then we see lots of travelogue, scenes of the characters traveling through the iconic scenery. Especially in very scenic locations like Hawaii.
  • If it is an expensive prop then we'll see a lot of the prop and the plot will feature it heavily. Your only hope is that it isn't a Special Effects Failure.
  • If it is an expensive actor, then we'll see a lot of that actor. You got this guy because you didn't want the Poor Man's Substitute.
  • If it is an expensive set, then expect it to become the base of operations. If not, it might receive some minor redressing to represent other locations.
  • If it is animation then you don't waste any shots, 'cause you don't animate something you aren't going to use.

Note that there isn't anything wrong with this. Making the most of your budget is what really makes the industry appreciate you. Michael Bay has mentioned that there are stories of directors arriving on a set that cost 3 million dollars and deciding to eliminate three-quarters of the scenes that the set was built for.

See also Stock Footage, Scenery Porn, Prop Recycling, Big Budget Beef-Up, Widescreen Shot, Leave the Camera Running.

Please do not confuse with Money Making Shot. Also this trope has nothing to do with using cash as ammo or pumping stacks of bills full of lead.


  • While it's toned down in following and preceding works, the Ghost in the Shell Innocence team must have spent a ton of money on the CGI exterior/flyby shots, and they're damn well going to show them to you.
  • Same with Sky Blue.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey had a $10.5 million budget, and $6.5 million of it went to special effects—62%.
  • The 1995 film adaptation of the classic British comic character Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone. Despite one of Dredd's most famous traits being that he has never taken off his helmet or shown his face (at least not when he wasn't disguised, injured or bandaged to the point where you can't actually see his face) in the more than 30-year history of the comic, the producers were paying for a big name star so Stallone went helmetless about 20 minutes into the movie and stayed that way.
  • Same with Frank Miller's The Spirit. The Octopus is always hidden in shadows in the comics, but when you pay for Samuel L. Jackson to play the role...
  • The Soviet film version of Solaris, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, used this trope to justify the production team's trip to Japan by a long highway scene in the middle of the movie.
  • Lampshaded in Soapdish where a network executive mentions the simulated ocean background for the Soap Within a Show cost the studio over $100,000.
  • Na Pali Coast took place in Hawaii, and had lots of beautiful scenery shots... filmed in Costa Rica.
  • Inception takes this trope to a new level, given that it was shot in five different countries. There's quite a lot of Scenery Porn, but it doesn't end there, especially in Paris. We don't just see Paris; we see it fold into itself like a taco!
  • Titanic (1997): They made the most expensive film made up to that point, and damned if you don't see every penny of it.
  • Avatar surely qualifies too.
  • Star Trek The Motion Picture, before it got cut to a reasonable length. The crew spent lots of cash and elbow grease on the Enterprise and they'll be damned if they can't show for it.
  • Disney's pioneering 1982 CGI film TRON featured a relatively tiny amount of actual CGI, amounting to less than five minutes' worth in a feature-length film. However, the extensive use of footage from the famous Light Cycle sequence in television spots and trailers gave the impression that the entire film was computer generated.
    • Its long awaited sequel, TRON: Legacy would follow suit much the same way; especially since CGI team knew they working on a film that was the sequel to something most of them revered as 3D modelers and designers, so they made every dollar count. This is shown best during, of course, the new Light Cycle sequence.
  • Averted in Jaws. Despite the expense of the animatronic sharks used to film the movie, they were plagued with mechanical difficulties which limited their screen time. Most critics agree that this works to the benefit of the movie creating a more frightening atmosphere and increasing the effect when it does appear.
  • Next time you watch Armageddon pay attention to the number of, sometimes gratuitous, shots of helicopters. They were getting the most out of those rentals.
  • The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy embodies this. The level of detail put into the, well, everything is astonishing, and it shows. Every penny of its $285 million budget is right up on the screen.
    • Minor subversion in one scene, mentioned in the extended edition DVD for Return of the King: Still in Rohan, Éowyn offers a cup to Aragorn, and he drinks from it. Miranda Otto, along with the costume designers, lamented that the dress she wore as Éowyn for that scene was fantastic and intricate, particularly the skirt and sleeves - in a scene shooting the actors from the chest upwards.
    • Lord of the Rings actually has a lot of subversions. For example Bernard Hill noted that Théoden's breastplate had beautiful, intricate stitching and details—on the inside, where only he and wardrobe ever saw it. However, it served to make him feel like a king.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day, judging from its opening, intended to keep the presence of the T1000 ambiguous for a while (letting the audience think that Robert Patrick's character was another human sent back to stop another T-800). The trailers, of course, ignored that to show off the then-new and awesome morphing effects.
  • North, which has Dan Aykroyd and Reba McEntire in minor roles, has both sing the film's only song, despite it not being a musical, because if two big name singers are going to be in a movie, don't expect them to be silent.
  • Also averted in King Kong (1976). A giant animatronic version of Kong was built and cost 1.7 million dollars to make, but because it didn't look convincing enough, it was only seen in a couple of seconds-long shots.
  • Averted again in Alien, where the huge Space Jockey in its "pilot chair" was built by artist H.R. Giger for a lot of money and was used only in one scene. (then again, 30 years later it inspired a film of its own)
  • Very much averted in the Harry Potter films. They created an animatronic hog's head to mount on the wall of the Hog's Head pub in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It appears on-screen for a few seconds and you'll only notice that it moves if you're looking for it. On Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, four makeup artists spent five hours on a background extra dubbed "tattoo man" and, in the end, he doesn't appear in the final cut. The actors have often noted that the sets have much more detail than what is visible on-screen, something which ultimately paid off for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. And that doesn't even get into all the Classically Trained Extras.
  • Back to the Future Part II showcased newly-developed technology that allowed the cast to play past/present/future counterparts of their characters.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) is often accused of spending an inordinate amount of screentime with April O'Neil to justify the hefty pricetag of hiring Megan Fox for the role, though her involvement is likely much less costly than the price of the cgi/motion capture necessary for the Turtles themselves.
  • Equilibrium's interrogation scenes between Preston and Mary, despite simply being two people speaking to each other, were incredibly expensive. Mary required multiple dresses of various shades of pink and each scene required a smaller table than the one preceding it. Director Kurt Wimmer felt that it was absolutely necessary, despite squeezing the film's already tight budget, because the richer colors and the closing distance between the two characters showed that Preston was emotionally opening up and beginning to perceive beauty.
  • The iconic opening space battle of A New Hope was actually due to this trope. The ship that was originally the Millennium Falcon was decided to be too close in appearance to a ship from another movie, so they rushed out a new design at the last minute. In the meantime, the original Falcon's model was repurposed as the Tantive IV, Princess Leia's blockade runner. Ironically, the model for the Tantive IV was twice as large and detailed as any other model made for the movie, but only is in the film for around a minute.

Film (Animated)
  • Pinocchio:
    • You know that opening multiplane camera shot on the day Pinocchio goes to school? The one that's barely on screen for a full minute? That entire shot, which used a specially constructed horizontal multiplane camera, cost $50,000 to shoot, as much as the budget of a single Disney short cartoon!
    • The panning multiplane crane shot during the "Hi Diddley Dee" number, which lasts barely 33 seconds on screen, cost almost as much money (around $35,000).

Live-Action TV
  • Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda sure got their money's worth from the "asteroid base" cave set built for their fourth episode, as it appears over and over again for a variety of caves, asteroid bases, underground command centers, and so forth.
  • The South American Soap Opera industry loves to do this. It's their way to say We Care and dispel the doubts about the quality of their productions.
    • Brazilian producers do this very often. One of the most emblematic and recent examples was O Clone, where the crew went to Morocco and filmed a lot of scenery and action there, even some scenes supposed to happen later in the story.
    • Venezuelan soap producers are infamous for filming in gorgeous natural exteriors during the first chapters of a story, and then reusing the exterior location shots over and over while the rest of the show films on studio because most of the money was spent on those chapters.
    • When part of the action on Colombian soap Yo soy Betty, la fea moved from dull Bogotá to sunny Cartagena de Indias, there were a lot of scenes showing Betty wander by the beautiful beaches and the pretty buildings of the latter city.
      • The Mexican version La fea más bella didn't miss a single chance to show off when the action shifted from Mexico City to Acapulco and New York.
    • A Brazilian and Venezuelan fad during The '90s and early Nougties: build their own Building of Adventure location, namely a small town (usually only the facades, but still), or a department store. In an infamous case, a small mall set was built, but when the soap tanked and the set became too expensive to maintain, they blew it up on camera to do the double feat of disposing of the set and adding more drama to the plot (incidentally using the explosion to dispose of the most unpopular characters).
  • The original Battlestar Galactica shot the episode "The Lost Planet of the Gods" on location in Egypt, and used a shot of the pyramids of Giza as an establishing shot for the lost human homeworld of Kobol.
    • The original Battlestar Galactica used to be famous for overusing the Viper launch sequence, as it was very expensive high-tech special effects... at the time. Most of the battle scenes were reused and clipped together to suit the needs for script. It wasn't unusual, for example, to see the same clip of four weapon shots tracking up to a Cylon ship before blowing it up, sometimes flipped left for right to add a little variety. The only reason they didn't flip them upside down and get four clips instead of two is that everyone knows which part of the Cylon ship is the top. The cockpit interiors were carefully matched to the actors called for in the script, so one does see different hands and different shots of joystick manipulation, but the cockpit set was later recycled for the Buck Rogers television show, including the relabeled Vietnam-era OV1-C "Mohawk" recon aircraft joystick.
    • When the show costs over $1 million per episode in 1978, you can't be too afraid of seeing the same shots each episode.
  • The sitcom The Facts of Life had a special set in Australia. Much footage of Sydney's Harbour Bridge and Opera House, as well as Uluru was shown.
  • The Sci-Fi Channel original movie Dead Men Walking did this with a special effect. The admittedly cool-looking bit of zombies excavating a torso loses its shock value when it is seen again and again and again on completely different victims.
  • Stargate SG-1's 200th episode special featured a very expensive puppetry (same as from Thunderbirds) setup. The subsequent skit/parody went on for about three times as long as it should have. All for a cheap "wires cut" gag.
    • The Stargate production team built a very expensive medieval set for their Season 9 Ori story arc. It appeared quite regularly through the last 2 seasons of SG-1 and occasionally on Stargate Atlantis. After SG-1 finished, the Atlantis producers were able to use all the sets built, and the medieval set featured in every 2nd episode.
  • In addition to dedicating an entire episode to their Japanese train vs. car race, Top Gear filmed several Japanese car reviews while they were in the country.
    • A good portion of any cross-country episode (Botswana, Japan, Vietnam) will be spent on shots of either scenery or local culture.
      • The Arctic Special uses this trope.
    • Suberted in Clarkson's review of the BMW X6 in the final episode of Series 14, where he briefly visits exotic locations for rather trivial reasons in an episode strapped for cash! This includes visiting Spain to see if the handling is better (it isn't), Switzerland to see if the car can deal with snow (it can't), Hong Kong in search of a metaphor (an expensive skyscraper) and to Australia to see if the glovebox works upside down (it does)!
  • Doctor Who:
    • The characters in "The Ark in Space" spend an awful long time in the cryonic chamber (even though the useful controls, supplies and computers are elsewhere in other rooms) because the set was extremely beautiful and expensive and one of the most ambitious sets the series had yet executed. All scenes that don't absolutely have to take place somewhere else in the ship take place in it.
    • Robert Holmes commissioned a Sontaran story for Season 12 because the Sontaran costume created for the previous season was so expensive that the producer wanted to reuse it. The result was the Bottle Episode "The Sontaran Experiment." The strange part is that a new, lighter Sontaran head was created for it, defeating the story's original purpose.
    • One of the reasons K-9 was added to the cast was because his prop was too expensive to build solely for the character's planned role as quirky set dressing in a one-shot story. Unfortunately, the prop was badly made and the remote control interfered with the cameras, meaning the prop had to be replaced multiple times, negating the initial point.
    • The production team actually traveled to Paris for "City of Death," the first time a Doctor Who story was shot outside of Britain. Most of the story was set in Paris anyway, but the director made sure to include gratuitous shots of the Doctor and Romana walking around Parisian locations in the first episode. Less effective use was made of Amsterdam in "Arc of Infinity," but in "Planet of Fire" the island of Lanzarote doubled as itself and as an alien planet.
    • The Terileptils in "The Visitation," and the pioneering animatronic masks used to bring them to life, were intended to return. Those plans fell through. One mask did end up being reused in modified form on a delegate from Posikar in "The Trial of a Time Lord."
    • "Time Flight" is a notorious example. Lavish attention is spent on the Concorde to show off that they paid to get a Concorde.
    • In "Battlefield", producer John Nathan-Turner decided that Stock Footage of a helicopter simply wouldn't do, and what the show really needed to blow its budget on an actual one. So we get long, lingering shots of the helicopter transporting The Brigadier around.
    • In the second episode of the Ninth Doctor's series, we are introduced to the Face of Boe, an enormous disembodied head in a tank, clearly an extremely expensive prop. It takes practically no part in the story other than looking exotic. Fans with some grasp of the economics of television production knew they'd be seeing more of it. And so it proved, as it returned in the following two series, complete with actual importance to the story.
    • Many alien species in the new series will frequently appear multiple times, as a way to justify their very well done special effects and costumes. The Ood have made multiple appearances, and so have the Sontarans, Judoon, and Slitheen (strangely enough, after their first appearance in "Rose," the Autons don't show up again until the end of Season 5.)
  • Used and lampshaded repeatedly a few years back on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. They had used a giant whale costume with functioning blowhole for one sketch. After that, Conan announced that they would feature the costume in as many sketches as possible in order to justify the price of several thousand dollars, and broke the per-scene cost down after each sketch. This was done on at least 8 separate episodes (Conan often has running gags over the course of a week or two of episodes, of course).
    • Inverted on his last couple of weeks on NBC, where he presented a series of one-off sketches supposedly constructed to be as expensive as possible to the network such as "Purchased fossil of a ground sloth from the Smithsonian spraying an original Picasso with beluga caviar." Generally, these sketches featured obvious fakes or donated loaners.
  • All the Star Trek series and films have generally been filmed in the greater Los Angeles area. In some cases locations have been used since professional film making began in LA and are still used today.
    • Ever wonder why Kirk and the gang found yet another Earth clone? The production team did manage a lot for making do with so little. Especially for the Nazi episode.
    • A lot of the studio models and CGI models of ships were recycled from one show to the next, sometimes as simple as flipping them upside down or recolored.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise must have spent a lot of money on the "cave" set from season 1, considering how often the crew would have to explore a cave, have a shuttle fall into a cave, explore an ice cave, have a shuttle fall into an ice cave, and so on.
    • Showing a high degree of savvy about the economics of television production, when Gene Roddenberry wrote the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation, he deliberately invoked this trope by adding a scene in Engineering, knowing otherwise the costly set would never be built.
    • The Original Series offered up a kind of diffuse example. It was one of the first generation of television shows broadcast in color. As such, color televisions were still a luxury good, and color production equipment sure wasn't free either. Thus all the sets were painted and lit in what is now considered incredibly garish color, to wring maximum spectacle out of the expensive gear.
  • The British series The Bill once had an end of season Cliff Hanger involving a (no doubt expensive to hire) police helicopter. The helicopter features prominently in the ending, and there's lots of footage of London shown from the helicopter.
  • An episode of Angel had Angel being poisoned by a leech-like parasite that forced him to remain asleep and have crazy nightmares. The director, David Boreanaz himself, said that there were two main props of the leech, one crafted out of a spongy material with some slime on it and another that had full animatronics and cost them $85,000. He resorted to filming as little of the costly prop as possible because he felt it was too goofy looking and the cheaper sponge prop actually worked better. He wouldn't have used it at all if it wasn't for the fact it cost $85,000.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles took pride in filming each episode on location, all over the world (partly, they did have headquarters in London, Spain, Prague, Morocco and South Africa, but did fly the actors around and filming a lot more than mere establishing shots.) Cue lots and lots of Scenery Porn.
  • The producers of Space: 1999 spent a tonne of cash on the show's modelwork and sets, and made sure that they got their money's worth; shots of the show's Eagles taking off and crashing and blowing up were used over and over again, and alien spaceship popped up in several different guises in different episodes. BRIAN BLESSED even guest starred as two completely different characters in two episodes a season apart.
  • Although The Prisoner seemed to make extensive use of Portmeirion, the location filming had been restricted to just a few weeks early in the production, and later episodes were mostly studio-bound. The directors nonetheless gave the impression that most of the series had been shot on location by carefully rationing the existing footage.
  • A smaller version of Zoe was used for the Sesame Street special "Abby in Wonderland" (Zoe played the Dormouse, called Mousey the Hatter Helper here). However, it was used for a few episodes in season 40 alongside the normal-sized Zoe.
  • A series 6 episode of House featured a video game developer who succumbs to a medical complaint while testing his new virtual reality game, depicted using very expensive-looking CGI. Not only do House's team find an excuse to give us another look by playing the game themselves while supposedly investigating his symptoms but the patient is also obliging enough to develop hallucinations that incorporate similar CGI elements. In addition, whenever any future episodes show characters playing a video game it is always this one. The controls have inexplicably been mapped from the original virtual reality system to standard console controllers while the graphics remain as pre-rendered shots from camera angles that would make gameplay very difficult, but at least it gives the show an excuse to reuse the CGI footage again.
  • The History Channel must have spent a small fortune on creating the CGI collapse of the Space Needle in Seattle, because they used it over and over again in the original Life After People special.
  • ZigZagged in A Game of Thrones. In the books, Tyrion loses much of his nose in battle, turning his already-misshapen face into a twisted lump of scar tissue. In the series, he receives an understated scar that Margaery Tyrell says may actually make him better-looking. Partially this is to save the time and expense of putting Peter Dinklage behind an elaborate facial prosthesis, but mostly it's because, if you hire Peter freaking Dinklage, the last thing you do is hide that gorgeous mug from the camera.
  • The Vendaface machine on The Muppet Show was meant to be only used once, but executive producer David Lazer suggested that he should be used more often as it was an expensive puppet to build.

  • You can bet that this is probably how a lot of theaters operate, especially community theaters that operate on a very catch-as-catch-can kind of way. If, for example, a patron of the arts donates a large amount of clothing that's very period-specific, say, The Sixties, expect them to find a play set in the Sixties so they can use it.

Video Games
  • This trope is why full-motion-video video games were so prevalent on the Sega CD, the Neo-Geo, and pretty much anything that ran CDs in the 1995-97 years. Switching to CD-drive-based technology was expensive, but the actual gameplay rarely required more than the 8 megabytes that you could fit on a simple cartridge. So what are we going to fill all this extra space with? Why, video files of course!
  • Presumably, the reason why Silver was introduced as a new character in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was so that Sonic Team could make the most out of the Havok physics engine by creating a character whose sole gimmick is that he can manipulate physics-enabled objects with his mind. The rest of the game is also chock-full of physics objects to show off the engine, but the manner in which they were implemented wasn't quite perfect.
  • If a game has realistic physics (Havok or otherwise), it will have physics puzzles, and consequently it will probably have telekinesis or a gravity weapon. Even if the game is not actually supposed to feature a lot of throwing barrels and cans at enemies.
  • After five years of working on their Hydroengine (an engine where water flows realistically) Dark Energy Digital made Hydrophobia, a game based on a boat, which is flooding.

Web Comics
  • In The B-Movie Comic, one behind-the-scenes sequence explains that they had to cut Snuka's best scene short to make room for their three-minute-long unabridged sequence of the mummy strangling a redshirt: Lee (Snuka's actor) is paid (far) below minimum wage, while the CGI mummy cost money.

Western Animation
  • Notably averted in the animated film Kung Fu Panda, in which Jackie Chan's character Monkey got surprisingly few lines, making many people wonder why they had to get Jackie Chan for that role when they could've essentially gone with a cheaper actor.
    • Animated films do this a lot. The actors don't need to do much, just read the lines, so they don't need to be paid much. Live films are incredibly hard work compared to sitting in a warm studio with a microphone, cracking jokes with Jack Black and Angelina Jolie. Plus, Jackie Chan provided technical guidance with the fight scenes - he is the master of kung fu comedy.
  • This trope, coupled with availability and scheduling conflicts, is why Rita and Runt stopped appearing after a while in Animaniacs. Not only was Bernadette Peters expensive, but they always had to put her singing.
  • Joked about in Sam & Max: Freelance Police where, in the series finale parodying clip shows, Sam tells Max to stop talking, it costs money.
  • The New Adventures Of Captain Scarlet: Gerry Anderson Productions had spent a small fortune acquiring the latest and greatest in CGI animation technology and talent, and by 'eck they were going to give it a workout. Scenery Porn, Technology Porn and all the elaborate and detailed visual effects they could devise ensued; episodes like "Swarm" and "Rain of Terror" were rather obviously written around a fancy new trick the techies had come up with, but the results did look pretty damn cool.
  • Played with in The Simpsons' Treehouse Of Horror segment "Homer³", where Homer enters the third dimension and is subsequently rendered in CGI, where upon he remarks that he "feels like I'm wasting a million dollars just standing here".