Troubled Production / Fictional Examples

Fictional examples of troubled productions.

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  • A 2011 commercial for the Citi card is told from the perspective of a makeup artist working on a film. This trope seems to be in play if the lead's cell phone going off, rain delay, and demand for a bigger explosion are any indication. Funnily enough, the makeup artist in the commercial is played by Patricia Ja Lee, who has actually dealt with troubled productions in the past during her tenure on Power Rangers.
    "I thought we'd be on location for three days. It's been three weeks."

    Anime & Manga 
  • In a Detective Conan filler case, the cast befriends the young leader of a drama troupe that seems to have serious problems. The script writer is a bitter Jerk Ass, said troupe leader is a sweetie but he's overwhelmed due to his lack of experience, the treasurer had embezzled quite a sum of money, two troupe members die... Oh dear.
  • Parodied in Haruhi Suzumiya when the cast tries to make a movie, and everyone's favorite Reality Warper starts causing...problems. Mikuru nearly kills Kyon with her spontaneously developed Eye Beams, a cat gains advanced intellect and the ability to speak, extinct birds appear out of nowhere, and so on. Also, Haruhi is even more of a jerk than usual.
  • Masago's movie in Jewelpet Sunshine. Since he favors his lead actress Garnet excessively, it leads to complaints on part of the rest of the cast, which are rebuffed by Masago in true Prima Donna Director style. This causes both cast and crew to walk off until he realizes that making a movie is worthless if no one's having fun, apologizes to everyone and starts accepting suggestions. After this, another problem arises; lead actor Jasper can't get a pivotal scene right and collapses from exhaustion, so Masago takes it upon himself to replace him.
  • (Darkly) parodied in Episode 10 of Paranoia Agent. It's hard to produce an anime series when your production staff just can't seem to get along. It's even harder when the crew starts getting killed off one by one.
  • An episode of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 had Urara's first show, an outdoor stage show, go completely off the rails. The actress playing the main character falls ill during rehearsals, leading Nozomi, who was kicked out of the Drama Club after just two days, to decide to take over. Then, there was trying to get Nozomi to get through the show without klutzing out. Then, during the show, Girinma shows up and summons the Monster of the Week, forcing the girls to figure out a way to transform and fight the thing. And it is a hit! However, when Urara's manager asks her if she could pull that off again, she's left speechless and the other four vocalize what she wants to say: "No way!"

    Comic Strips 
  • After Rebecca from For Better or for Worse becomes a pop star, she decides to hold a Halloween concert at her high school with her former band 4Evah as an opening act. While preparing for the concert, 4Evah's April Patterson recruits her uncle Phil after he tells her about the trumpet and how it works. 4Evah puts on a surprisingly good show as a result, then everything goes wrong for Rebecca. The sound system cuts out, one of her band members shows up drunk, and another is stoned. Rebecca ends up running offstage crying and April goes to comfort her.

  • Tropic Thunder parodies this phenomenon, with specific jabs at Apocalypse Now. Funnily enough, a minor example of this happened during production. During the opening scene, Ben Stiller's character is supposed to say "alright, can we cut now?" after a scene in the Film Within a Film goes wrong. Problem was, Stiller also directed the film, so when his character said "cut", the crew mistook that for their director ordering them to cut.
  • A fictional example can be found in Werner Herzog's Incident at Loch Ness. To give any details would be ruining it. As the Film page shows, it is inspired by Herzog's actual career.
  • Living In Oblivion is a nineties independent flick in which Steve Buscemi plays the role of a director in a nineties independent flick where everything goes wrong. The movie itself is supposedly based on the director's experience while working on a Brad Pitt movie called Johnny Suede.
  • The film within the film for Singin' in the Rain (The Dueling Cavalier) experiences a severely troubled production due to the transition from silent to talkie pictures; the cast and crew's inexperience with sound recording (and the leading lady's paint-peeling voice) causes numerous difficulties, leading the film to be laughed off by audiences at its first screening. It's salvaged by a hasty Re Tool into a campy musical and the redubbing of all the film's dialogue via studio recording, complete with another actress dubbing the leading lady's lines.
  • At one point in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Dewey Cox (under the influence of a number of drugs) attempts to create his bizarre masterpiece "Black Sheep" (a clear parody of the Brian Wilson song "Smile"), which leads to the band and his wife to break up with him and his inevitable drug fueled rampage through the city in nothing but his underwear.
    "I need ten thousand didgeridoos!"
  • Shadow of the Vampire fictionalizes the production of Nosferatu highlighting the disagreements between stars and producers, director and crew, and an actual vampire.
  • A subplot in Irreconcilable Differences is Ryan O'Neal's hilariously overblown Gone with the Wind musical ripoff spinning out of control.
  • The film-within-a-film of Scream 3, based on the 'real-life' Woodsboro murders, is quickly shut down when Ghostface starts targetting the cast.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit starts off with a film-within-a-film that has gone over schedule and budget due to Roger not seeing stars when the fridge is dropped on his head.
  • In François Truffaut's 1973 film Day for Night, the film-within-a-film Meet Pamela runs into all sorts of problems. A power failure at the processing lab ruins footage of a key scene, the lead actress is emotionally fragile after a nervous breakdown (and nearly has a second one during filming), the actor playing her husband is having serious relationship issues and nearly walks off the film, the actress playing his mother is so drunk she can't remember her lines, a cat involved in a cutaway scene keeps running away from its mark, and the middle-aged lead actor is killed in a car accident and the insurance agency won't cover the cost of reshooting his scenes with another actor.
  • State and Main shows examples of a lot of the production troubles of location shooting, especially the interpersonal variety; in-fighting, ego-clashes, irresponsible talent and/or management, Executive Meddling, etc.
  • And God Spoke is a mockumentary about an attempt to create a biblical epic that goes downhill as the production goes on, resulting in a film that looks nothing like the filmmakers' vision, but does end up as a So Bad, It's Good cult classic.
  • This Is Spinal Tap depicts a tour as snakebitten as the Victory Tour (see Music for details) would be that year in real life.
  • Return to Cabin by the Lake is about a Ripped from the Headlines production based on the exploits of the horror writer serial killer from the first film. It first attracts protestors because of its exploitation of a real tragedy. Then the original killer, upset about the film's unfaithfulness, murders and impersonates one of the producers and starts to target the rest of the cast and crew.

  • "Coppola's Dracula" by Kim Newman, which is basically Hearts Of Darkness ... In "Anno Dracula" Transylvania!
  • Patrick Quentin's Puzzle for players consists entirely of this. At one point, the desperate Broadway producer explicitly writes down a list of "13 reasons why Troubled Waters cannot possibly see the light of day".
  • Blown Away, the Discworld version of Gone with the Wind in Moving Pictures. The dwarfs object to being stereotyped as miners, the leading lady objects to the Romantic False Lead being a troll, the troll objects to that objection, and C.M.O.T. Dibbler is trying desperately to recoup his losses by sticking Product Placement wherever he can (he'd accidentally discovered Subliminal Advertising, and figured if one frame of an ad worked, a full minute in the middle of the climax would work even better). At one point someone asks why all Dibbler's moving pictures are set "in a world gone mad", and gets the reply "Because Mr Dibbler is a very observant person."
  • The Day of the Locust (and its film adaptation) features a troubled production as part of its Horrible Hollywood setting. A Napoleonic costume drama is running behind schedule, and the crew therefore rush into shooting the climactic Battle of Waterloo action sequence on a sound stage that is still actively under construction. The structurally unsound "battlefield" soon collapses under the weight of hundreds of extras and crew members, causing numerous injuries and a lawsuit against the filmmakers.

    Live Action TV 
  • Slings and Arrows has one of these every year. The first two turn out well; the third one ends with the lead actor dying and everyone else involved in the production being fired.
  • Part one of the Young Indiana Jones movie The Hollywood Follies revolves around Indy engaging in a battle of wits with Real Life primadonna director Erich von Stroheim over Foolish Wives.
  • Pretty much any of Vincent Chase's movies on Entourage (Smokejumpers, Aquaman, Medellin... pretty much all except Gatsby) fall victim to this trope.
  • The Community episode "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" depicts the Dean trying to film a 30-second ad for the college and slowly driving himself and all the other characters to madness. The episode is shot as Abed's documentary, which explicitly described as the Hearts of Darkness to the Dean's Apocalypse Now.
  • The Late Late Show with James Corden invokes this in its occasional "Celebrity Noses" sketch, which they never seem to ever get right.
  • Supernatural has used this trope a few times. Most notably, the season 2 episode "Hollywood Babylon" has the Winchesters getting involved in a horror film production that's being progressively sabotaged by evil spirits that are being summoned by a spiteful screenwriter. The season 6 ep "The French Mistake" also qualifies: the brothers find themselves dropped in place of actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on the set of a TV series called Supernatural, and rapidly escalating pandemonium ensues culminating in the bloody deaths of the cast, crew, and even departed creator Eric Kripke.
    "Robert Singer": At least they're talking.

  • The Producers, when they weren't troubling their own production, were overjoyed with the 'bad luck' that struck it, until the worst disaster: audiences loved "Springtime for Hitler".
  • The play being performed in Curtains! is one big screwed-up mess, thanks to a lot of back-stage drama, an entire number being badly-choreographed, the lead actress giving a terrible performance, and a whole lot of murders happening. Fortunately, the detective investigating said murders is a Promoted Fanboy who puts just as much time into improving the quality of the play.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the former Disaster! attraction at Universal Studios Florida, the fictitious Disaster Studios runs into trouble with the production of its latest movie, Mutha Nature, due to the filming falling behind schedule and all of its actors being sent to rehab. Director Frank Kincaid, the owner of Disaster Studios, has sunk "every last cent" into the film, which will likely be a Creator Killer if it fails. As a result, they had to cast people from a studio tour (i.e. the people visiting the attraction) in major supporting roles.

     Video Games 
  • Nekyia Corridor, a VR movie in the Mass Effect universe, was hit badly by this and is famous in-universe for how much trouble it caused for the cast and crew as well as a terrorist attack. It was so bad that it formed a Story Arc on Mass Effect's Cerberus Daily News spin-off but it was a financial and critical success nonetheless.
    • Lightning struck Nathan Gold, the leading man, while strapped to the surface of a spaceship in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant which fried his suit's electronics and required him to get more oxygen.
    • Kate First, the leading lady, walked off the set with phone footage of her having a tantrum hit the extranet. Her tantrums had caused some of the movie to be rewritten.
    • The day after principal photography finished on the movie, the turian city Vallum of the planet Taetrus was obliterated after a ship crashed into the capital at near-FTL speeds which later turned out to be a terrorist attacknote . Unfortunately, there was a scene in which a lovelorn pilot crashed a ship into a city at FTL speeds. The scene is in the final production, only it cuts to black just before the disastrous impact.

    Web Original 
  • The crappy student film Marble Hornets was called off due to "unworkable conditions," with the director getting increasingly hysterical and paranoid. Later analysis would reveal that in this case, "unworkable conditions" means "driven to near-insanity by the constant presence of a creepy guy with no face."
  • Tween Fest by Funny or Die and the Upright Citizens Brigade is a web show about the titular social media festival, a parody of YouTube culture. The festival's creator, Todd Crawford, organized it for his daughter Maddisyn, a teenage internet celebrity famous for her pimple-popping videos. Things go awry almost immediately, and they only get worse from there.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Radioactive Man" focuses on one of these. The naive producers of a movie adaptation of the popular comic book character decide to shoot their film in Springfield based solely on the town's misspelled Variety ad, and chaos ensues.
    • Local businesses promptly milk the cast and crew for all they're worth by jacking up prices at stores, restaurants, etc.
    • Not that the locals don't get some karmic payback; the Simpsons' own house was used for a location set and Homer is paid only a few thousand dollars for the resultant damage done to it to set up lights, etc.
    • Leading man Rainier Wolfcastle proves consistently unable to say Radioactive Man's catchphrase "Up and atom!" as anything but "Up and at them!"
    • Milhouse van Houten is picked from the local kids to play Sidekick Fallout Boy (because the best child that auditions, Bart Simpson, is not quite tall enough). The boy does not take well to the rigors of movie production and eventually flees the set, which results in the ruination of an expensive, one-take-only action setpiece. From there, an attempt is made to finish the movie with only previously shot footage of Milhouse, which gets the editor fired ("And with good cause!") Milhouse is tracked down to Bart's treehouse but even a pep talk from Mickey Rooney can't convince him to return to the set. The filmmakers try recasting the role with Rooney, but it's no more successful, and having run out of money thanks to the aforementioned gouging return to Hollywood, where they're warmly welcomed back by the locals to a town that will complete the film properly — and that just treats people right.
  • The Animaniacs episode "Hearts of Twilight", yet another Apocalypse Now spoof.
  • Metalocalypse: Every single in-universe album during the show's run. The first is done underwater in an attempt to sound as "analog" as possible, deafening the producer. But the biggest example of this trope is the second album: the band procrastinated big time getting it out, causing mass panic. When they finally got to it, Nathan demanded to perform in a suit of armor that made recording difficult, Pickles was starved while everyone else ate, Toki and Murderface produced their own song which, due to how bizarre it was, failed to even make it on the album and to top it all off, Guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf was forced by feedback to do his guitar parts skydiving, and thanks to Toki deleting the parts, they did it twice. And then when they did release the album, an anti-Dethklok terrorist group attacked Mordhaus, leaving said Mordhaus burned to the ground and their manager believed dead.
    • The best part? They experimented by recording the music ON water (It Makes Sense in Context), and then they all used the water they recorded the music on for mundane purposes.
    • The album after that: well, recording itself seemed to have gone fine, but Dethklok then faced accusations of racism, and their attempts to rectify that misconception just made them look worse, then when the album was shipped, a freak storm sank the ships with all the copies of the album, and Nathan destroyed the master copy after believing that the sinking was a sign the album shouldn't exist. This caused the economy to plummet. Their first attempt to rebuilt the economy, the Dethfairs, didn't go so well. Then their usual producer, Dick Knubbler, is fired and replaced with Abigail Remeltindrinc, causing tension between Nathan and Pickles, who both want in her pants. When Nathan succeeds, Pickles, furious that Nathan destroyed the album and got the girl, quits the band. At what's supposed to be their final concert, it's attacked by Mr. Selatcia, the president of their company is murdered, and Ofdensen is forced to reveal the truth about the prophecy surrounding Dethklok to them. There is a Hope Spot when Nathan apologizes for causing Dethklok's breakup, but then the Revengencers attack, and both Toki and Abigail are injured and captured. The fourth season ends with Ofdensen saying that they need to save them if they're going to finish the album that will prevent the Metalocalypse.
  • An episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo? revolved around director Vincent Wong's attempt to make a re-make of a cheesy spy movie Spy Me A River. Besides the lead actor quitting halfway through, no one reading the script, Mystery Inc. being used as stunt doubles, and a Classically Trained Extra with eyes on the lead role, the production was haunted by the Faceless Phantom who turned out to be the director who wanted to sabotage the film after realising how awful it was.
  • The Looney Tunes short "(Blooper) Bunny" showcases every last mistake and pratfall performed by Bugs, Daffy, Elmer and Yosemite Sam. For a 20-second short for Bugs' 51 1/2 Birthday.
  • The three-part "Starbright" storyline in Jem. Rival band The Misfits take over the studio and cause so much trouble for Jem and the Holograms that everybody involved quits. When The Misfits retool the film for themselves, they go massively overbudget and receive a dozen lawsuits from various unions. Jem and the Holograms decide to make their own movie, with theirs being a massive success while The Misfits' movie flops hard.
  • Rugrats had an episode where Phil and Lil were hired as actors for a diaper commercial. The director was a massive prima donna, Phil refused to even do a simple action (possibly stage fright) and Lil ended up causing chaos chasing down a toy car. The director gets so fed up, he kicks the twins out, with Betty all too happy to take them out. However, when the commercial proves to be a hit, the director attempts to crawl back and win them back. Betty isn't having any of it and the twins, along with Tommy (who was told this story) just walk away.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug episode "Horrificator" has Marinette's class trying to film a horror movie at their school which suffers from such problems as the lead actress being too frightened by the monster costume used to even do one scene, constant in-fighting amongst the crew, and the aforementioned lead actress being turned into an actual monster and terrorizing the other students.
  • The South Park episode "Cartmanland" documents Cartman's turbulent experience with running an amusement park of his own — from beginning to end.
    • Cartman inherits one million dollars from his deceased grandmother note . He selfishly refuses to give any of the money to his friends, and doesn't listen to advice from adults on what to do with it. Instead, Cartman uses his earned funds on fulfilling his lifelong dream: owning the local amusement park, North Park Funland. The previous owner, Frank Fun, is hesitant to sell the park because it was such a financial failure, but gives in when Cartman states he won't intend to run it as a business; the park would just be open for only him and him only.
    • The glee and excitement of having a theme park all to himself becomes short-lived for Cartman; he plays advertisements gloating how nobody — including his friends — can come to the park (except himself). This triggers his friends, Stan and Kyle, to attempt sneaking inside the park. In response, Cartman sends them away and hires a security guard to keep out any further trespassers. However, upon realizing that Cartman had already spent every last penny inherited on opening the park, the guard refuses to work without a paid salary. Turning down Cartman's desperate and weak offer of paying him with free rides, the guard suggests that Cartman allow two people per day into the park, with the admission charges going toward his salary. Cartman reluctantly does so.
    • The rising costs for security, food, maintenance, and utilities cause Cartman to begrudgingly let more and more people into his park, and thus the attendance becomes well in the thousands, making the park a smash success. Business experts mistake Cartman's "you can come" technique as an ingenious marketing ploy to turn around the once-struggling park. By this point, Cartman is utterly livid, since now he won't have the park to himself anymore and will subsequently have to deal with long lines (which he loathes, as established earlier in the episode). When Frank Fun visits the park and congratulates him on his success, Cartman angrily demands his money back, ultimately selling the park back to him for a profit...
    • ...but just when he thinks that he's out of the woods, Cartman is hit with one hell of a Humiliation Conga: his refunded money is quickly taken away to pay off the IRS and a lawsuit by his friend Kenny's parents (he had died on the rollercoaster), leaving him with all of his one million dollars down the toilet and $13,000 in debt owed to the IRS. And when Cartman frantically tries buying the park back — seeing that this would be his only chance to pay off his debt — the park owner refuses because of how successful it has been. To put a cherry on top of it: the episode ends with Cartman sulking off to throw rocks at the park, only to be pepper-sprayed by his former security guard.