At some point, everyone has imagined themselves acting on the big screen or working behind the scenes of a major motion picture. Just as amateurs in real life will attempt to make films using their friends and a camera, fictional characters also like to try their hand at film-making.
Maybe they're entering a film contest or just having some fun. Maybe they want to make a full length movie, a short film, or a simple class project. They might be working together with a single vision or fighting over creative control. At times they're just the cast, acting despite being amateurs who may or may not have creative control. Whatever the scenario, they're stepping outside of their usual activities to create a film of some sort.
Results may vary, with the films most often ending up incredibly amateurish at best and objectively bad at worst after a Movie-Making Mess ensues. More talented (or simply luckier) characters will end up with a successful film, and perhaps an interest in creating more movies. The finished products often end up as parodies of real-life franchises, Le Film Artistique, a parody of True Art Is Incomprehensible, or something extremely simplistic, depending on the characters behind the camera. The more wealthy characters will easily be able to get professional resources and even actors, and are often the antagonists challenging the protagonists' own film-making efforts.
To apply, a story need not be specifically about making a live-action movie; animated projects and other film work is acceptable as long as the general plot pattern fits. Live-action work is simply the most common form.
Compare Musical Episode, School Play, Hey, Let's Put on a Show and Show Within a Show for the movies themselves. Contrast Set Behind the Scenes. Not to be confused with an episode about the out-of-universe production of the series or an episode where the characters are the subject of an in-universe movie but are not otherwise involved in the production.
Can be Truth in Television, thanks to modern technology making entry-level moviemaking fairly accessible to anybody with a digital camera (or even cellphone), a computer, some kind of video-editing software, and a bit of spare time. Nowadays the results may become a Web Video.
Note that this trope only applies to works where the films are being made by amateurs. Works where the films are made by professionals do not count here, nor do works that feature film-making but none of the other plot elements. See Making the Masterpiece for such examples.
- Bleach anime episode #298. In order to make money to repair the Soul Society, the 13 Court Guard squads split into teams, with each team making a movie to enter in the Seireitei International Film Festival. Ichigo Kurosaki becomes involved with several of the teams' efforts. He ends up making a film with Rukia, Renji, Rangiku, Uryu, Orihime, Chad and Captain Kuchiki.
- Haruhi Suzumiya has an arc where the SOS Brigade makes a film for the school festival. The movie is an incoherent action flick that casts three members in roles suspiciously similar to their real-life powers. Mikuru stars as a time-traveling waitress, Yuki is an alien witch, and Koizumi is an Ordinary High-School Student with ESPer powers. Haruhi goes into full-on Prima Donna Director mode. The lack of a script, Haruhi's demands, and the intensification of Haruhi's Reality Warper powers (which lead to Mikuru developing laser eyes) make the whole thing a very Troubled Production.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya!: The episode "Cartoon Buffoon" has King Dedede drafting the citizens of Cappy Town to make an anime (after he's inspired by Tiff's simple work). Aside from the show making references to real life's anime studio working process, it shows that the citizens are mostly bad at drawing and animating, especially Kirby himself (who's a toddler). The resulting anime - "Dedede, Coming At Ya!" - is chock-full of Stylistic Suck as a result.
- An entire volume of Outbreak Company is dedicated to this. It started as a fake trailer made as a cover story to the existence of the other world being leaked, but is eventually extended to an entire movie. The completed movie is eventually shown throughout the empire, and becomes very popular due to the empress's appearence as the main heroine, to her embarrassment.
- Pokémon: Two of them in the Black & White era, thanks of recurring character Luke: the first one (which also marks Luke's debut) is "Movie Time! Zorua in 'The Legend of the Pokemon Knight'!", where Ash and pals join in the cast of Luke's amateur movie after he failed to do it using only his Zorua as every character in the film (since Zorua is a female and she wants to do only the female characters), and later "An Epic Defense Force!", where Ash and pals join Luke in a amateur movie contest at Pokestar Studios, making a film that is hogged with references to the Showa Era Godzilla films.
- Sgt. Frog: In episode 33, the Keroro Platoon come up with an invasion plan that involves them making their own anime in order to gain more funds. Unfortunately for the invaders, they learn that creating animation is much harder to do than they initially thought.
- An episode of Adventures of the Little Koala revolves around Roobear and his friends attempting to make a movie of their own version of Snow White. With their friend, Kiwi being a photographer, they were able to get the appropriate camera, but problems keep surfacing throughout, coming to a head when Betty, who was playing Snow White, faints during the apple scene because the apple had a worm in it, but no one knew about the worm and thought the apple might have actually been poisoned. When she finally comes to, and the doctor examining her says that she's alright, Kiwi comes up and drops a bombshell: he forgot to put film in the camera.
- Bart Simpson comic issue 20 has a story where Bart and Milhouse attempt to make their own zombie film using an ancient home movie camera. But they're very tight on money and decide to just use whatever's available, and the low budget and Bart's method really shows. Their families and friends initially hate the movie, until a representative from the Bad Movie Channel tells Bart and Milhouse he thought their movie would be perfect for his channel and pays them to air it and produce a sequel.
- In the "Moons of Venus" arc of X-Statix, the team reluctantly agrees to let Hollywood make a movie about them. This causes increased stress for Guy and Venus, neither of whom are comfortable with the spotlight.
- In Be Kind Rewind, a video store employee accidentally erases the store's entire stock. To make up for it, he enlists his friends to make amateur, "Sweded" remakes of all the blockbusters he destroyed starring themselves.
- The plot of Super 8 kicks into gear when the kids, out shooting a scene by the train tracks for Charles' zombie movie, witness a train crash that sets a captured alien loose. Unfortunately for Charles the footage is unusuable, and they have to substitute in Joe's model train set being destroyed. The final product plays over the end credits in all its Stylistic Suck glory.
- Son of Rambow is all about a pair of kids trying to make one of these.
- In the 1974 picture book Ida Makes a Movie by Kay Charo, later adapted into The Pilot of The Kids of Degrassi Street, Ida makes a movie for the Children's Film Festival, but when the judges misunderstand it under the assumption that True Art Is Incomprehensible, she has to decide if she's prepared to win under false pretences.
- Big Time Rush: "Big Time Music Video" has the guys attempt to make a music video behind Gustavo's back in order to allow their friends a role as extras, which they'd accidentally promised. Hilarity Ensues as they get photographer Marcos to be their director and film everything on a camcorder. It doesn't turn out well, but it does inspire a much better music video to be professionally made, which involves them and all of their friends.
- Cheers: Woody wants to make a video for his parents to convince them to let him stay in Boston. Diane takes over production and makes it into a pretentious Le Film Artistique, Manchild in Beantown.
- The episode "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" has this as Abed's plot. Taking inspiration from Shirley, Abed decides to make his own religious film. While he's making it, the film starts to take on some Memetic Badass traits. Unfortunately, the result turns out to be terrible and Shirley destroys it to save Abed's reputation.
- In the episode "Intro to Recycled Cinema", the Save Greendale Committee creates an Affectionate Parody of Star Wars in order to capitalize on Chang's success in a television commercial and future appearance in a movie made by Steven Spielberg.
- iCarly: The B-plot of "iHate Sam's Boyfriend" involves Spencer trying to make a claymation movie called "The Alien, The Space Hamster, and the Burrito" for a contest. He spends all his time carefully making each individual frame, obsessing over the details, but his work is ruined by interference from Sam's boyfriend Jonah. As such, his 10-minute idea had to be shortened down to a rushed and plotless 20-second film thanks to the lack of time once he started over.
- In the B-plot of the Good Luck Charlie episode, "Termite Queen", Gabe's friend Jake gets a video camera as compensation for getting cut from the baseball team. This gives Gabe the idea to make a film called "Attack of the 50-Foot Baby", featuring Charlie as the titular baby. When Charlie doesn't do what Gabe and Jake want for the movie, Gabe glues Charlie's shoes to the floor. When Amy finds out, she is not happy, and takes Charlie out of the picture. During the closing credits, we get to see the blooper reel for "Attack of the 50-Foot Baby".
- Just Shoot Me!: Dennis attends a college film class and makes a semi-autobiographical film The Burning House with the help of his coworkers and David Hasselhoff. Interestingly, most of this is shown as a behind-the-scenes documentary by another film student.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide to Video Projects", the characters have to make a video project, either in a group or individually. While Moze attempts to interview Mr. Wright and finds him being concerned with looking "cool" for the camera, Ned and Cookie argue over whether to make a Ninja Movie or a Sci-Fi movie. Moze and Mr. Wright eventually come to a compromise that makes him look both respectable and cool, and Ned and Cookie create a movie about a Ninja IN SPACE!, incorporating Martin Qewrly's embarrassing imaginary-fight footage to make him the star character.
- The Partridge Family: In "Fellini, Bergman, and Partridge," Keith makes a movie called "16 1/2" starring himself and his family. Keith manages to get it shown at a local theater, but the others make him edit out all the embarrassing footage first, and there's almost nothing left. Keith edits the remaining footage to last as long as possible, and the family gives a live performance while it plays.
- Season 7 of The X-Files had a couple minor examples: In "X-Cops", Mulder and Scully accidentally cross paths with a C.O.P.S. shooting crew and star in the episode, while in "Hollywood A.D.", the two of them are roped by their boss into a (bad) film production about the X-Files.
- Zoey 101: In "Jet X", the characters are given the task of creating their own commercials for the Jet X bike to be shown off in class, with the best group winning their own bikes. Chase, Logan and Michael end up with professional equipment and actors thanks to Logan's wealth, while Zoey, Nicole and Dana keep fighting over their ideas and eventually split up. Zoey stays up all night editing whatever footage they were able to get into a unique commercial, winning the contest for her and the other girls.
- An episode of Step by Step had Cody decide to try making his own movie, enlisting the family's kids to star in it. Given that he tried to start filming before writing the script, the results were terrible, though the audience didn't actually see it.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Videomakers", Finn and Jake try to make a movie after realising that all pre-war media might still be under copyright and shouldn't be watched.
- Arthur: The kids decide to make a James Hound Fan Film because they aren't likely to be allowed into the latest, PG-13-rated, real one. Hilarity Ensues: they make a model supersonic jet for their villain (which gets eaten by Arthur's dog, Pal), they use their inflatable shark, Sharky, as part of a Bond villain-esque peril scene (Arthur defeats it by deflating it), and Brain accidentally hacks into the library's electrical power and turns it off while simulating trying to hack a nuclear missile. Prunella (who has seen the real film despite being only a year older) thinks the result is Better Than Canon.
- Bob's Burgers: In "The Horse Rider-er", Louise decides to make a stop-motion film with a "meatman" molded out of leftover ground meat.
- Doug: In "Doug's Monster Move", Doug and Skeeter try to make a scary monster movie, which involves dressing Doug's dog, Porkchop, in a shark costume and hanging him from a fishing hook.
- The Fairly OddParents!: "Movie Magic" features Timmy entering and trying to win a film-festival to impress Trixie. He and his friends create a film of them badly reenacting other films, which they liked but the other kids hated. Timmy tries again, having Cosmo and Wanda poof him to where some action is taking place so he can film it and he has "Sylvester Calzone" as the main star. However, his friends are sad at being replaced, so he shows the original film at the festival and wins an award for "best comedy".
- In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode, "One False Movie", the school principal is impressed with Mac's film about Foster's (which Bloo added armpit fart sound effects into) and enters Mac to represent his school in the Annual State-wide Elementary School film festival. He gives Mac a $500 budget and the idea for the film, which Bloo helps make into a movie called "T-Rex-A-Tron Alien Wolf III: A Prequel In Time: The Unrelenting". Despite all the extra effort and money Bloo puts into the filmnote , the ending to Bloo's movie gets taped over by an episode of Lauren is Explorin' that Eduardo was trying to watch, causing Bloo's film to lose.
- The very premise of Home Movies is about three kids who love to make low budget movies in their spare time.
- The Littles did this in the episode "Lights, Camera, Littles": not being satisfied with watching movies in a human cinema, the Littles decide to make their own movie using an old Super-8 movie camera in the Bigg's attic. Lucy wants to film an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, while Tom wants to do a sci-fi epic, but Grandpa flips a coin and Lucy's idea is chosen, much to Tom's dismay. Things get worse when the film makes Tom look bad, so he intentionally "loses" the film when giving it to Henry to be developed, and it falls into the hands of Dr. Hunter. Fortunately for the Littles, Dinky didn't do such a good job shooting their movie, so the film just came out all fuzzy and dark, so Dr. Hunter did not see the Littles and dismissed the film as just being someone's trash, just as he figured.
- Miraculous Ladybug: "Horrificator" is set up by the students needing to put together a horror film, and scaredy-cat Mylene is turned into the titular Monster of the Week.
- Muppet Babies (1984): In "Gonzo's Video Show", Nanny gives the Muppets an old home movie camera to play with. After arguing about what kind of movie to make, they settle on doing their own version of the original Star Wars.
- In the My Life as a Teenage Robot episode, "Tuckered Out", in order to pass the Second Grade, Tuck has to do a presentation on the person he admires most. Tuck decides to make a movie about Jenny, but he becomes a huge Prima Donna Director towards her, Brad, and Sheldon. On the day of the presentation, Jenny, Brad, and Sheldon get back at Tuck by showing a montage of embarrassing old home movies of him. Fortunately, Tuck passes anyway because his teacher mistakes the home movies for an autobiography.
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: "Pooh Oughta Be In Pictures" has Christopher Robin make a monster movie with the gang, with Piglet as the hero. Most of the episode, however, is about the antics Tigger gets into while stuck inside his monster costume (a giant carrot) and Piglet trying to overcome his fears.
- Phineas and Ferb: In "Lights, Candace, Action", the boys attempt to make a film adaptation of Candace's favorite play... which turns into a monster movie, Candace playing the monster. Thanks to Perry and Doofenshmirtz's subplot, the sneak-preview audience is hit with an "Age-Accelerator-Inator", becoming too old to enjoy the film. However, it still finds its way onto the internet where it's a big success, despite Candace being mortified about the finished product.
- This happens in an episode of Rocket Power in which the gang tries to make an amateur movie (after being disappointed with an actual movie). The episode actually doesn't show much of the production, just the movie in which the gang tries to act out a James Bond-esque movie. Despite good camera stability and use of decent video editing software, Hilarity Ensues with a Stylistic Suck film containing loads of Bad "Bad Acting" (save for Lars, who surprisingly turns out to be the best actor in the film), Special Effects Failure, Dull Surprise, and Vocal Dissonance. It goes over well with the gang's family and friends, though MacKenzie and her friends disliked it, and decide to make their own movie.
- In the episode, "Home Movies", Stu shows his family and friends home movies at Angelica's house, boring them to tears. This inspires Angelica to make her own home movies by drawing pictures on her parents' office papers. Tommy and Chuckie join in, and the home movies they and Angelica make are drawn crudely in crayon due to their young ages (Tommy's is the crudest of all, since he's only one year old). At the end of the episode, the grown-ups are all very impressed with their children's home movies.
- The spinoff series All Grown Up! also has this, as Tommy is now an amateur filmmaker and a number of episodes revolve around him attempting to film something or showing off a film, complete with one episode about a film festival.
- In the The Simpsons episode, "A Star Is Burns", to increase Springfield's popularity, Marge suggests that Springfield hosts a film festival, and famed critic Jay Sherman is invited to be a judge. Out of jealousy, Homer urges Marge to be on the film jury as well. Mr. Burns uses the film festival as an opportunity to boost his massive ego, and has Steven Spielberg's non-union Mexican counterpart "Senor Spielbergo" direct his film, A Burns For All Seasons. The other entries at the film festival include Hans Moleman's aptly-named Man Getting Hit By Football film, which Homer finds hilarious, and Barney Gumble's artistic introspective film about alcoholism, titled Pukahontas, which Marge and Jay foresee to be the eventual winner.
- In the Sonic Boom episode, "Eggman the Auteur", Dr. Eggman decides to film a movie about his life and his rivalry with Sonic. He offers to let Sonic play himself, but Sonic turns him down, so Eggman casts Dave the Intern for the role instead. After Dave's bumbling portrayal, Sonic interrupts the filming and Eggman offers the role to Sonic again, which Amy accepts in his stead, claiming Sonic as her client.
- Spongebob Squarepants: "Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture" involves Spongebob attempting to make a film for Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to compete with the new modern movie coming out. After much Hilarity Ensues, the movie is made...but turns out to be absolutely terrible. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, however, are just happy to know they still have some "action" within them.
- In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Animaniacs!", Plucky finds out that he has to make an animated short for the ACME Looniversity Student Animation Festival, and since he skipped Animation 101 class all semester, Buster has to show him the basics of making a cartoon. In the Animation festival, we get to see the students' shorts, each with a different animation style. In particular, Elmyra and Dizzy's are drawn crudely in crayon, Hamton's is a stylized black-and-white animation, and Gogo's is live-action. Despite Plucky's short, "The Plucky Duck Story" only being five seconds long (Thanks in part to Shirley's film being 17 and a half hours long) and showing him as a kid crying after his toy deflates, Plucky wins the film festival, and his grand prize is having to take Animation 101 over, since he skipped it the first time.
- Kim Possible: In the half-episode "Rufus vs Commodore Puddles", Ron tries to produce an amateur monster movie with Rufus as the monster on a miniature set. As it turns out, Rufus actually becomes a giant later in the episode.