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Faux Documentary

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A sister to the Documentary Episode, the Faux-To Guide, the Mockumentary and the Found Footage Film, the Faux Documentary borrows trappings from traditional documentaries — shaky cameras, narrators, on-camera interviews with characters — but doesn't commit fully to a documentary format.

While the Documentary Episode makes a point of acknowledging the presence of the camera crew, the Faux Documentary rarely does so, allowing for scenes in which the characters are by themselves or are doing things they would not do if there was an actual camera crew around. Where the camera crew is acknowledged, it is usually for the sake of a brief joke.

This gets around some of the problems encountered during the filming of This is Spın̈al Tap, where entire scenes had to be cut from the film because the director and writers didn't believe that the characters or their lawyers would allow them to be shown (e.g. the sequence where the band get their chauffeur stoned).

Not to be confused with a real Documentary, and definitely not with a Documentary of Lies. See also Camera Abuse.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kagewani has Takeru faking a documentary video of sighting a cryptid. He didn't expect to see a live one go after him and his crew.
  • Pom Poko is presented in a faux documentary format covering the lives of the tanuki in the Ghibli Hills near Tokyo, which are in the process of being leveled to develop a housing project.

    Comic Books 
  • West Coast Avengers (2018): The team has no money, so they allowed a camera crew to film a reality show in their base. This leads to frequent "interviews" to the characters, Modern Family-style. This is mocked at one point: the base is overrun by villains, and when things get back to normal one of them asks the camera crew where had they been during the attack.

    Comic Strips 
  • Madam & Eve: Thandi narrates Mother Anderson's daily routine as a nature documentary here.

  • Ken Loach's early films, most notably Kes, utilised a Faux Documentary format, including improvised scenes and structuring shots as if in a "fly-on-the-wall" documentary.
  • One of the bonus features on the DVD of X-Men is a "making-of" segment framed as "The Mutant Watch", "XNN" news coverage of the Senate hearings on Senator Kelly's proposed "Mutant Registration Act".
  • United 93 was filmed as though it were a documentary. The production staff went so far as to isolate each of the three major sets and run each one in real-time as though the events of the day were really unfolding in front of two wandering steadicams.
  • Take the Money and Run had some documentary trappings, including the narrator interviewing Virgil's parents.
  • Christian Bale's storyline in the surrealist Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There is done in the form of a documentary.
  • Le Bal des actrices by Maïwenn has a Faux Documentary within the film itself. The premise of the film is that the director, Maïwenn, is shooting a documentary about actual French actresses (all playing characters bearing their own name), but the whole thing is given away almost immediately: not only are some early sequences slightly and hilariously over the top, but we actually see Maïwenn filming, struggling to get her film financed, and her private life suffering as a result of her making the film.
  • The 2007 film Chop Shop is shot in this manner.
  • Zigzagged in What We Do in the Shadows. At the start of the film it is clearly established that there is a crew who are permitted to document the lives of the vampires, but at several points the characters seem to ignore/forget the presence of the crew, only to later become fully aware of them again, even lampshading it at some points.
    Deacon: The neighbors can see you flying around the house. You want to draw attention to his house, hm?
    Nick: You got a whole [points to camera] documentary crew following you around.
  • District 9 starts out as a mockumentary, with characters addressing the camera and performing talking-head interviews. Midway through the film, however, the format shifts to a traditional narrative, then returns to some additional talking-head interviews at the end.

  • House of Leaves manages to do this in novel form. The central text is an analysis/recap of a documentary about some very unbelievable events. However, within the world of the fictional editor, the documentary doesn't even exist.
  • Dugald Steer's Ology Series, including Dragonology, Monsterology, Vampireology, and so forth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Both Firefly and the revamped Battlestar Galactica were deliberately filmed in Shaky Cam style to evoke a "documentary" feel. The effect of combining fairly good-looking CGI with live action footage that is constantly moving, on a TV budget - for example any scenes of "digital paper" or many computer consoles in Firefly especially the episode Serenity, Part 1, which features the effect everywhere from the computer screen at the Persephone docks to the police bulletin Badger waves at the crew - was actually pioneered by Firefly back in 2002, with Joss Whedon even going so far as to seek out old camera lenses to get lens flares in the footage. BSG's producers have noted that they liked the idea and (given the show's decent Special Effects budget) decided to copy it, though they use it with far, far less subtlety. Most Firefly viewers seem to never really notice it until it's pointed out and the colors were generally as rich as other one-camera shows like The West Wing, but in BSG it's immediately noticeable from the deliberate "zooming and refocusing" effects and much starker lighting. Whether this is to the latter series' detriment or not seems to be a matter of opinion, with some complaining about the jerkiness and others praising it for the "gritty" feel it gives the show.
  • Arrested Development has a narrator, an occasionally visible film crew, uses fake 'archive footage' and sometimes Fourth Wall-breaking jokes where the presence of a camera is made clear to the audience. However, characters never acknowledge the presence of the cameras, everything has a smooth, filmic quality and there are several scenes in which a documentary-style crew would not be allowed to be present.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm began as a one-off fake documentary. The spin-off series ditched pretty much everything except for the occasionally shaky, documentary-esque camera and ad-libbed scripts.
  • I'm Alan Partridge was shot exactly like a documentary, but had a laugh track, didn't acknowledge the camera crew and had several scenes in which the camera crew would usually be excluded. An in-character commentary on the DVD says that half of it was a 'documentary', but the rest was filmed using actors when the 'real' people were unavailable.
  • Jack & Bobby was a one-season 2004 show that was interspersed with talking-head interviews pontificating on the events of the series and their repercussions. That's because the show was about two brothers, one of which became President. It wasn't the Kennedys, sadly; it was about some 20 Minutes into the Future president.
  • Frontline has hand-held footage, with grainy-looking picture quality. It puports to be exactly what happens behind the scenes of a news programme. The presence of a camera crew is never acknowledged, however. PBS actually has a Long Runner documentary series called Frontline.
  • Trailer Park Boys post-season 2 feels this way most of the time. In the first two seasons, all new characters would question the camera crew following the boys around (naturally, given that most of these characters are committing mis-deeds while asking the question), but in the later seasons they're hardly ever brought up.
  • Taken begins with a dogfight during World War II. The CG artists deliberately tried to evoke a documentary feel, with one guy saying he would take it as a compliment if someone pointed this out to him.
  • Modern Family has a shaky camera and frequent interviews with characters, but there's no indication that there's actually anything being filmed in the show.
  • The Thick of It is shot like this and supposed to be this, but is made impossible because there's no way that any of the characters would allow it to be made - the politicians attempting to control the media forms a huge backbone of the theme, and the 'documentary' constantly displays them to be the ineffectual, foul-mouthed hypocrites that they are not allowed to be.
  • Parks and Recreation, as the Spiritual Successor of The Office (US), takes that show's use of the Mockumentary format, with characters occasionally glancing at the camera and cutting away to talking-head interviews. Unlike The Office, however, the show never explicitly acknowledges that there is a documentary being filmed. Also, as the series wore on, it relied less and less on the interviews and focused more on the story.
  • Ellerbeck has Confession Cam, characters addressing the camera, zooming and refocusing, etc. but the camera crew can apparently teleport. In one scene, a woman explicitly allows only one camera into her house but the resulting scene is still shot from multiple angles. There are also several cases where a scene cuts between opposing angles, where logically the cameramen should be visible if it was really being shot from those angles simultaneously. The show also depicts stuff that the characters wouldn't want publicized including a case of blackmail.
  • "Alternative 3"; Surely the trope namer, this faux documentary screened in Britain in June 1976; it claimed that the world's elite were relocating to Mars(!) while leaving the rest of humanity to stew in its own juice, due to combination of economic collapse and runaway global warming; it didn't help that it aired during the hottest British heatwave on record; it had been originally scheduled for April 1 (Fool's Day) but had been rescheduled due to a strike at the TV production company.
  • The Muppets (2015) is one. It's even lampshaded - twice in one episode Kermit had what looked like a Confession Cam at first glance, but was actually him talking to an offscreen character who thought it was just a confession segment.
  • WandaVision parodies sitcoms of several decades. Episode 7, "Breaking the Fourth Wall", parodies Modern Family by using interviews to the lead characters.
  • Revelation: The End of Days is shot like a documentary film. It mainly centers around a couple men trying film an indie film, but they get caught up in the events leading to the end of the world. The man they’re interviewing begins citing Book of Revelation as events start happening just as they are written in the Bible.
  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is shot partly like a documentary but also partly like a full-on musical film. This gets very meta in the third season when Corbin Bleu shoots a documentary about the first camp production of Frozen and the characters still do interviews talking about being part of the documentary. The film crew is rarely acknowledged by the characters, but in the Series Finale, Ricky turns to them and says, "By the way, who the [bleep] are you guys?", but it smashes to the title sequence before we get an answer.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Most "backstage" Professional Wrestling segments use this format. While we're supposed to understand that the cameraman is simply recording the events backstage as part of the broadcast, the wrestlers will often play out scenes in which they don't seem to realize that they're being filmed, announcing their secret plots for all the world to hear. This has led to many fan jokes about the "ninja cameraman."

    Web Originals 
  • Marble Hornets is a series of videos posted on Youtube and is played like things that actually happen, no camera crew just one guy. It also contains some Found Footage segments.
  • Walking in Circles: While the characters talk directly with an interviewer in interview scenes, outside of those there's no indication of it being a documentary. All of the documentary elements are dropped in the second season.