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Spiking the Camera

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A specific form of Breaking the Fourth Wall accomplished merely by looking directly at the camera. Usually done by accident, by amateur actors who happen to notice a camera is pointed at them. The trouble here is that the editor didn't catch it, allowing the character to make eye contact with the audience. Typically a film or live TV trope, especially in dramas.

Intentional occurrences fall under Aside Glance or Fourth-Wall Observer.

Contrast with No Fourth Wall (thus including documentaries and reality TV), where the cast is aware of the audience, which — in turn — is aware of the production crew. Not to be confused with actually spiking a camera, which would probably fall under Camera Abuse.



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    Film — Animated 
  • In Surf's Up, Lani brings an injured Cody to her uncle the Geek, really Big Z in hiding, who is shocked at seeing the documentary crew following them, staring at the camera with suspicion and indignation.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • An in-universe version occurs in Captain America: The First Avenger, as a film director specifically tells Steve not to look at the camera during filming of a Captain America propaganda film.
  • Happens a few times in Dazed and Confused, a consequence of using some very fresh actors and random locals as extras.
  • Hot Fuzz: Timothy Dalton looks into the camera for a second in a bar scene. Instead of using a different take, Edgar Wright actually put a cash register ring on it, to draw even more attention to it.
  • In Love Actually, Keira Knightley's character looks at the camera as the boat she's on is pulling out of the dock. Of course, it's a film taken by an in-story amateur on her wedding day, so the slip is more forgiveable. The director commented on it, because the character filming is in love with Keira, and so by looking at the camera, it's like she's looking straight at him.
  • In Lethal Weapon, a traffic car passes in the background filled with a black family staring at the camera curiously which the filmakers tried to blur out.
  • In the opening scene of A Night at the Opera there's a woman in the background who is framed precisely in the center between between Sig Ruman and Magret Dumont, who stares into the camera the entire time.
  • Averted in Pan's Labyrinth. It is pointed out in the DVD Commentary, where one of the actors looked at the camera as he was exiting the scene, that they covered it up by digitally replacing his head in the relevant frames with his head from the last frame before he looked. It's all over in less than a second, so you don't notice it unless it's pointed out.
  • Star Wars: Obi-Wan appears to do this in A New Hope just after scaring the Tusken Raiders off and ensuring that Luke is alive. He turns to the camera, doffs his hood and says "Hello there!" The very next shot shows that we have been looking through R2-D2's eyes.
  • In the 1956 The Ten Commandments, Sephorah warns Moses of an intruder nearby; Moses tells Sephorah "Your eyes are sharp as they are beautiful". Yvonne De Carlo responds by staring straight into the camera, away from where she's just said the danger was.
  • The Big Lebowski: Liam O'Brien, the silent partner of Jesus Quintana, does this repeatedly. The person playing him, James G. Hoosier, was a crew member thrown into the scenes and had no other acting experience. Careful watchers will notice Hoosier taking delayed cues from off-screen and constantly trying to keep himself from spiking, but repeatedly failing.
  • In Apocalypse Now, Harrison Ford does this in the briefing scene. It does have the effect of making the audience feel more involved.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Checkpoint" a Victim of the Week who's Mind Raped does this, but as he's rambling "I know you're always looking at me" at the time it's likely a Leaning on the Fourth Wall gag.
  • Thanks to retakes being too expensive for much of its No Budget history, this happens fairly often in Classic Doctor Who.
    • Tom Baker was particularly prone to this, to the point where it's a bad-acting habit associated with him in the same way that William Hartnell is associated with line flubbing (though not to the same extent) — and since he has very unusual and piercing eyes it can suck you right out of a scene. See the scene at the start of Episode 2 of "Planet of Evil" where, in a scene focused on Sarah Jane talking, Baker accidentally makes eye contact with the camera and breaks it off as soon as he realises what he's doing. A particularly painful example is when Tom Baker makes clear accidental eye contact with the camera in "The Deadly Assassin" during a sequence where the camera is doing a shot from the POV of a sniper scope, making it seem like the Doctor has spotted the sniper and completely changing the intended interpretation of the scene. Of course, later on, sometimes it's intentional Aside Glance — a Fourth Doctor quirk that may have developed out of Baker's bad habit.
    • Soldeed in "The Horns of Nimon" accidentally makes eye contact with the camera while overacting his way through the script in one scene. Likely an artifact of the serial's cheap production and a side effect of Ham and Cheese.
  • Parodied in a Green Acres episode where a documentarian comes to Hooterville to shoot a film. Mr. Haney opens up a film acting class and the first thing he teaches is to not look at the camera. The others interpret this as covering their eyes or turning their back to the camera.
    • This is one of the funniest scenes in this series. Actually Mr. Haney has built a fake camera with a tomato can as the lens. His instructions are actually, don't look at the tomato can. Lisa makes this even funnier when she gives the same instructions with her Hungarian accent. The reason Mr. Haney is giving these lessons is because a film team is coming to film a documentary about Hootersville. When they get there, no one will look at them.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy V, Krile's battle sprite has her eyes permanently fixed on the camera as opposed to facing the monsters like the rest of the party. Given that Krile is Friend to All Living Things with supernatural sensitivity, it might be that she's aware of the player.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 


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