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You Just Ruined the Shot

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Frank Drebin: When I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in plain view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards! That's my policy.
Mayor Barkley: That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron! You killed five actors! Good ones!

The Hero (often a Lord Error-Prone or Comedic Hero) hears a cry for help or sees a crime taking place. Rushing in to save the Damsel in Distress, he knocks the villain to the ground and — a cameraman appears from hiding and upbraids him for ruining the shot. The damsel may start flicking through the script, or the crook complains that the director is taking Enforced Method Acting too far. Either way, the hero is left to slink away apologetically, feeling like The Ditz he is.

Equally, a character may overhear actors practicing a script or a TV show being played too loud, think he's stumbled on a conspiracy, and try to save the day. Either way, he's going to end up looking foolish and annoying a hell of a lot of people along the way.

In a more optimistic outcome, the director or producer applauds the intervener for their bravery and expressiveness and offers to hire them, or at least throw their unexpected appearance in the final cut of the film.

Sometimes they're a Fish out of Water who doesn't understand the medium at hand and tries to raid a theatre stage.

In a variant, the hero could be charging in to stop a crime, only to be supremely embarrassed when they learn the hard way it was actually a police sting and they just fouled it up.

The key here is that it's a Show Within a Show; the titular "shot" and its disruption happened within the story's continuity. If the characters ruin the shot of the show you are watching, that means there is No Fourth Wall.

Subtrope of And You Thought It Was Real. Compare Abuse Mistake, Proscenium Reveal. Contrast with All Part of the Show and Some Nutty Publicity Stunt. Often implies Artistic License – Film Production.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One episode of Cardcaptor Sakura had Sakura encounter her brother accusing his best friend of some foul deed. She rushes in to intervene, only to discover that it was all a student movie filming for his class's School Festival. The director didn't seem to mind and decides to include Sakura in the movie.
  • Case Closed:
    • In one episode, Ayumi is apparently accidentally kidnapped by the men behind the rash of kidnappings in the area and travels all over the city in their trunk with a dismembered child's corpse, and hears them discussing the pointlessness of returning a victim once they've got the ransom. With Conan and the rest of the Shonen Tantei in radio contact and in hot pursuit on a solar skateboard. Turns out the men are actors, the "corpse" is a doll, and their "suspicious discussion" was their rehearsal for the play they were about to participate in. One of the two actors has been knocked out by Conan's Power Kick Shoes, and the second actor dismantles the doll to prove it is not a real corpse, forcing the three boys to replace the other actor by putting them in a Totem Pole Trench and Ayumi has to play the corpse.
    • Makoto mistakes an actor for a criminal and knocks him out, so he has to replace him.
  • Played straight in Dragon Ball Z when Gohan in his Saiyaman guise interrupts a movie chase and is promptly cast as Saiyaman in the movie, as no one believes he's the real thing.
  • Subverted in Inuyasha: The titular half-demon time traveler followed his love interest, Kagome, to her high school festival in the modern age trying to find demons that had accidentally slipped through. When he overhears an emotional exchange between Kagome and a boy in her class, he interrupts and challenges the boy to a duel out of jealousy, completely oblivious to the fact that they were acting out a (terrible) play on stage in front of a packed auditorium. Kagome immediately panics, but when she realizes the audience doesn't see anything unusual about the dog-eared half-human hybrid jumping on stage with a huge sword, she convinces the male lead to play along, but instead of running away, he agrees to the duel. Then the watermelon demon shows up...
  • In Planetes, Hachimaki burst into a compartment on a spaceship and punched out a guy who was attacking a woman, only to discover they were both actors making a horror movie. The director conscripted Hachimaki to replace the now-unconscious actor. The exact same thing promptly happened again when Tanabe found them. Notably, they were making an amateur flick and filming illegally, since they couldn't afford proper licenses. Hachimaki's mistake was understandable, considering that the camera was hidden.
  • Happens at the beginning of episode 33 of Smile Pretty Cure!, in which Miyuki gets in the way of a Jidaigeki movie shoot.
  • This happens in the Virtua Fighter anime. Pai interrupts a movie by "saving" the actress. The actress gets upset and leaves, and the director then hires Pai.

    Asian Animation 
  • One TV episode of Pucca starts with this scene. Despite it, Pucca and Garu continue their usual antics amidst the filming of the movie, and the director eventually decides he likes it better than what he was trying to shoot.

    Comic Books 
  • Spanish comic Constancio Plurilópez featured a story where the titular character ends up messing up a few of them in a row: The movie set, and jumping on a police detective who was apprehending a criminal... Constantius then sees a man drowning in the river, and doubts about what decision to make; he finally decides not to interfere, and another person saves the man. The man, who was actually drowning, is appreciative of the rescuer and rewards him.
  • The Doctor Who Adventures comic strip "Creature Feature" has the Doctor rescue a woman from an alien, only to learn it's just a movie. In a bit of a subversion, though, he then discovers the alien is real, and imprisoned by the director, so he and the actress work together to save it.
  • Green Lantern: In the first arc of the New 52 era of Geoff Johns' run, Hal Jordan jumped from his apartment into the building next door in an attempt to stop what he believed to be a case of domestic abuse. Only after he starts pounding the snot out of the guy does he (and the reader) see the film crew.
  • This happens to the hero of Lars Of Mars when he first arrives on Earth. Lars "saves" a woman from two robots only to realize they are actors in suits and she is a television producer. On the plus side, he ends up getting a job as an actor due to the misunderstanding.
  • An early episode of the Polish comic Orient Men involved the main character stopping a giant rampaging gorilla, only to find out it was a movie prop.
  • In one Richie Rich story, Richie's friend Jackie Jokers attempts a serious role for a change, but his scenes kept being ruined by the Rich family servants attempting to cater to his perceived needs (specifically Chef Pierre, Cadbury the butler, and Bascomb the chauffeur). The director gives up on the movie, but it was eventually released as a comedy instead.
  • Shade, the Changing Man introduces Author Avatar Miles Laimling bellowing death threats behind a closed door. When Shade bursts in, he's yelling at an empty chair, testing out lines for a scene in the novel he's writing.
  • Spider-Man:
    • In The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Annual #4, Spidey disrupted a movie starring the Human Torch, believing his rival hero has gone mad, and is attacking Innocent Bystanders.
    • In a bit of an inversion, in Ultimate Spider-Man series, Doc Ock attacks the Spider-Man movie set, and footage of the real Spidey fighting the real Doc Ock is put into the finished movie.
    • Naturally, this happens to Spidey at least once in the cartoons. It parallels a deception by Doctor Doom, leading to an effective Aesop about things not always being as they immediately appear.
    • And a third time in another comic, where sure enough, Spidey gets to 'help'. Pity Shocker found out about the movie.
    • Another early issue of The Amazing Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko) had Spidey ruining a movie shoot under the belief that aliens were invading. One of the stuntmen would eventually turn to a life of crime since it ruined his career. This trope follows web-head around a lot for some reason.
    • Inverted in The Amazing Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko) #14, when the Green Goblin gets a movie studio to hire Spidey in hopes that he would have an opportunity to kill Peter and gain power in the criminal underworld. Spider-Man agrees. They start filming a "fight scene" and he begins to slowly come to the realization that Green Goblin isn't a stuntman but is rather an Ax-Crazy villain trying to kill him.
  • Tintin does this in Cigars of the Pharaoh. Not as foolish as general examples, since it happened in the middle of the desert and it was easy for Tintin to misunderstand the situation. Oddly, the boss of the film company, Roberto Rastopopoulos, turns out to be the Big Bad, though at the time Tintin doesn't know it and his very polite and affable attitude leads Tintin to form a good opinion of him.
  • The 31st issue of Young Justice has Impulse come across a villain tying a woman to train tracks and coming to her rescue, only to be yelled at by the director for interfering with the movie he's trying to shoot.

    Fan Works 
  • The Action Figure Theatre’s Doctor Who story “If Only” has the Doctor seeing a woman being menaced by a monster and runs in to knock it down… but then gets shown off the set by an irate director. Subverted, in that the ruined take gave them more footage to work with than any of the other ones (where the actress kept missing her mark).
  • This is how Kirito meets Leafa in Sword Art Online Abridged when he literally crash-lands on a scene of three Salamander players menacing a lone Sylph. They're actually a bunch of roleplayers acting out an I Have You Now, My Pretty scenario, and Leafa, though a Kendo veteran in real life, eagerly begs the Mysterious Stranger to "rescue" her so she can be a proper Damsel in Distress.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Twice Upon a Time, Rod Rescueman saves Flora Fauna from what he thinks is an actual giant gorilla, but is just a King Kong-themed nightmare being filmed at the Murkworks.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey foils a car theft, only to learn later (as Peter, arguing with Captain Stacy about the merits of Spidey's vigilantism) that he'd ruined a sting operation to track down the people behind the car theft ring.
  • In the Soviet film The Cigarette Girl from Mosselprom, Mityushin sees Zina jump off a bridge, and he rushes into the river to save her. It turns out it was a scene in the movie she's filming.
  • In Curse of the Crimson Altar, Robert arrives at Craxted Lodge and sees an almost naked woman screaming and being chased by a pair of cars. He intervenes, only to discover this is a consensual game being played by a group of partygoers from the Lodge.
  • This is essentially the basis for the entire plot of Galaxy Quest. Aliens see a Star Trek-like television series and abduct the actors, believing them to be space-faring heroes and wanting their help.
  • Used in Lethal Weapon 3 when Riggs interrupts what he thinks is a hostage situation, with Murtagh's daughter Rianne as the hostage, only to find out it was part of the film she was in (the reason he and Murtagh were there in the first place.) When he takes action — tackling the guy to the ground and getting his (rubber) gun away from him — it very nearly gets her fired, even when Riggs admits that it was his fault.
  • Mr. Bean wanders into a film shoot in Mr. Bean's Holiday, "saving" the leading lady from an army of Nazis. The director puts him in as an extra, but Bean ruins the shot again by carrying an anachronistic camcorder. (By the way, the shoot was not for a war epic, but a yogurt commercial.)
  • The Naked Gun: In the first film, Frank Drebin defends his Cowboy Cop behavior by mentioning the time he saw a bunch of men stabbing someone to death in the park and he shot them. The mayor says that it was a stage-in-the-park production of Julius Caesar, and Frank shot five actors—good ones!
  • Vabank has a rather confusing scene which turns out to be a melodrama rehearsal when one of the actors complains about the prop gun.

  • A woman finally convinces her husband to go to the opera with him. He's completely bored, but going along with it. At the beginning of the third act, he asks his wife where the restroom is. She half whispers and half mumbles directions to him, and he sets off. He gets hopelessly lost in the opera house. Finally he opens up a door to find a lovely courtyard with a fountain in the middle. He decides when you gotta go, you gotta go, so he pees in the fountain and eventually finds his way back to his seat as the opera is ending. "Oh dear," he says with feigned sadness; "did I miss the rest of the Opera?" His wife replies "No, Harry, you were in it."

  • The Adventures of Pinocchio: Pinocchio gains the puppet master's ire when his mere presence distracts the other marionettes into interrupting the show in order to invite their "brother" to come on stage.
  • Agaton Sax: In Agaton Sax And the Scotland Yard Mystery the titular Agaton Sax is on board an old-fashioned ship, which apart from Agaton Sax and the captain is crewed by disguised criminals. But out of nowhere, a pirate ship appears and fires (a blank from) the cannon, and its crew boards the first ship. Very soon, it turns out that the "pirate ship" is actually part of a movie, and the "crew" is a bunch of actors who mistook Agaton Sax's ship for another ship that they were supposed to fight as part of the movie.
  • Alice, Girl from the Future series:
    • Subverted in A Hundred Years Ahead where an ambitious though incompetent young man sees two guys carrying an unconscious child, thinks that there is a detective movie being filmed, and decides to invoke the trope and heroically stop the kidnappers in order to impress the director and get into movies himself. But the kidnapping turns out to be pretty real, and the young man isn't ready to be so heroic in real life.
    • In one book, Alice meets a few strangely dressed and talking old men, and believes them to be time travelers. They are actually robotic actors.
  • In one of The Baby-Sitters Club mysteries, the jewel thieves turn out to be actors reading a script... which the amateur detectives don't realize until they hear the "thieves" repeating almost verbatim the same argument they had had before, then joking about it when one of them messes up his line.
  • Discworld
    • In Wyrd Sisters, Granny Weatherwax's initial inability to understand the concept of theatre leads to this trope. "He did it! We all seen him! He'd done it with a dagger!"
    • The witches all do this later on. There was a mix-up where the real witches went to confront the troupe and were mistaken for the actors, while the actors had been mistaken for the real witches and arrested. So Granny, Nanny, and Magrat spend the time they're on stage picking apart the fake flame, questioning why nobody cleaned the cauldron out and generally making everyone laugh when they shouldn't be. That wasn't the only thing that made the performance an utter disaster, but it didn't help.
  • Don Quixote attacking a puppet show makes this Older Than Steam.
  • Subverted in the Ramsey Campbell novel The Grin of the Dark. The protagonist at one point passes by a bedroom and sees two beautiful young women about to have sex. They beckon to him, he enters the bedroom, and when he sees a camera crew recording the girls for an adult film he apologizes for ruining the shot. The director chides that he didn't ruin the shot by entering the room, it was because he looked into the camera instead of joining the girls without hesitation. Then she offers him a retake, which he politely declines.
  • A romance novel where a couple took a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist tour. The man ends up saving the life of a kid who nearly fell off the boat into the churning waters, only to be screamed at by the family, who were filming the scene to enter it into America's Funniest Home Videos and were now upset that the man had cost them the chance to win a prize.
  • Crunch Ogre does this in the backstory of one of the Xanth novels. The curse fiends are not amused.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Batman (1966), the Caped Crusader interrupts the Penguin filming a bank robbery scene for his movie. It's all part of the Penguin's plan, forcing Batman to star in the Penguin's movie to avoid a lawsuit. Subverted as Batman reveals to Robin that he did see the cameras but decided to play along in order to find out what the Penquin's scheme was.
  • In the Blackadder the Third episode "Sense and Senility," Baldrick mistakes a pair of actors rehearsing as conspirators and tells it to the prince. Blackadder goes by to check in on them, fully expecting it to be a rehearsal, but ends up turning them in as anarchist conspirators anyway because they were rude to him.
    • Earlier in the episode, George goes to the theatre with Edmund. After seeing the murder scene at the end of the play, he calls for the "perpetrator" to be arrested, not realising that it was made up. Immediately after, a genuine Bomb Throwing Anarchist storms the stage and threatens Prince George, who responds by applauding wildly and chiding his butler for "Not realising when something's made-up", thus managing to invoke both this trope and All Part of the Show within a single scene.
      • At the very start of this episode, Edmund says that he hates going to the theater with Prince George precisely because of this trope. He mentions that the last time they went, the Prince tried to warn Julius Caesar when Brutus was creeping up on him by shouting "Look behind you, Mr. Caesar!"
  • An episode of Castle has Castle mistakenly come to the conclusion that one of his mother's acting partners from when they were young, with whom she had recently reconnected, was the murderer of the week. Rushing back, he discovers him holding a knife to his mother's neck; Beckett pulls out a gun and tells him to drop the weapon... it was a prop knife. They were rehearsing a scene, by way of reminiscing about old times.
  • The Acapulco episode of El Chapulín Colorado starts with a crew filming a movie about the title character, specifically a scene where a woman gets her purse stolen at the beach. Then a guy who thinks is The Six Million Dollar Man ruins it by catching the "thief". This prompts the lead actor to quit in rage, leading the film's director to summon the real Chapulin to act As Himself.
  • In a Code Red episode, the young firefighters, having come to an old movie studio for a fire code inspection, see an explosion in the lot and charge in to help. When they arrive to see a burning man flailing about, they don't do anything as the Title Sequence starts. Afterward, the reason for that inaction is revealed in a reverse shot: the firefighters saw the camera crew and realized to their chagrin that they unnecessarily interrupted a scene because they didn't ask if a crew was filming there.
  • Happens to Columbo on several occasions.
    • In "Fade in to Murder", Columbo ruins the take of the Villain of the Week, an actor who's the lead in his own Detective Drama. The backstage crew try to quietly shoo Columbo away, but he keeps walking back and forth into camera view until the actor notices Columbo and they have to cut.
    • In "Butterfly in Shades of Grey", Columbo visits the set of a soap opera, which has a scene involving homeless bums. Thanks to his shabby overcoat he's assumed to be one of them and is dragged onto the set.
    • Columbo can even manage to do this with an audio recording, as a crinkly paper bag he's carrying ruins the take of a film score being recorded in "Murder with Too Many Notes".
  • Doctor Who: In "The Daleks' Master Plan", the TARDIS lands on a Hollywood movie studio. Through the scanner, the crew see a man in a black cloak about to feed a girl into a circular saw via a Conveyor Belt o' Doom. Steven and Sara charge out to rescue her, only to find they have just disrupted the shooting of a melodrama.
  • The Hetty Wainthropp Investigates episode "Widdershins" has the title character intervene in what she thinks is a Satanic ritual and Virgin Sacrifice. The participants mock her and unmask to reveal that they are villagers she's met... and then the director shouts at them to cut and take it back to the start of the scene, and takes Hetty aside to explain that it's a community film and asks for an apology.
  • Done in a Just for Laughs gag, "Purse Snatching Movie".
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The cops who respond to a 911 call at a hotel follow the sounds of screams to a room where some students are shooting a slasher film. The real body was in another room.
  • In one episode of LazyTown, Sportacus hears Stephanie crying out for help, and swoops in for the rescue, only to be told off by the kids for interrupting their game of pirates.
  • On Liv and Maddie, this happens when Maddie first meets Josh. She sees him being thrown against the lockers and helps him get up before he explains it was part of the scene and that they're now shooting Liv's new series Voltage at the school.
  • The Lonely Island trio were shooting a scene where an old lady gets mugged when Kiefer Sutherland attempted to come to the rescue. Rather than being angry, Andy Samberg et al. tried to get him to be on the show.
  • One Monty Python's Flying Circus skit features a police officer who is also an accomplished actor, who (according to one review he received) utterly ruined one play he co-starred in by spoiling a rape scene "with his unscheduled appearance on stage and loud cry of 'What's all this, then?'"
  • Murdoch Mysteries
    • Inevitably, in the episode "The Filmed Adventures of Inspector William Murdoch", there's a scene in which Murdoch tries to stop a robbery, only to notice the cameras afterwards.
    • In the episode "Murdoch and the Tramp", Detective Watts and Constable Crabtree, investigating a vaudeville troupe, arrest a man they see violently assaulting his son, only for the son to angrily tell them that they've ruined the show and he's perfectly fine. So they release Joe Keaton, which mollifies Buster.
  • The Myth: Inverted. Xiao Chuan arrives in the past just before an execution, assumes he's ended up on a film set, and thinks the guys being executed are actors. He gets a very rude awakening when the executioner beheads the man beside him.
  • The Nanny: In the season 5 episode "The Bobbi Fleckman Story", the final scene of the episode features Brian Setzer and his band shooting a music video for "The House Is Rockin'" in the Sheffield home; partway through, Niles wanders in behind Brian (and in front of the rest of the band) and starts mugging for the camera, until the director puts a stop to it, yelling "Cut! Get that damn butler out of the shot!"
  • Subverted in the NCIS episode "Bloodbath". Team Gibbs arrive at a company in the business of cleaning up crime scenes and sees people slumped in the foyer with bullet holes in them. They burst in with guns drawn, only to have their picture taken as the owner was staging the shot for an advertisement. He's annoyed at first until he looks at the photo and realises that the addition of gun-toting feds actually improves the shot.
  • Person of Interest has the AI almost doing this in "SNAFU". The Machine predicts that a murder would happen in the theater. Reese and Finch eventually conclude that the predicted murder was the one in the play, and that the malfunctioning Machine can't see the difference.
  • An episode of Quantum Leap begins with Sam starting surgery, only to learn that he leapt into an actor doing a medical scene on a TV show.
  • An episode of Sanford and Son has Fred mistake a rehearsal of Desdemona's death in Othello for a murder. Hilarity Ensues. (That happened in Real Life too. See below.)
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Bride of Chaotica" photonic aliens enter the holodeck program "The Adventures of Captain Proton!" and mistake it for reality, starting a war with megalomaniac Mad Scientist Dr Chaotica. Voyager's crew try to tell them it's not real, but as the aliens can only detect lifeforms similar to themselves they believe Voyager is some kind of illusion. In the end, the crew have to enter the game and help the aliens defeat Dr Chaotica. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Considering many of their people had actually died in the war, you can understand their reluctance to believe it's an illusion.
    • It is specifically stated in the episode that the aliens exist in a photonic state and can only detect other photonic lifeforms/environments (they have no way of perceiving the physical world, they come from a parallel universe). It is also stated that even with the safeties on, holodeck weaponry is lethal to the aliens. From their perspective, it is quite real, and quite a number of them die.
  • Stranger Things: Suzie's father comes across two of her siblings filming a death scene and thinks his daughter's throat has been slit. His son, behind the camera, thanks him for making the shot with his believable panic.
  • The Belgian Trigger Happy (a hidden camera show) did a subversion: a random passer-by turns down a corner and is confronted by a film crew, who start acting like they're the actor.
  • The 1997 British satire Underworld had a gangster interrupting a crime show by complaining that the reaction of the hostage wasn't realistic enough. When the director started shouting at him, he sticks a very real gun in his face and asks the makeup people to note the way the blood is draining from the director's face.

  • A scene in Michael Jackson's "Speed Demon" has him ruining a shot in a western while running from crazed fans. He's berated by a Claymation parody of Steven Spielberg.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In Meet the Feebles, Robert finds a cockroach whipping a cow in the basement. He slaps the cockroach and asks if the cow's OK, only to find out that Trevor was shooting a porn movie.

    Stand-Up Comedy 

    Video Games 
  • MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies opens with Blanc saving her sisters from some zombies. Unfortunately for her, it was all part of a film shoot and the zombies were actually other students in costume.
  • In Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (and its Xbox port, Return from Darkness), Ayame's cutscene before fighting Tajima in Mission 1 has her hearing what sounds like a rape in progress. When she enters the room, however, it turns out it's just Tajima playing cards with one of the kidnapped villagers, but Ayame's intrusion angers him enough that the boss battle occurs anyway.
  • Two missions in Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue have Ty interrupting two film shoots when he thinks the lead actors are under attack from real ninjas, then being berated by the director for it. The third time, however, he has to rescue them for real.
  • In one story in the mobile game Mystery Match, Emma and Julian encounter what they think is a group of Knight cultists. While they're disguised in cultist robes, Julian approaches his "fellow cultists" with a pretentious greeting. Then an irate movie director chews them out for trespassing on his set. The "cultists" were actors, and the director denies knowing anything about the Knight cult.

    Web Animation 
  • Season 16 of Red vs. Blue had Sarge deciding through Time Travel to kill the villain of Season 15 to prevent all the problems he caused. Once he does shoot the guy dead, turns out he was an actor in the movie inspired by said season.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks had Alvin hit his head, changing his personality so that he went around doing good deeds. He sees a black knight holding a princess captive, then snatches his sword and snaps it over his knee, causing the director to Face Palm.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, it was actually a magic trick, and everyone knew it in advance, but the "Oh noes, I can't control it!" part got a little too realistic for Aang.
  • Ben 10: In "Super Alien Hero Buddy Adventures", Ben-as-Heatblast puts out a fire, only to find it out it was just a special effect for Kangaroo Kommando's stunt show. Ben decides to play along as the villain and take a dive for Kangaroo Kommando's hero in front of the live audience, who believe it's All Part of the Show.
  • Bugs Bunny does this to Elmer Fudd a couple of times; once in "Stage Door Cartoon" he tricks Elmer into doing a high-dive act on-stage, and in "Rabbit of Seville" he pushes Elmer onto the stage, forcing him to become part of the opera.
  • One episode of Captain Planet involving bats had a scene where a horror movie with bats as the antagonist was apparently being filmed. The first time Captain Planet saw it, he swooped in and saved the girl that was doing all the screaming, and then got chewed out by the director.
  • Casper's Scare School: in the episode "You Oughta Be in Pictures", Mantha accidentally wanders onto the set for a zombie movie, and thinks the actors are real zombies. Seeing how they are 'hunted down' by the humans, she inspires them to fight back. She is naturally very embarrassed when Ra and Casper point out the truth, but in the end it all works out for the best since Mantha's actions inspired the director to make a new zombie movie with her in the lead role.
  • The Chalkzone episode "Draw and Let Draw" has Rudy editing other kids' chalk drawings so that they can enter Chalkzone safely, one of which is a moose standing atop a tall building that Rudy draws a rubber ball around his body so that the moose won't get hurt when he falls. When Rudy enters Chalkzone to see his progress, it turns out the drawing was actually a movie set in which the moose is supposed to fly off the building and the director is not too happy about Rudy ruining the shot.
  • Daffy Duck deliberately does this to Von Hamburger's movie during the romance scene in "Daffy Duck In Hollywood."
  • Happened in Jackie Chan Adventures, where Jackie mistook an actor in costume for a new demonic monster. The stuntman thought it was still part of the script though and started to use wire-fu, with actual wires, before getting tangled in them and the director yelled "CUT!"
  • In an episode of Kim Possible, Señor Senior, Jr. assembles a gang of thugs to rob the Tower of London. Unfortunately for Junior, who was never the brightest bulb in the box, he attacks a set for a movie about the Tower of London, which is being filmed in Australia. When Kim and Ron thwart his attack, and wonder how he did not even realize he was on the wrong continent, the director decided to make a movie about Kim and Ron instead. Do not expect this outcome unless you are already an international teen crimefighter.
  • The 1923 Felix the Cat short Felix in Hollywood uses this trope, making it at least as old as The Silent Age of Animation. Though in a twist, the director enjoys Felix's interruption and offers him a contract.
  • Heckle and Jeckle lease their hotel to a TV studio so they can film a TV show there ("Messed Up Movie Makers," the last H&J cartoon Terrytoons would make). They intervene when the action sequence causes collateral damage to the property.
    Director: You idiots are ruining our fight sequence!
    Heckle: And you are ruining our furniture!
    Director: Don't worry! There's plenty left to finish the scene!
  • In The Incredible Hulk (1996), the episode "Hollywood Rocks" has She-Hulk stop a bus from crashing into a woman pushing a baby carriage only for it to turn out that she had interfered with the shooting of a movie and that the woman was a male actor in drag.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: In "Tarzan and the Silver Screen" Tarzan saves a woman from a rockslide, only to discover it was actually a shot for a jungle film and the actor who was supposed to save her reveals the "rocks" are just hollow props. Tarzan's incredible acrobatics do impress the director though and he's hired as the film's stuntman, to the displeasure of The Prima Donna star.
  • Happens to June in The Life and Times of Juniper Lee episode "Star Quality". After she ruins their shot, the producers of The Wonderful World of Magic get the idea of making a reality TV show about Juniper... without her knowledge or permission.
  • A Running Gag in the Lego Star Wars special, The Padawan Menace. Darth Vader will barge into scenes (theoretically taking place when he was still Anakin Skywalker) at random, forcing George to try and rein him in and point out that he's not in this scene.
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop used this in the episode "The Treacherous Movie Lot Plot", where the Ant Hill Mob observe a movie scene being filmed of a blonde woman in pink being menaced by a villain wearing a hat and a cape and assume them to be Penelope Pitstop and the Hooded Claw, only for the director to yell at them for interfering with his movie.
  • In an episode of The Real Ghostbusters where the guys are invited to Hollywood to help them film a movie of them, Peter and the others accidentally zap a giant robotic Godzilla-type monster mistaking it for a rampaging ghost. The director filming the movie was NOT happy and wound up pounding Peter for it.
  • Played with in an episode of The Replacements. Agent K disturbs the shot a few times on a visit to Hollywood. Ironically, she tries not to "fall for it again" when someone actually is in danger.
  • Sea Princesses: In "The Pirates", Caramello the Sea Snail Prince goes in search of adventure. He sees a group of children on a ship seemingly being endangered by pirates. He boards the ship and surprises the pirates, only to discover it is actually a dress-up party.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge", Marge suspects that a houseguest (Becky) is trying to usurp her as the mom in the family. Marge later comes home to find Homer tied up in what looks like an S & M tableau, Lisa's arms and legs stuck to the wall, Maggie stuck in a cage, and Becky holding a knife in her hands. When she is about to "kill" Homer, Marge snatches the knife from her and strangles her. It turns out that Bart is filming a scene in his movie. The twist is that Becky really did want to kill Marge and steal her family, for reasons that are never explained, but decided not to.
    • In another episode, Krusty's act involves him jumping into a tub of water, with hundreds of worms floating in the water. Bart gets the idea that the worms were a prank that Krusty didn't know about, and that Krusty would be really disgusted and his act disrupted if he dived into the worms. So Bart tries to interrupt Krusty and keep him from making his dive.
    • Averted in "Pygmoelion". After learning that he is to be killed off from the soap opera he is appearing in, Moe takes his revenge by having Homer walk onto the set live on air and deliver a year's worth of spoilers. When Homer first enters the shot, one of the crew members objects to his presence, but the director decides to just roll with it and see where it goes.
  • In one episode of Sushi Pack, Ikura accidentally invades a scene being filmed for a primetime cable superhero show, believing it to be a real emergency. The actors adlib around him, and the director even hires him on for a few more episodes.
  • The Transformers: In "Hoist Goes Hollywood", Spike, Carly, and Hoist follow two seemingly out-of-control cars only to find out it's a stunt being performed for a movie. Fortunately, Hoist is there to save the stuntmen when they get into real danger and is rewarded with a stunt car gig by the director when he sees the Autobot in action.
  • The Wander over Yonder episode "The Helper" has Wander rescuing a woman from a fire, and then being told he ruined the shoot. Then the camera catches on fire, and he put it out... only to be told he ruined the shoot. Turns out they were filming a movie about filming a movie.
  • Zee naturally falls for this in The Zeta Project. It is actually returned to later in the episode when he disguises himself and blends in among the actors.

    Real Life 
  • In 2007, a man heard a woman screaming for help in a flat upstairs. He grabbed an antique sword, charged up, and busted down the man's door to find him watching a porno. That had to have been the worst day ever for everyone involved.
  • A petty criminal from Baltimore surrendered himself to the cast of Homicide: Life on the Street (on a location shoot and carrying prop guns), believing them to be actual cops called as backup by officers chasing him. Richard Belzer said that he examined the crook's bag and found nothing but q-tips and Kodak film. This was used as the basis of a scene in the "Documentary" episode, with the twist that it was the characters chasing a criminal, who surrenders to the actual Homicide crew.
  • A community drama group in Wavertree on Merseyside left their theatre's windows and doors open due to the heat during a performance of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The neighbours mistook the screams they heard for a real murder and called the police, as described in this article.
  • One of the winners of the annual American Girl magazine story contest featured this at the climax of the story—the heroine was chasing a dog on her bike, and accidentally rode onto a film set in the middle of shooting. Of course, the director wasn't upset but pleased with the new addition to the story, and she was added to the final cut of the film.
  • In Finland: the police were filming a staged car theft, but helpful bystanders rushed to stop the thief...three times in a row.
  • Often, when testing myths involving guns, MythBusters will feature a shot where the neighbors have come around to complain because somewhere along the line, the crucial step of warning them about the gunshots was notably missed.
  • Supposedly this happened while filming the 1960's Australian TV series Homicide (not to be confused with the aforementioned Life on the Street). As Australian TV was a rather low-budget affair at the time, a police officer didn't see the small film crew across the street from the 'robber' and arrested him.
  • There's a scene in the Doctor Who episode "Planet of Fire" where Peri starts drowning while swimming and Turlough rescues her in Lanzarote. The first take was interrupted when a German nudist thought Nicola Bryant was actually drowning and swam out to save her. The same guy later ruined another shot on the beach as he ran through it.
  • In an early production of Othello, the audience swarmed the stage in an attempt to intervene at the climax.
  • The Late Show with David Letterman filmed a bit where a ne'er-do-well stole something from announcer Alan Kalter during the show and ran out of the theater down the street. Kalter ran after him yelling "stop, thief!" Someone actually stopped the "thief."
  • This sort of situation may be why New York City requires that when a project shooting at an exterior location has a scene with prop firearms, weapons, or actors in police uniforms, the producers must request that the NYPD Movie and TV Unit be assigned to the location.
  • Invoked and rather depressingly averted when a British police force (possibly Kent?) employed some actors to perform staged muggings in the town centre as part of a psychology experiment. Not only did no bystanders attempt to intervene themselvesnote , but it appears that nobody thought this worth calling the police about.
  • A WGN morning news show spent a rather sizable amount of time reporting a plane crash which was in fact a staged set for the show Chicago Fire.
  • A filmed demonstration of a purse-snatching by the Detroit police department almost got one of its actors shot when an FBI agent saw the event and pulled a gun on the thief.
  • Notably averted during the filming of Midnight Cowboy in the infamous "I'm walking here!" scene. Turns out that the taxi driver wasn't part of the movie and just blasted past the roadblock and Dustin Hoffman, though clearly pissed off, rolled with it and kept the film going. It ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the movie.
  • The story was once told of how Christian missionaries played "The Jesus Film" for a remote tribe that was still somewhat new to the concept of movies. The film had to be halted temporarily at a climactic moment when the tribesmen, shocked by the crucifixion scene, began shooting blowgun darts at the screen in an attempt to kill the Roman soldiers and save Jesus from being crucified.
  • Robert De Niro was filming an intense drama scene with an actress when a random passerby came up to him and started gushing about how great an actor he is.
  • College psychology classes will sometime stage "accidents" on campus to see how people react. However, it's not always a good experiment, because it never seems to occur to them to enlist a theatre student who actually knows how to do things like convincingly fake tripping as the "victim." This results in many people just staring in bemusement at this bizarre person who's trying, and failing horribly, to act as if he might have gotten hurt.
  • The people shooting Aliens were confused at times by Paul Reiser's presence — since all the other actors were in military gear, they took him for a member of the film crew who didn't know enough to get out of the camera's way.
  • Once. When filming the opening scene where someone runs off with the Guy's money, several bystanders didn't see the cameras and tackled the "thief".