Television shows

How fake money is made for movies and TV shows

  • There are three types of incidental money that are typically used by movies and TV shows: “standard”, “high quality” and real money.
  • Standard tickets are printed on both sides and look great from a distance, but they look noticeably different when viewed up close.
  • High-quality banknotes are the same as real money and are used for close-ups, but they are printed on one side only so they cannot be used as real currency.
  • Production companies also occasionally use real invoices, as they look great on camera and mitigate counterfeit issues that can arise when printing ancillary currency.
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One of those $ 100 bills is real, and the other is a silver coin for movies. Can you tell which is which? They both have blue security tape, textured ink, and even the smallest detail, like the text of the Declaration of Independence. The answer is obvious when you turn them over.

Invoices as detailed as this should be blank on the other side. That’s because if prop makers, like Prop Movie Money in Florida, print money that looks too real, they might get in trouble with the US government.

This is what happened 20 years ago on the set of “Rush Hour 2”. Gregg Bilson Jr .: Money is more work than it is worth, in the long run.

Narrator: It’s Gregg Bilson Jr., CEO of Los Angeles-based ISS Props, one of the world’s biggest accessories houses. In 2000, Greg received an order and printed $ 1,000 billion in cash for “Rush Hour 2,” most of which was going to be blown up onscreen. And the prop money looks good in this scene. Too good, actually.

Carter: Hello Benjamin!

Narrator: The counterfeit money looked so real that some extras on set pocketed some of it and tried to spend it in real stores. This alerted the US Secret Service, which confiscated and destroyed the counterfeit banknotes and the digital files used to print them. It had cost $ 100,000 to print all that bogus money, so losing everything was a financial blow to Gregg and ISS.

Bilson: We did not try to use counterfeit money to fool the public. We made counterfeit money to make a film. But we just made the accessory look too good.

Narrator: The “Rush Hour 2” incident exposed an obvious dilemma for printing counterfeit money. The money has to look realistic on camera, but it can’t be too realistic up close, or people might try to spend it in real life. The problem has become even more prominent in recent years, with better cameras capturing more and more detail of the background of scenes. Thus, the accessory industry has come up with two different types of accessory silver, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

For scenes where money is filmed from afar, productions generally use standard quality invoices. The iconic money scene from “Breaking Bad” uses these tickets, which were rented to Gregg and ISS. These invoices look real from a distance, but up close they are obviously fake, with many clear differences from the real thing. The portrait on the invoice is of poor quality compared to the real one. And instead of “one hundred dollars”, it simply reads “one hundred”. The smaller details of the bill are also changed. The seals are of a different design and the signatures on the invoice have been changed. Then there are the obvious additions, like the prominent “for movie use only” display.

In fact, if you zoom in on that scene from “Breaking Bad” while it’s blurry, you can actually see that each invoice says “for movie use only”. These changes should keep Secret Service away, but they also mean standard fake bills aren’t good for close-ups. So, for these shots, movies will often use high quality invoices. High quality banknotes are the same as real money, but are printed on one side only so they cannot be confused with real money. Like the one we showed you earlier, which was printed by RJR Props in Atlanta.

You can see an example of a high quality invoice in this scene from the 2014 movie “Let’s Be Cops”. An alternative solution that Gregg and ISS have been using for several years is to simply use real invoices. This is the first version they offer. The ISS will take a stack of completely blank banknotes, then place a real banknote at the top of the stack and one at the bottom, making the whole stack appear to be full of real banknotes. The second method of using real dollars carries more risk, but it may be the better option. A whole pile of real bills. ISS will obtain $ 10,000 stacks from the bank and then deliver them to the set. While having so much money lying around makes some productions nervous, it looks great on film and takes the risk out of the Secret Service. That’s what they did in this “Ozark” photo.

Bilson: I see counterfeit money being used all the time, and I think it’s terrible, because I’m a real estate master, and I want things to be genuine and accurate and to look right .

Narrator: Take a look at this episode of the first season of “Girlfriends”. Dummy money is distracting for the public. While productions may prefer to use real money, it is sometimes unavoidable, such as in scenes where bills are destroyed or in scenes that require an absurd amount. In cases like these, Gregg says he will always use counterfeit money. Except that he certainly doesn’t print the counterfeit money himself, because he still has his secret service renunciation. So he bought it from Prop Movie Money, one of the few printers to make any money.

The ultimate irony of prop money printing is that it is actually not very profitable. Standard and premium tickets sell for around $ 45 for a stack of 100 tickets. Gregg has two more “Rush Hour 2” bills that the Secret Service did not confiscate. Even though these tickets look less realistic than modern prop tickets, he still wrapped them in plastic so no one could try to use them in real life. They’re a physical reminder of the risks accessory makers take and the rewards they reap for getting that perfect shot.


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