14 Dec Fake movie money- How the movies use it?
Have you ever sat in a cinema watching your absolute favorite heist movie and suddenly wondered where the producers get such excessive amounts of money to blow up from? Well, you are not alone! Movie studios and production houses spend copious amounts of money to get copious amounts of dollar bills.
However, if you didn’t yet catch on, this money is entirely fake! That’s because it’s known as movie prop money and is routinely used in big and small productions to give a more authentic feel to the entire project. How else would audiences experience the thrill of a ton of money getting blown up?
However, it isn’t all that simple! The current procedure for getting those prop wads has come a long way from the origins of this business. Initially, it was completely illegal to showcase fake or prop based money in movies or advertisements by law. Many loopholes were made to overcome this issue because filmmakers were on the hunt for authenticity.
What’s the story behind this ever-growing industry?
However as the demand for more original-looking dollars and notes came about especially with the serious rise in Hollywood, more and more prop houses were established that sought to provide these filmmakers with something closer to the real deal. This was between the 1970s to the early 2000s, when approximately 270 different designs of movie money were produced solely to be used by Hollywood.
Just like the acting and performances, we witness in motion pictures, TV, and anywhere online, the prop cash is intended to be as genuine as could be expected under the circumstances, without actually being real money.
Nowadays, there are so many authorized and unauthorized dealers and third-party sellers who are designing, producing, and selling this fake money meant for prop use, that it is extremely hard to keep track of them all! Of course to get the big business for themselves, prop makers are outdoing each other to create more and more realistic versions. Unfortunately there ended up being graver consequences to this.
While authorized movie notes are lawfully created counterfeit dollars for use in the creation of movies, music videos, ads, and much more, Lately, the cash meant solely for entertainment and production purposes has progressively been sold by online retailers to purchasers outside of the film, TV and theater industry.
And that’s where the problem arises.
One of the best examples of when a precedent was set for the industry was when the blockbuster hit movie, Rush Hour 2 was being shot. In 2001, the studio responsible procured around 1 billion USD in movie prop money. This was blown up for a scene and while the idea was that the money was essentially destroyed, some evaded the explosion.
This led to a lot of the extras and passersby taking advantage of the situation and using this money as real currency. This is when the Secret Service was alerted and got involved. This also changed the way prop makers functioned and made prop money for their clients.
As per the Secret Service, which handles duplicating violations of all kinds, in the last year or so, a whopping total of $103.4 million in fake bills were circulated and used for transactions. This means that there is a huge market for these counterfeit notes and that they are getting so realistic that it has become easier for them to go undetected by unsuspecting retailers and shop owners.
This is surprising as cash that is being made for entertainment or recreational purposes in the US should cling to the government rules because if not complied with the act can be considered as a federal offense. This is outlined in detail in the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992.
The most common way to ensure that you are not in violation of the law is that movie studios and production houses will invest in prop money that has been designed especially for their use. This might be realistic but is usually only printed on one side which removes any chance of them being illegally used. Another method is that the note will be slightly larger than actual bills.
So, what are some other ways that this is made legally?
Most authorized prop houses and makers will be in direct contact with the government and concerned authorities to oblige with and maintain federal rules. This not only ensures that they are staying within the ambit of the law but also ensures that they can create the most realistic looking bills while staying within the law.
Most bills that are for viewing from a close angle are called high grade and the ones that will not be in close-ups are called standard produced bills. Of course, as we discussed earlier, the high-grade money is validated by being printed on one side. However, you can also get realistic notes printed on both sides. These are more standard in appearance and feel as they come with optical illusions or custom text that means they are not a real currency.
Of course, this means that prop makers have their work cut out for them as they have to ensure that their high-quality pieces are completely undetectable during close-ups on screen but are also fake enough that they are unsellable in real life. The close-up variety is only printed on one side for a reason because more and more people are falling victim to this scam!
The money might also have special ink that shifts when you move it slightly against the light. There can also be different text written on the top which might be along the lines of “For production use only.” Just by adding this, producers and creators can get their authentic-looking bills and evade issues with the law.
So, how do moviemakers pull it off?
The most interesting part is that reality can be easily altered behind the camera as for a more realistic illusion of huge piles of cash and do it in an affordable range, filmmakers and TV producers will simply make use of prop bills. Previously, many would use real money with a huge stack of 1 dollar bills with a single 100 dollar bill on each end. This is surely a lucrative way but it is also potentially dangerous.
Of course, as we mentioned before, these studios and production houses will also invest in prop based money that has been made using Chinese characters or different paper materials so that even though visually they appear similar, in reality, they are not. It is also a hell of a lot safer way than getting a huge amount of loan from the bank and returning it once they’re done. Not only can this be damaged but it can also just as easily be stolen.
There are so many interesting websites and authorized sellers that movie makers can look towards if they want reliable fake cash that also complies with the law. Not only is this a very lucrative industry but because movie makers might need this more than once, it is a reliable and safe way to get their custom orders made.
It is also illegal to print life-sized prints of money because this means it can be cut out and possibly altered to be used as the real deal. While no law prohibits this for movies, in the UK it is banned to destroy real money on-screen so prop money comes in handy.
Why do movie studios invest so much in this despite all the risks?
If you are a smaller film company or a production house that just doesn’t have the budget, then it might make sense why you would prefer to deal with third-party sellers as they would be a better option because this way the buyer can get tons of prop money but at a reasonable enough price.
They won’t have to arrange copious amounts of money for different scenes and shots and this will even allow them to get done with more takes for absolute perfection. While of course, it is equally as lucrative an option for larger firms as well, it is wiser to deal with an authorized or reliable seller instead because being a larger company grants you that opportunity.
While movie studios generally use fake money when it is needed in larger amounts, the most interesting concept to remember is that this can be used for many other reasons. Many firms will allow users to get the notes customized and this can add some originality to the work.
Of course, bigger and more established studios use these as they increase the authenticity of the project and the producers have to continually compete to outdo their competition. If a movie or video does not invest in good quality prop money, then this will easily be visible during close up shots and it will ruin the believability of the entire project.