Prop Money - How to Fake Movie Currency  

by Matt Hawkins, 25/02/2012
Categories : Tutorials & Guides

So your film requires a stack of money and you aren't a movie mogul just yet so you need prop cash. Here is a guide on how you can complete your film without getting put in prison for counterfeiting.

Method 1
Use real money. If you only need to show a certain amount of money or a few bank notes just use real ones. This is far easier than bothering to create props and prevents any legal issues of using fake money.

Method 2
If you need to film more money than you could reasonably withdraw from a cash machine then create bundles of notes out of newspaper. Simply place a real note on top and wrap the bundle with paper strips. Print a bank logo on the strips to make the bundles look like they have just come out the vault. This is the easiest way to turn $100 into $50,000.

Method 3
Buy prop or kids play money from a shop or online supplier. This is easy but you probably want your film cash to look real not like you've just stolen it from your kid sister's Monopoly set.

These first three methods are the best. If you really need to make prop notes then continue reading but you need to take far more care to not cut your film short due to imprisonment.

prop_money.jpgHere is a briefcase of British cash used in my film 'Hollow Point'. It consists of bundles of newspaper with a prop note on the top. The bundles are bound with coloured strips with a little logo printed in the middle to make them look official.

I used Method 2 but used prop notes on the top. So we arrive at our final method. The slightly more risky option. Fake money.

It must be pointed out at this point that creating fake bank notes is highly illegal in most civilised countries. If it isn't illegal where you are then you are probably smoking opium in a Somali brothel. In the UK it is illegal so you need to be sensible before we head over to ...

Method 4
Create fake notes. It's easy. You simply scan a real bank note and print out however many you need. Use pair of scissors or paper slice to cut them up. "How do you avoid going to prison?" I hear you ask?

The golden rule is that the note needs to look real on film but obviously junk in real life. If you lose a prop note you do not want anyone finding it to be able to use it or even attempt to use it.

So you need to follow these guidelines :

- Do not scan the notes at more than 300dpi. You don't need a high level of detail for most film work so don't try to create notes that contain anything but the bare minimum of detail.

- If you need a close up use a real note. Or don't write a script with a "money close-up". If you need a "money shot" you are making the wrong sort of film.

- Using your favourite graphics package pixelate or blur key features of the scanned image. These might include serial numbers or text. It won't show on camera so mangle those details.

- Add some text that is easily spotted when handling the note but that will not be readable on film. Perhaps "THIS IS A PROP BANKNOTE FOR FILM USE" right across the centre where it will be hidden by the strip of paper you use to wrap the bundle.

- Change the size. I scaled my notes so they fitted nicely in the briefcase in two rows with no gaps. This doesn't matter on the screen.

- Only print your prop money single sided. On the reverse print a clear statement that the note is for video work.

- Do not distribute your digital files on the internet. You need to be responsible for your scans. Print what you need and don't share. Be mean.

- Use the props in a controlled environment if possible which rules out members of the public getting confused about your motives.

- Maintain control of your props. Create them, film them and count them all back in before you destroy them.

That's it. You've noticed the lack of downloads by now. Sorry, but it really only take a few minutes to create your own. The advice is hopefully more useful than a set of £50 JPGs.

Note: I am not a lawyer so please do not consider this guide as legal advice. It is my opinion based on observation and common sense.

Note 2:
I will not provide digital materials to help you create your props and I do not sell props. Buy a flatbed scanner or search Google for an idiot who is providing scans.

Author : Matt Hawkins  Last Edit By : Matt Hawkins
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