How fake money for movies is made


Seems pretty easy to work around, does it count as “counterfeit” if the president is just a green oval and the denomination is random numbers outlined in green, with some vague green lines around the edge for detailing?

Because even on an HD screen, it’d be pretty damn hard to identify it as fake in the Rush Hour scene they’re talking about.

Just make sure to use the “legit” one sided counterfeits for closeups.


I figured mirror image versions of the artwork or something similar


Perhaps someone could figure out a way to use a combination of a specific pattern on the fake money, plus CGI. Just as the green-screen approach replaces anything with a certain color with the desired fake background image, you could have an algorithm that replaces a certain pattern with a picture of a hundred dollar bill, say.

1 Like

That would be interesting for closeups without actor’s faces visible… mirror-image the entire bill’s artwork, and then just flip the filmed image later. And if someone tries to spend a 001$ bill, well…


This is a pretty cool article actually. Really interesting.

Interesting write-up, but there were a couple of trivia bits that I’d add:

  • They had a couple of screen shots from Breaking Bad, but (you can sort of see this in the shot of Kuby and Huell) one of the things that eagle-eyed fans noted is that some of the bills have a portrait of a vaguely Civil War-era-looking gentleman on them that doesn’t actually appear on American currency; BB fans speculated that the man was Vince Gilligan.
  • The scenario where real money is used, and subsequently stolen by extras, happened on the set of GoodFellas; De Niro used it (everyone else used the counterfeits).

I worked on a low budget music video where we had fake money, and the prop house basically forced us to put down a deposit equalling $1 real money for $1 fake money. It was around $10k (we put it on a credit card I believe). She told us the policy because the fake money started to show up abroad in various local markets - people would head to Tokyo and drop $10k in the Chanel store type thing. Pretty crazy (the money did look very real mind you)


Wouldn’t the simple solution be to film scenes requiring fake money outside the US?

I would think that in all the “money in a briefcase” scenes, where money is wrapped in a paper sleeve (like the photos at the top of this article and the original article) could simply have a missing section in the middle?

Also, I feel like I’m misunderstanding something. The Secret Service guidelines seem to stress that all fake movie money must be black and white and absurd sizes, yet the article also talks about “very good” fake money, which presumably doesn’t look like that, and @jaimonee also seems to suggest that there is “good” fake money that doesn’t look like that.

So are all the movie houses breaking the law?

Covered in Mark’s commentary:

1 Like

Time to check in with Mutant Agent JSG Boggs?


watching a co-worker at a gas station get fired for accepting a very large bright turquoise $100 bill printed on pretty thick printer paper was mind boggling.
it was more fake looking than even monopoly money.


That’s not really how “green screen” ( really chroma keying/digital compositing) works. There’s no algorithm that automatically replaces anything. You take two images and then composite them together by using the computer to replace one solid color with in the first image with elements of the second. The second image can be a cgi render, other live footage, still images etc. But its not automatic, a technician needs to line everything up and correct/refine the final footage. A bit like pasting together and blending elements in Photoshop but across many moving frames. It also requires a stable, brightly/evenly lit/largely contrast free, monochrome block of color that does not occur as such elsewhere in the image. So its expensive. You’re paying for additional post processing that’s going to include multiple crew members working at high hourly rates (the guys to shoot it, create the image files of real bills, post fx guy to composite it, and all associated support staff like assistant editors.), equipment and post time, as well as render time. So its basically just a waaaay more expensive and time consuming way to accomplish something relatively simple. In the hopes of avoiding a rare legal consequence you’re probably insured against anyway. And while you could create a program/plugin that works with patterned/chroma key colored bills and a complex algorithm to replace it with bill images, you still need a tech or 3 to run that program and clean up the footage up. You’ve also created a proprietary tool with a pretty limited use, which in film/video/effects work means its very expensive and very limited to certain productions. Either approach is likely to be more expensive (for very large productions/best quality results) than just using real bills. And they’re using fake bills because they’re cheaper (also safer) to work with than real money.

Galactic Empire Dollars. You know it makes sense.

If no one involved in the production planned to ever return to the U.S., maybe. I doubt the Secret Service’s approach to overseas counterfeiting is “Oh well, nothing we can do about that, it’s not on American soil!”

I don’t see how they could do anything about it, so long as the bills themselves did not come back to the US.

The rules governing the creation of fake money by the Federal Reserve seem to be a lot simpler.

1 Like

The FBI arrests people for shit they’ve done outside the country all the time. Underage sex tourism, for one example. Various activities that fall under the rubric of terrorism, for another. I’m sure the SS does the same.

If the “counterfeiters” stayed overseas, like Roman Polanski, the Feds probably wouldn’t deem it worth the trouble to kidnap them back to the U.S. to face trial, but it’s not as if we’ve never done that before.

1 Like

Just print them out.