Creative thought at its finest. Making a film within a film is a fun way to challenge the structure of your feature, handily giving a solid objective or plot line for your characters to follow. Dating back to as early as the 1900’s, the use of this film making device is a clever means of engaging your audience more closely by momentarily breaking away from the social action. Here are a few quick examples of how this is done well, in the hope of inspiring your own double layered story-line.
Jackie Jormp Jomp (30 Rock– Season 3, Episode 18) 2009
Jenna Morney’s biographical film about Janis Joplin. Stuck in Production Hell, the film goes through various stages and names after the production company fail to acquire Janis Joplin’s life rights – from Janis Joplin, to Janey Jimpler and Jackie Jormp Jomp and classic tunes like “Break another little chunk of my lung”. For some reason, the episode focuses on how difficult it would be to sell this biopic…we disagree.
Thunder Gun Express (It’s always sunny in Philadelphia– Season 7, Episode 11) 2011
It’s the hit movie of the summer, and Dennis and the gang have the last 4 tickets. Disrupted by a Presidential visit in the episode, the four struggle to make it to the movie on time, having only 28 minutes to get to this long sought after film about “This warrior from a postapocalyptic underground society who has to travel back in time to save his lover from an evil robot army.”
On that note, we can even refer back to an earlier season of It’s Always Sunny. Here, Mac and Charlie decide to make their own movie, ‘The Fifth Sense’, where they cast Dolph Lundgren as a mesh shirted scientist that can smell crime before it happens.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015
Greg and his friend Earl have been making absurdist lo-fi spoofs of classic films for years before piping the interests of classmate Rachel (the said ‘dying girl’). With examples such as The 400 Bros, Eyes Wide Butt and Rosemary Baby Carrots, this genius use of humour is a touching and deliberate homage to the original film makers from director Alfonso Gomez- Rejon. “If one person goes out to find the [original] movie,” he says, “then we’ve won.”
Son of Rambow 2008
Two young boys, Will and Lee (Carter), set out to film the eponymous ‘Son of Rambow’ with the intention of winning the Young Film-Makers’ Screen Test competition. The clip below shows the dream sequence that inspires the fictional story line, which stems from Will’s virgin viewing of a pirated Rambo film. With this coming of age story homing in on the unlikely friendship between two boys, the final product that comes from Lee Carters footage is never fully completed, leaving his glorified vision unfinished. Never the less, you can’t help but love Will’s poignant attempt at finishing his companions work, as screened at the end of the film as a very special feature.
Birdman Returns (Birdman) 2015
A trailer has emerged for a Super-Hero franchise that we felt strangely nostalgic for watching Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman earlier this year. We wish that Riggan Thompson’s part as an entirely fictitious superhero, as seen in this 1992 sequel, didn’t just exist in our hearts.
Angels Live in Our Town (Boogie Nights) 1997
We’re sure adaptations of the 70’s pornos included in this film are probably already out there…somewhere…but Dirk Diggler’s and Reed Rothchild’s fully clothed hurrah in Angels Live in Our Town shows them to be a promising action-adventure duo.
Instead, this movie gives a solid example of character turmoil due to their involvement with the fictional features. This gives focus to a very interesting question- how do the stresses of making these films affect your characters, and consequently how do they come back from this as the plot progresses?
See You Next Wednesday (Majority of John Landis films)
A running gag in most of Landis’ titles, ‘See You Next Wednesday’ is the film that everyone raves about and yet never sees (exempting the glimpse of adult film we catch in An American Werewolf in London, 1981). The reference is a direct quote from 2001: Space Odyssey (1968), and acts as a homage in a number of Landis’ films to a movie idea he had at the age of fifteen. See how many references you can find in the compilation below.
Hamlet (Last Action Hero) 1993
Arnold Schwarzenegger reciting Shakespeare whilst smoking a cigar…
Argo (Argo) 2012
The following of an American rescue team as they save citizens trapped during the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage Crisis. Posing as a producer for the eponymous “science-fantasy adventure” that is Argo, Ben Affleck has to get six US escapees out of Tehran by shielding them under the pretence of the fake Hollywood hit. Although being a master disguise, we’re admittedly sold by the final story boards that are revealed in their desperation of leaving the country, as seen below.
Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) 2001
Naturally, it would never be the same without beloved Robin Williams, but we can still enjoy the thought of this sequel introduced to us in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
As always, remember to comment below any more examples that deserve a mention.