Production community recovers stolen equipment

After hearing that a cameraman had stolen their equipment, rental firms, Atlas TV and Red Mark along with director of photography, Peter Davies, embarked on a mission to recover their kit. Digital Studio gets the inside story.

  • E-Mail
By  Vijaya Cherian Published  July 27, 2005

I|~|petebig.jpg|~|DoP, Peter Davies recounts how he recovered his kit|~|Last month, two production companies in Dubai found themselves almost duped of more than US $200,000 worth of equipment by a German cameraman, who pretended to rent their kit for a shoot in the UAE but instead flew out of the country. Atlas TV, Red Mark Studios and director of photography, Peter Davies, told Digital Studio how they discovered that a sizable portion of their kit was stolen by Ingo Hoffman and taken to Bangkok. Concerned at the apparent inability of the police to recover the kit quickly following their complaint, Davies and the two firms joined hands with other friends in the production community, and took matters into their own hands. “Essentially, a large part of my means of living was stolen from me,” says Davies. “For the last five years, I had worked towards this and then, it all just walked out of the door one day.” Hoffman had come to Dubai to work as a cameraman. In fact, he was in the country for a whole month doing odd filming jobs for companies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “We discovered, after the theft, with the help of the German Embassy in Dubai, that he had a criminal record. He had done a few jobs for people here and he seemed alright. So when he said he was shooting for a German television company at the Kempinski and gave Atlas all the necessary documentation to rent the equipment, they didn’t suspect anything.” The German, however, never went to the Kempinski. Instead, he flew to Bangkok with all the kit he had rented including a 750P HD camera, a DSR570, some tripod systems, batteries, a battery charger, about US $10,000 worth of filters and matte boxes, a small monitor and several other pieces of equipment from Red Mark. “I was in the UK when I heard about the theft. It was important for us to act quickly before he got away and sold it to someone else. My wife, with the help of several friends and our contacts in the industry, did a massive search on the Web for the guy’s details, called up various embassies and so on. Luckily for us, when they did a search for Hoffman on the internet, they came up with an email address, traced his whereabouts to Bangkok, and I went there,” says Davies. What happened afterwards can only be described as the kind of stuff Hollywood movies are made of. A producer friend of Davies in Bangkok and a friend of Mike Charlton of Atlas TV got together, emailed Hoffman and asked if he would be interested in working on a project with them for two weeks. “They said they were interested in a cameraman who had his own equipment. He was supposed to bring along his kit so that we could do a test shoot for insurance purposes. They told him it was for an international client, which was a bit of an irony,” laughs Peter. “We also made sure he brought along the smaller camera by telling him that we were going to do a making-of-the-film kind of thing. Luckily, he said yes.” ||**||II|~|ingo.jpg|~|Ingo Hoffman came to Dubai as a cameraman and left the country with a lot of rental equipment.|~|The unsuspecting Hoffman then asked for a van to take all the equipment for the day of the shoot. “We organised for a van to pick him up. When the van arrived, he got out and came to greet Mike’s friend, who posed as the producer. When he came up to them, my friend just confronted him straight up — “are you Ingo Hoffman, this is all stolen equipment, isn’t it?” says Davies. “I expected him to run or get violent or deny it or show some reaction. But he was just too stunned to speak. The van had all our equipment and that’s all I needed to know. My friend told him the Thai police were looking for him and he must leave the country immediately, and then we left with our gear,” says Davies. Hoffman’s modus operandi seems to have been stealing from one country, selling it somewhere else and then picking up more equipment from elsewhere. “He came here with a JVC and sold that one here. We don’t know if it was stolen or a legitimate sale but we have given JVC the serial number to check their records. We have not heard back from them. He also had an ABC type of steadycam, which I don’t think he took back to Bangkok,” explains Davies. Perhaps one of the main concerns that came out of this episode is the way insurance policies work. “According to the insurance assessor, our equipment was not stolen; it was rented out. We had a police report to prove it was stolen but because it was out on a rental, the assessor said it would have been very difficult to get the insurance company to pay us.” This incident comes as a rude shock to Dubai’s production community, especially the freelancers, most of whom have insured their equipment. If they are paying huge sums of money to insure their kit, they need to ensure that the insurance companies will honour their contracts should something go wrong. Otherwise, they must seek legal help to draw up contracts with insurance companies so that they are truly protected in such circumstances. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code