Film vehicle theft puts potential dent in local productions
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It will be lights, cameras… but potentially delayed action for local movie and television productions after a camera truck was stolen from a warehouse under construction.
Robert Rowan, William F. White International Inc. general manager in Winnipeg, said the truck is one of only about two dozen across North America and the lone one based in Manitoba.
“It is devastating,” Rowan said Wednesday.
“It’s a huge hit to the local film industry. It’s a very specialized vehicle and we don’t have many of them. If we tried to get one new, it would be 12 to 18 months… but only if we are lucky.”
Rowan said the production services company is in the process of constructing a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in the St. James Industrial Park. The truck and other movie equipment were inside.
“I don’t believe we were targeted,” he said. “I think this was a construction site they saw and they went in. Some construction material was also stolen.”
Andrew Luczenczyn of William F. White said the truck has been used locally in the filming of Flag Day (2021), A Dog’s Purpose (2017), Nobody (2021), TV series Tales from the Loop (2020), and the upcoming black comedy/action movie Violent Night.
Luczenczyn, a cinematographer, said when you see a shot in a movie or TV show where an actor is driving a vehicle and the camera is pointed towards them, that’s thanks to a specialized truck like the one that was stolen.
“These vehicles in general are used as a mobile film set for travelling, often carrying all the directors, actors and crew needed to shoot car driving scenes safely,” he said.
“They tow specially designed trailers that sit as low to the ground as possible with the vehicle mounted, so the actor can focus on acting rather than actually driving their vehicle.”
Luczenczyn said if a local film production needs to use such a truck in the meantime, another can be brought in, but it takes time to transport.
“The fact we have one here in Manitoba is a big driver of productions coming here,” he said. “We will take producers and directors through here and they say ‘Oh, you guys have a camera car.’ It definitely helps us here.”
The stolen vehicle is a forest green 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 V10, Manitoba licence plate CHE 703, modified with a tandem axle, air ride suspension, built-in generator and a three-tier platform at the rear. It bears the William F. White logo and a large steel bar on the front.
Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jay Murray said the service was notified about the break-in Monday, shortly after it was discovered.
Murray said besides the truck, a trailer and electronics were also stolen sometime over the weekend.
“Members of the major crimes unit are currently investigating the matter,” he said, noting anyone with information about the theft is asked to either call police at 204-986-6219 or Crime Stoppers at 203-786-TIPS (8477).
Stu Stone, a filmmaker with four decades of experience, was the victim of an industry equipment theft Nov. 15, 2021, in Winnipeg — the first day of shooting for comedy heist movie Vandits (now in theatrical release).
While Stone didn’t use the specialized truck for his movie, he called it an essential piece for many productions.
“I’m certainly empathetic to that crew, but if I could offer them any advice it would be that the show must go on. Don’t let anything stop you from completing your mission,” he said.
Stone’s missing trailer was later found abandoned, but $250,000 worth of film gear inside has never been found.
“If they do ever end up finding (the William F. White) gear, check and see if our stuff is there, too,” Stone said.
Janice Tober, a spokeswoman for Manitoba Film and Music, said the industry advocate also hopes the truck is recovered.
“It’s an unfortunate story,” Tober said. “If this is hindering production, that’s a real shame.
“It is a very unique truck — what would somebody do with it? It’s not the greatest to drive around.”
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.