‘A movie within a movie’: Crew shooting heist film has gear stolen in Winnipeg

A Toronto film crew is living through what seems like a script from one of their own movies after a truck and trailer containing all their lighting gear was stolen in Winnipeg — and is now being held for ransom.

Adam Rodness and Stu Stone, brothers-in-law who own the company 5’7 Films, are in the city to shoot a heist movie called Vandits. Monday was set to be the first day of a full month of shooting, but when they showed up to the production office, they found out everything but two cameras was gone.

“The irony is definitely not lost on us. People who know us, like our family and friends, they don’t believe us,” said Stone, swearing the incident is not a publicity stunt.

“If we were trying to pull some sort of stunt, why would we get rid of the gear we need to shoot the movie? This is definitely an insane situation that we’re trying to make the best of.”

The duo are known for their independent comedy-horror films, with Vandits billed as a movie “about four stoner idiots” who plan to rob a senior citizens’ bingo hall on Christmas eve and steal the $25,000 jackpot.

Stu Stone, left, and Adam Rodness are shooting a movie called Vandits. (Submitted by Adam Rodness)

The truck and trailer were stolen from the front street of Oakwood Avenue, in the city’s Riverview neighbourhood, overnight Sunday into Monday.

“It’s not like a small piece of equipment, there’s like a truckload of stuff that’s worth probably close to like over a quarter million dollars,” said Rodness, adding the production includes “an A-list Canadian cast, and now it’s like, oh my God, we flew all these people in and can we actually make this movie?” 

An exasperated Rodness and Stone — producer and director, respectively, as well as the co-writers of Vandits — posted about the situation on social media and reported the theft to the police on Monday.

“It’s not a joke, this is for real,” Stone said in a video on Twitter. “Everything’s gone.”

People started sharing the posts and before long there was a phone call to the production office from someone who said they have the gear and is demanding money to get it back, Rodness said.

“We don’t know how that’s going to play out and unfortunately, I can’t really say too much because now it’s in the hands of the [police],” he said.

“It’s a movie within a movie that we’re kind of living ourselves.”

Rodness thinks whoever stole the gear is going to find themselves in a tough spot because they can’t really threaten to get rid of it anywhere else.

“I don’t know what this person is going to do. I think that they’re going to be stuck. They’re going to realize that the pawn shops have been alerted [and] everyone knows what’s up,” he said.

“The film community is so tight-knit that people are going to know. It’s not like you stole a watch and you’re trying to pawn a watch. This is pretty special stuff that can’t really go unseen.”

This undated photo shows the truck that was taken along with the trailer and film gear. (Submitted by Adam Rodness)

In the meantime, people across the country in the film industry have reached out, with many offering to send equipment, Rodness said.

He and Stone have also been given a deal to rent gear from William F. White International, one of the country’s largest production services companies, which has a Winnipeg office.

“They’ve come to save the day. They’ve sent us gear overnight and we have our team at their local offices, pulling stuff as we speak,” Rodness said.

“People are helping any which way they can and it’s very endearing. It’s very welcoming.”

Renting that gear will put a dent in an already tight budget but “the show must go on,” Stone said, noting the shoot is now set to start Tuesday in Selkirk.

“We’re here to make a movie and we’re not going to let this stop us.”

Someone claiming to be responsible for the theft is now demanding ransom to get the truck, trailer and gear back, says Adam Rodness. (Submitted by Adam Rodness)

Rodness said he and Stone are impressed with Winnipeg and the quality of the production crews, and the theft hasn’t made them regret anything.

“As I look at it from a producer standpoint, things happen for a reason. People are now talking about our movie, people are more aware of what we’re doing and people are wanting to help us and make sure that our creative [vision] is actually going to be seen,” Rodness said.

“These things happen. Winnipeg is a great town, you know, there’s just superstars out here. It’s not put a sour taste in the mouths. We do love this place.”

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