Equipment stolen on student film shoot


When Sean Nielsen parked his U-Haul truck around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, he expected to find it unharmed when he returned. He had parked the truck in the same location on three separate occasions prior to that night and said he never had an issue.
On that night, he came back to the parking spot around 2 a.m., to see that his truck, and the film equipment inside of it, had been stolen.
“Somehow (thieves) broke into the car, punched the lock in and drove the car away without anyone noticing,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen and his film crew of about 20-25 people knew the truck had been stolen when they returned to the location it was parked, he said.
“No one expected it; even the locals on the set were taken aback that it was taken,” Nielsen said. “No one expected a car-theft in that part of the city, including myself.”
Nielsen, a senior film student, said he was near St. Louis University’s campus when he was shooting his short film for his senior overview. The truck was parked on Washington Avenue while the location of the shoot was on Locust Street. Nielsen said he filed a police report that night.
The following week, Nielsen said the detective who had been working on the investigation notified him that the truck had been found just north of The Loop.
The detective also told him representatives from Webster University were on their way to see the truck.
Keith Lutker, a media services Specialist in the Webster Media Center, went out to where the truck was found. Lutker, along with Media Center Director Marty Martin, searched the truck to find out what equipment was recovered and what was still missing.
“I had a huge list generated of stuff we needed. When we got there, we checked things off the list of stuff we were finding. It was a process of elimination,” Lutker said.
Lutker’s list of missing equipment included a sound device and case, three flash cards, two batteries and three power strips. The total value of the missing items is $3,623, which was covered by the insurance policy Webster had on the Media Center equipment, Lutker said.
“That’s really good compared to what it was, which I calculated it out to be a little over $20,000 in stuff that was missing initially,” Lutker said.
Despite the missing equipment, both Nielsen and Lutker said none of the senior overview students have had to reschedule their shoots.
Lutker said the Media Center contacted overview students and offered to accommodate them if equipment they had reserved had been a part of Sean’s missing set. If a student did need a piece of equipment, the Media Center would rent the equipment from Bad Dog Pictures, a local camera and equipment rental business, and rent it to the students for free.
“Most of the students were fine. They found other things in the Media Center that appeased them,” Lutker said.
Film Department Chair Kathy Corley said the theft would not affect film students’ ability to rent out equipment in the future.
“We want students to feel that we support the kind of equipment that they get to use for their education. I know it’s very expensive equipment, but these are tools they need to learn how to do their craft as filmmakers,” Corley said.

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