Please introduce yourself …
I’m Beya Kabelu, the director and producer of The Detective and the Dog Thief. Before embarking on my first film, I worked as an assistant producer across premium documentaries including Subnormal, which was executive produced by Steve McQueen.
Why The Dog Thief?
I wanted to make this film because the story of pet theft in Britain was really hard to avoid and struck a nerve for me as an animal lover. Unfortunately, the government has not done enough to create sufficient deterrents to dog thieves. This is a campaigning film that hopes to galvanise a cause and kick start a conversation. Remember during lockdown when we looked for comfort and support we turned to our dog, regrettably if a dog is stolen today the napper would most likely get a slap on the wrist. Though new laws have been suggested, no date has been set to bring the legislation into effect.
Tell us about your team …
I was extremely fortunate to work with a team of truly creative and diligent individuals. My executive producer was the Oscar-nominated, EMMY-winning director Ed Watts, in whose presence I learned the art of filmmaking; the BAFTA-winning editor inimitable Simon McMahon, whose patience and avuncular nature really shaped the film. He’s a genius who always encouraged my creativity; My production manager Pip Lacey was arguably the most important person on the production, her experience and know-how helped me to cultivate a schedule and stay within budget. My DoP Jason Ferguson made the film come to life with his marvelous camerawork; while I have to shout out my supervising producer, Georgie Yukiko Donovan, who was integral to the making of my film. She was a sounding board, creative collaborator, and great help; Finally, my researcher Katie O’Toole was integral; she worked tirelessly and found solutions to all problems.
What’s the story for you?
The Detective and The Dog Thief documentary is about Britain’s pet theft epidemic; a crazy phenomenon that sees a pet stolen every four hours. Through three distinct perspectives; that of a thief, a detective, and a victim, we learn about British society. Our fixation with celebrity culture, our love for dogs, and our obsession with social media gratification. Also, I want viewers to watch this and to engage with each of the contributors. You don’t have to like them but for 11 minutes you have to listen to their views, perspectives and hopefully come out of it with a better understanding of another human’s hopes, fears, and motivations.
Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit?
The most memorable moment was definitely the Friday evening I spent in South London with a dog thief, Snoop. He turned up 40 minutes late but with two cans of Guinness for me and then we bumped into his mum which was crazy. Remember this was during a time when Britain was only just coming out of a lockdown, there were not many places for us to sit and talk so he informed me that he was taking me to “the hood” – a local notorious estate. We’d be going to talk at the home of a friend. Snoop then knocked on a man’s front window. He let us in and offered me a glass of wine. It wasn’t until halfway through the night that I learned that the man was a former armed bank robber. No other moment stands out more than the Friday night conducting a research chat with a former armed bank robber and a dog thief.
Share a skill-defining moment making this film?
Persuasion is perhaps an oft-overlooked skill required in documentaries. I mention it because securing access to all of my contributors wasn’t easy. It took me seven months to get Colin, the pet detective on board; six months to get a dog thief and I had to hold court with Ruby’s family one Sunday afternoon and convince them all that I had the best intentions. Time and time again I had to persuade people who did not want to be filmed to trust me and share their stories with me.
Being a recipient of the 2021 Netflix Documentary Talent Fund means …?
I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me. No one else was going to let me make a film. I was encouraged to use the opportunity to set up my own production company and so without Netflix’s instruction, I wouldn’t have that today. I wouldn’t have taken the leap. This opportunity has definitely changed my trajectory and I believe any time you can associate your name with Netflix, it’ll only help your reputation.
Currently, I’m continuing to develop more ideas and I’m working towards bringing one of those to screens.
The Detective and the Dog Thief