Surveillance Myths

Hollywood vs Reality

I recently watched The Gentleman directed by Guy Ritchie and containing an all-star cast. While this movie glorifies organized crime and black-market marijuana cultivation, it is a great movie with ample plot twists and a screenplay that leaves you wondering if things happened or were merely considered as a desirable outcome.

Why the Hollywood Reflection?

The reason I mention this movie here is that the entirety of the plot line is based on surveillance performed by the sufficiently creepy, Hugh Grant, as a ‘fixer’ who tries to outsmart the crime bosses and exact a significant payday using his incriminating surveillance observations as leverage (read extortion).

Throughout The Gentleman, Hugh Grant’s character is always in the right place at the exact right time with his telephoto lens in laser focus with no obstructions to capture the murder and mayhem of the gang that will allow him to launch his extortion venture against the crime bosses.

Reality of Surveillance

Contrary to the movie theatrics, surveillance done by competent and ethical professionals is not performed with a view to an extortion ploy. Surveillance professionals operate with clear and lawful objectives as they seek to prove an investigative theory, examples of which are a questionable bodily injury claim or a breach of a non-compete clause post termination.

The reason I point Hugh Grant’s fantastic surveillance success in The Gentleman is to demonstrate what I call the ‘Hollywood Construct’. Movies like this are very entertaining but serve to create an unrealistic expectation of how long it takes to accomplish surveillance objectives. Surveillance is a trade craft that takes years to master and constant practice to be successful.

Examples of Surveillance Myths

Some of the surveillance myths that Hollywood conveys include:

  • Pulling away from the curb 5 seconds after the target passes you is not a good idea.
  • Sitting in the driver’s seat with a dashboard full of fast-food wrappers and coffee cups is a recipe for a heart attack and discovery by the subject.
  • Sight lines and camera angles between the surveillant and the subject are seldom Panavision™ perfect.
  • The real world has red lights, pedestrians, playground zones and other rules of the road that don’t make for exciting Hollywood movies.
  • It NEVER takes 40 seconds to have all of the dynamic elements of a surveillance align so that the surveillant can meet the objectives.

The reality of surveillance is that a perfect alignment of a myriad of factors must happen at an instant in order to obtain the observations and requisite video footage or photos needed to prove a case.

An Effective Tool

While surveillance can be an effective tool for many different types of investigations including insurance/bodily injury claims, threat/risk assessment, VIP protection, corporate espionage, among others, it is not as simple as Hollywood tries to depict.

IRISS Corporation works with clients to determine when and where the best deployment of this tool can be used.