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An authentically American firm with an Englishman’s heart Working with British factual programme makers that were either opening offices in the US or simply using New York as a shoot location, HotCam used equal measures of ingenuity and luck to secure enough financing and equipment to support its commitments. “It was all very last minute,” says Hotz. “We were getting finance agreed from the UK and then waiting for the finance to come in and also waiting for the greenlight from the producer. We took a lot of chances. We were personally in for an awful lot of money with no confirmations. But we had to get the finance in place in order to get the equipment so that we could say yes to the job.” The first major project that allowed the company to buy a lot of gear was the BBC-produced ‘What Not To Wear,’ a fashion format for TLC that is now in its ninth season and one to which HotCam is still supplying kit. From these humble beginnings HotCam New York grew to be a respected force in New York and America-at-large, developing a huge roster of freelance talent and an ever expanding stable of in-house technicians. It is now its own corporation and is run independently from London operations, although the two companies do dovetail and staff work between the two sites, gaining valuable work experience on both sides of the Atlantic. President Ali Grapes, who resolutely guides operation of the company, insists that the New York office is a “perfect hybrid of the core values that originally defined the London office amongst its competitors in the UK and the fierce dedication it takes to build and sustain a top boutique equipment hire firm in the US”. Having now worked on some seriously big shows including Lion TV’s America Revealed (the US version of Britain From Above), History Detectives for PBS, American Pickers for The History Channel and Cake Boss for TLC it is an approach that seems to be working. Now, with HotCam USA well established in the various facets of factual, entertainment and reality programming, Hotz is embarking 66 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE on the biggest expansion since the opening of the US office. “We’re still going to operate in the factual arena but we’re upping the ante too by buying high-end kit and looking to supply it to drama, feature film and commercials producers,” explains Hotz. “We’ve had lots of interesting discussions and we think it’s a market with a lot of potential. Plus it allows us to work with a lot more US companies, not just Brits.” To make this expansion work, experienced cinematographer Andrew McLean has been brought on board as Vice President of Business Development. Having worked on independent feature films and commercials for some of the world’s biggest brands McLean is ideally placed to lead HotCam into this exciting, but quite different, world. Fortunately for McLean, where the launch of HotCam USA seven years ago was all a bit ad-hoc, this expansion is a lot more calculated. “This time around we are totally self- sufficient,” says Hotz. “We get leases and we pay them off. We don’t have to rely on the UK. Plus I know the business out here a lot more now and I’ve got a good feel for it. Bringing in Andrew puts a capital E in Expansion. Pretty soon we’re going to have to move out of our present building because we simply won’t have enough space.” The expansion will involve a major investment in equipment, a process that is already underway with commitments to the Arri Alexa and Red Epic digital film cameras - along with their appropriate peripherals, Zeiss and Cooke Prime lenses There’s more to come. And, luckily, NAB is here just at the right time. “We’ll have people in Vegas checking out new kit,” assures Hotz, “but we’re not a company to just spend recklessly. We wait until enquiries start coming in and then invest. We like to be sure about a camera before we add it to the inventory. The early adopter stuff we leave to other firms.” While being first is not important, being the best certainly is and that requires hard work, concludes Hotz. “This is New York and to make it work you have to make the business your life. Ali and I would eat, sleep and breathe the business on nights, days and weekends. That’s the way we started off and, to a certain extent, that’s how we still do things, although now we can take the occasional step back. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. New York is a working city. It’s one of the things that I’ve always liked about it.” Hotz is clearly in his element in the US, whether he’s enjoying the hustle and bustle of Manhattan or relaxing in the quiet, densely wooded and mountainous area around his upstate New York home. As possibly the only Englishman in New York currently blazing this particular trail, you’d be hard pushed to not consider him something of a pioneer.