Petty thief Louis 'Lou' Bloom is caught stealing from a Los Angeles construction site by a security guard. He attacks the guard, steals his watch and leaves with the stolen material. After selling the material at a scrap yard, Lou asks for a job, but the foreman says he does not hire thieves. While driving home, Lou sees a car crash and pulls over. Stringers—freelance photojournalists—arrive and record two police officers pulling a woman from the wreck. One of the stringers, Joe Loder, tells Lou that they sell their footage to local news stations. Inspired, Lou steals a bicycle and pawns it for a camcorder and a police radio scanner. After two unsuccessful attempts at recording incidents, Lou records the aftermath of a fatal carjacking and sells the footage to KWLA 6. The morning news director Nina Romina tells him the station is especially interested in footage of violent incidents in affluent areas. Lou hires an assistant, Rick, a young man desperate for money. To give his footage more impact, Lou begins tampering with crime scenes and in one case moves a body. As Lou's work gains traction, he buys better equipment and a faster car.