From Selling Coca-Cola at the Orange Bowl to Revolutionizing Film Production, Jack Rapke Has Come a Long Way

When he's not cheering on the Dolphins, Miami-native Jack Rapke is calling the shots at ImageMovers Digital, the film studio he founded in 1998 with Robert Zemeckis and Steve Starkey. The trio's first film was the wildly successful Cast Away (2000), and since then, they've been at the forefront of performance capture technology, first used in their 2004 film The Polar Express. Born in New York, Rapke moved to Miami when he was seven and attended South Beach Elementary and the University School at Nova Southeastern before moving on to film school at NYU. The Culture Blog caught up with Rapke as he was in Miami promoting ImageMovers Digital's newest project, the Disney holiday film A Christmas Carol.

New Times: Hello, Mr. Rapke. Thanks for taking time with us.

Rapke: No problem. Go Dolphins!

NT: You saw the Jets game?

R: I watched the game in L.A. When Ronnie ran it in, I was running around my house like a ten year old.

NT: So you're still a Miami guy then?

R: I left to seek my destiny, but my heart never left. I've always called Miami home, and I've always come back. I have an apartment in North Miami, and I'm a lifelong Dolphins fan. I went to the very first game [A 23-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders on September 2, 1966 - Ed.] and worked at the Orange Bowl growing up, selling Coca-Cola at Dolphins and Hurricanes games.

NT: Humble beginnings.

R: My father was working class; he was in the smoked fish business.

NT: You also worked your way up in the film industry, correct?

R: I moved to L.A. in 1975 after graduating from NYU. I started in the mailroom at William Morris [the talent agency]. Then I became a messenger. Then a personal assistant. Then an agent. In 1980 I moved over to Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and spent seventeen years there. I was Chairman [of CAA] when I left to start ImageMovers, where I've been producing films for the last thirteen years. I've been very blessed.

NT: Tell us about your new project, A Christmas Carol.

R: It's a very literal adaption of the Charles Dickens book, which is essentially a ghost story. Remember, he wrote A Christmas Carol in 1840, a full forty years before the invention of cinema. What we tried to do was create what the book might have looked like inside of Dickens' head as he was writing it, and the performance capture technology allowed us to do that. [Peformance capture] creates a potential for spectacle that can't be achieved in either live action or animation; it exists inside the creative space between them. The technology also allows actors to just act. They don't have to deal with camera, lighting, and coverage delays because we only need their bodies hooked up to the technology. It gives us more time to work with the actors.

NT: Are you familiar with the burgeoning Miami film industry?

R: I try to a half an eye on the industry here because all things Miami are interesting to me, and I'm prideful of anything that happens here. There is a tradition though. When I was young, [Miami] had the Ivan Tors Studio, Flipper, Thunderball, Frank Sinatra. Then it was Miami Vice. Miami has always been a phenomenal film location, and I'd love to see that grow. The state is going to have give some incentives though, which is what other states have done.

NT: Do you think they will?

R: It's up to Tallahassee. They'll have to ask themselves if the revenue created is ultimately worth what they'd be giving.

Disney's A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman, opens nationally on November 6.

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P. Scott Cunningham