The producer of Disney’s A Christmas Carol talks about the performance capture movie from Jim Carey

JACK RAPKE’s road to president of ImageMovers Digital began when the graduate of NYU film school moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to work in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. Only four years later, the tenacious Rapke joined Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where he rose to become one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood over the course of the next seventeen years.

In 1998, Rapke departed CAA to form ImageMovers with Zemeckis and producing partner Steve Starkey. Primarily focused on theatrical motion pictures, the company’s first feature was the critically acclaimed “Cast Away,” directed by Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks. He went on to produce numerous hits including “What Lies Beneath”, “Matchstick Men”, and “Last Holiday”

After Zemeckis embraced a revolutionary new technology called performance capture in 2004’s “The Polar Express,” and Rapke and partners produced two more films utilizing the technique—2006’s Oscar-nominated “Monster House” and the Zemeckis-directed “Beowulf”—Zemeckis, Starkey and Rapke formed ImageMovers Digital, the first state-of-the-art studio devoted entirely to the new performance capture art form.


 

 

How do you like being in Cannes and presenting “A Christmas Carol”?
It’s a dream! Cannes is fabulous, and to see it snow, in May, on the Croisette, is beyond amazing!

How will this film differ to other “A Christmas Carol” films?
It will be different because of course we have a completely different cast to the predecessors, and additionally we believe that this particular version of “A Christmas Carol” will be closer to what Dickens originally envisioned in his novel.

What attracted you to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”?
We consider ourselves above everything else, to be storytellers. And Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is one of the classic stories in literature with a memorable and iconic lead character. In addition it provides opportunities for tremendous spectacle which translates extremely well to our art form and 3D

The Dickens story is pretty dark at times, how scary will the new movie be?
Yes, the story has dark elements, which are of course necessary in doing a film about a man’s journey, with regard to the redemption of his soul. The movie of course is Disney’s “A Christmas Carol”, so we are maintaining the integrity of the brand, without sacrificing the dark moments that are necessary to tell this particular story.

 

Having Jim Carrey as the lead, a man who is mostly known for his talents as a comedic actor – did this influence the style of the movie towards a more comedic approach, or is the movie mostly a drama?
The screenplay written by Bob Zemeckis is true to the Dickens tale. Scrooge is a man of many dimensions, mostly dramatic, but who also has comedic elements. We felt Jim Carrey had the depth as a dramatic actor to deliver the performance that’s necessary, and it goes without saying that his comedic genius also comes into play at time to time in the story

How did you go about recreating Victorian England?
Through intensive research of the period. This included studying the wardrobe, the Victoria & Albert Museum, looking at old paintings and researching what is left of Dickensian London in person. This task was primarily accomplished by our genius production designer/art director Doug Chiang.


What to you is the one biggest advantage that performance capture brings to a project like this?
This particular art form allows Bob Zemeckis to achieve his vision of the story better than other techniques that would have been available to us.  

Where do you see performance capture going in the future? Could you imagine using an actor’s image without them being on set?
It’s extremely difficult to predict where the future of performance capture is going. Our hope is that the art form is at its infancy, and will continue to be refined and be more accessible to many filmmakers. I do not foresee making these movies without the actor on the set. We believe in a fully immersive performance by the actor and always look forward to the actors themselves bringing their very special talent to the character. Also the spontaneity of the performance allows for those magical accidents that sometimes take place!


What would you say to an audience that has a certain resistance to motion-capture technology?

I personally went to film school and was trained as a classic ‘film’ maker. I don’t quite understand the resistance to the art form. The history of cinema is one of ongoing and continuing technological innovations that allow one to tell stories in different and better ways. The first time someone moved the traditional movie camera was thought impossible. The first time a movie was cross cut, was thought impossible. The advent of sound was initially rejected. The advent of colour was initially rejected. So, it seems to me, that any type of modernisation of the technique has had at its origination a natural reticence. Our art form is just another way of telling stories, which is what the cinematic arts are ultimately all about.

 

Click here to read an interview with producer Steve Starkey.