Zemeckis, Rapke wrap up DreamWorks deal

Score another one for the Hollywood rumor mill. Proving that, indeed, where there’s smoke, there’s Rapke, former CAA co-chairman Jack Rapke and Robert Zemeckis along with Steve Starkey have signed a five-year, overall deal with DreamWorks. The new company, ImageMovers, will be based at DreamWorks on the Universal lot. The deal had been anticipated since Rapke left CAA in early spring (Daily Variety, April 7).

ImageMovers will primarily focus on features, but the principles are not ruling out developing TV and interactive projects for DreamWorks. Zemeckis’ services as director are nonexclusive. DreamWorks will finance the films, release them theatrically and pay for the company’s overhead.

The filmmaker, who just helmed the Jodie Foster-Matthew McConaughey sci-fi thriller “Contact” for Warner Bros., said he plans to direct for ImageMovers, but has not yet decided on his next film. There are no contractual holds on Zemeckis directing his next film for DreamWorks.

Walter Parkes, co-head of DreamWorks’ motion picture department, said ImageMovers will be allowed to look into the company’s “library of development” to find any projects — animated or live-action — that might interest them. There are no “put” pictures, but Parkes said the company has “a great deal of autonomy.”

The deal, which had been rumored since late last year, brings together Rapke, and his former CAA client of 15 years, Zemeckis. It also cements a business relationship among longtime friends and collaborators, Steven Spielberg, Zemeckis and Starkey.

Spielberg and Zemeckis have known each other since Zemeckis was in college at USC and Spielberg helped him develop “1941,” which Spielberg then directed. Their professional and personal friendship continued as Zemeckis directed the “Back to the Future” series for Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

“This is the continuation of the best circle I’ve ever been in,” Spielberg told Daily Variety. “Bob and I have been friends since 1974. Jack will be a creative, hands-on producer whose career advice we’ve listened to for five years. For Jack, I think this has been a long time coming.”

Rapke called his new company “a dream come true.” The longtime agent always yearned to become a filmmaker. He had gone to NYU film school before stumbling into agenting. He left CAA in April after 22 years in the business, telling Daily Variety that “in the last third of my career … I want to realize a dream that I always had in film school.”

Zemeckis previously had a first-look deal at Universal Pictures through his company, South Side Amusements. The projects set up through SSA will continue in development at the studio. Starkey and Zemeckis’ relationship dates back to Amblin’s 1986 live-action/animated project “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and again with the “Back to the Future” series. They also collaborated on other films, including the Academy Award-winning “Forrest Gump.”

Zemeckis said there was no particular reason behind the name of the production company, but he added, “I think the words ‘moving image’ are going to replace ‘cinema’ because there are so many other mediums in which to work right now.”

Also joining ImageMovers is former Warner Bros. executive Jennifer Perini, who had been expected to land with the new company at DreamWorks (Daily Variety, June 6). Rapke said they plan to hire two creative executives in the coming months.

ImageMovers is the latest in a growing number of filmmaker deals DreamWorks has signed around town. Others include Cameron Crowe, Scott Hicks, Mark Johnson, Stan Winston and Mimi Leder. Asked how many more filmmaking deals DreamWorks might enter into, Spielberg said, “We don’t want to be so large as to find ourselves competing with other studios. We want to stay relatively small. We have a core of filmmakers now.”

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