When you ask a first-grader what she wants to be when she grows up, you don’t expect to hear her blurt out the term “executive in charge of production.”

Yet growing up in Cape Elizabeth, Julie Rapaport seemed to be constantly preparing herself for the job she has now, senior vice president of production and development at The Weinstein Company in Hollywood. Rapaport, 30, has been credited as the “executive in charge of production” on such major films as “The Giver” and “August: Osage County.”

Her preparation began around the age of 4, when she directed a film based on nursery rhymes featuring her babysitter, in her living room. It continued through her school years, when friends remember her keeping lists of songs that might work well on film soundtracks. And through college at Tufts University near Boston, where she majored in English and talked about the books she thought would translate well to film.

“Everything she did she applied to movies. We’d like a song at camp, and she’d think about how it would be in a soundtrack,” said friend Judy Manchio, who met Rapaport at summer camp in Maine and went to Tufts with her. “She always said she wanted to make movies, so it’s really not that surprising that she’s doing it.”

Rapaport says her job working for Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is “truly my dream job because I get to be involved in filmmaking on every level.” Her responsibilities include recommending projects her company should take on, recommending directors and actors and then recruiting them, weighing in on casting decisions, and making sure the budget is being followed.

“With ‘The Giver,’ I was on set for about a month, which was amazing,” said Rapaport, from her office in Hollywood. “I’m there to relate the vision of what Harvey has in mind. It’s things like ‘Is that costume looking like it should?’ or ‘Is this scene flowing the way we expect?’ ”

THE PATH TO HOLLYWOOD

Rapaport’s resume in film reads like it’s out of some film about Hollywood. At Tufts, she minored in film, did her senior project on the role of the producer in film, and got film-related internships. After Tufts, she worked in the mail room at the William Morris talent agency. Then she worked as a producer’s assistant on the Richard Gere film “Brooklyn’s Finest” (2009) and also worked for a TV agent. Then she got a job as an assistant to David Glasser around the time he became chief operating officer at The Weinstein Company. Later she moved over to the production and development department of the company. She’s been in her current job for about three years, which is based in Hollywood.

Rapaport said her experience let her see all the various aspects of making a film, both the business and creative sides of it. Colleagues say her success has a lot to do with her people skills, her drive and being a quick study at how things in Hollywood work.

“First and foremost she’s very smart, but brains alone doesn’t get things done in Hollywood,” said Tom Prince, executive vice president of physical and post-production for The Weinstein Company. “She has great people skills, which is important because she’s dealing with everything from screen writers to the internal politics of her own studio.”

Rapaport’s mom, Lisa Tripler, says she worried at first when her daughter began a career in Hollywood. She knows her daughter is good with people, nice to everyone, but she wasn’t sure if that would suit her well in the film business.

“Julie is sweet and polite and diplomatic, very kind and sensitive, so to be honest, I was worried about her interest in that industry,” said Tripler. “It’s not known as a warm and fuzzy environment. But to her credit, she’s learned how to navigate it and succeed. As a parent, that’s awesome to watch.”

Rapaport grew up in Cape Elizabeth and went to town schools in the early grades, then went to Waynflete School in Portland through high school. Her father, Dan Rapaport, is a lawyer. Her mother and father have owned Kamp Kohut, an overnight summer camp in Oxford, since the early 1990s.

So from an early age, Rapaport saw her parents running a business and using organizational and people skills to get it done. She helped her mother stuff envelopes and do other administrative tasks. She also attended camp and then worked there as well.

Even now, despite her hectic work schedule, she tries to make time for is visits back to camp. Her last visit there was in August.

“I am so proud of being from Maine, of that environment. And I’d love to some day make a movie about a summer camp,” said Rapaport. “Not a horror movie. Something funny, but with heart.”

EMOTIONAL CONNECTION

As a high schooler, Rapaport’s favorite films were ones she could relate to emotionally, movies about people her age, like “The Breakfast Club” or “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

So she was extremely excited when, in her current job at The Weinstein Company, she got to supervise the making of “The Giver.”

The film came out in August and was based on the best-selling futuristic novel for teens by Mainer Lois Lowry. Rapaport says it was her favorite book growing up, and that meeting Lowry on the set was a thrill.

Lowry, who lives in Falmouth and spends summers in Bridgton, said she was impressed with Rapaport. She also found it a fun break to be able to bond with another Mainer on the film set in South Africa.

“It was kind of nice, in the midst of all the film flurry, to reminisce about Maine,” said Lowry.

Rapaport calls her job “a lifestyle choice.” She says that when she’s not in the office, she’s often reading scripts, or books that could be movies, or seeing movies.

She says a lot of her job is about preparation, being able to suggest viable choices to her superiors in terms of what films to make and what actors or directors to hire.

“When there’s a discussion about who would be good (to direct), it’s my job to have those names at my fingertips,” said Rapaport.

On “The Giver,” for instance, it was Rapaport who recommended playwright Michael Mitnick as the script writer.

The next film to reach screens that was overseen by Rapaport will be “Big Eyes,” slated to be released at the end of the year. It is the story of painter Margaret Keane, who achieved commercial success in the 1950s and 1960s, painting under her husband’s name. It stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.

When asked what the favorite part of her job is – finding projects, casting, sitting in on film shoots – Rapaport hesitates. She says she enjoys all parts of making a film because it’s the finished product, and the power it holds for people, that has always fascinated her.

“It’s about this collective emotional experience people have when watching a film,” said Rapaport. “And I’ve just always wanted to help create that.”


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