Company Finds Silver Lining in Electronic Movie Props

Customer Profile: RJR Electronics/RJR Props

By Frances Reed

When you're watching a sci-fi film or movie characters in a hospital, talking on a vintage 80s phone, or chatting in an elevator, chances are there's one thing you're NOT thinking. Where did they get those props?

Long time Jameco customer, Rich Rappaport said it used to not be anything he thought about either. "We definitely have a unique business. Providing (electronic) props for movies is not something I exactly planned or expected."
80s phone
Where'd he get that phone?

Rappaport started RJR Electronics over 20 years ago in Atlanta, GA as a Midrange computer repair/refurbishing business. They specialize in terminals, networking and Midrange systems, like server farms, Wyse terminals, DEC terminals, and computer peripherals. Over the years, Rappaport built a large collection of unique parts and equipment.

"We took in unique items for 20 years: computers, networking, medical gear, office equipment, etc. Sometimes these items needed refurbishing or rework", Rapport said, "And we get our parts from Jameco".

Like most companies, RJR took a hit when the economy down-turned, but the spiritual man felt confident his path would turn out all right in some way. Then, in 2010 Rappaport received a phone call that went something like this:

Guy: "You got an annunciator?"
Rappaport: "Sure."
Guy: "I don't think you know what I'm talking about, an annunciator panel. Do you have one?"
Rappaport: "Yes, holding it in my hand."
Guy: "You have one right there?"
Rappaport: "Yes."
Guy: "Don't move it. I'm coming for it right now."

Turns out the guy was the famous special effects producer, Bob Shelley, looking for the annunciator panel for a movie scene, (an annunciator is a lighted panel, like that in airplanes cockpits, in this case for a building to show emergency systems functioning). When he arrived at RJR Electronics the producer was thrilled to find just what he needed and, looking around at the stockpile of equipment housed by RJR, he vowed to get him into the movie business. Chalking it up to nothing more than an interesting day, Rappaport thought nothing more of it.

Then he started getting more movie calls. Begin RJR Props. Rappaport says, producers sometimes ask for general equipment, like hospital or office props and show up with a truck and rent everything they want. Often they're after something very specific, x-ray machines, a vintage record player, or an 80s cell phone. RJR props have been rented for over 30 different TV and film productions.

The annunciator panel? It appeared in the Martin Lawrence film "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son".

Rappaport recollects that growing up, he always wondered how things work and studied bio-medical engineering in school. This background, no doubt, is why he remembers the opportunity to work on an electron microscope. "That was really challenging and cool, he said, "It's not like you can go online for schematics."

Among his other memorable projects were an EKG machine that needed to flatline on cue from off camera and a life support unit.

"The (life support) unit was huge," Rappaport recalled, "We had to completely re-wire it because they're designed to not function unless hooked up to a patient but we needed it to look like to was working. We disconnected all the beepers, then discovered there were back up beepers and back-ups for the back-ups. It was comical with all the beeping that kept going on. During filming there cannot be a stray noise on the set. We often need to redesign and rewire equipment."

RJR operates out of a 16,000 square foot facility in Atlanta and houses over 5,000 computer terminals and over 30,000 products and devices. The company has supplied props for the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Martin Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon and the upcoming Disney film starring Jennifer Garner, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green".

Rappaport takes it all in stride, casually noting near the close of our conversation that they have lots of work to do tonight because they had a project for a Reese Witherspoon movie in the morning. He says he never could have imagined that he would meet all the people he has met and noted that he feels very blessed.

Vintage audio/visual propsVintage audio/visual props

Schwarzenegger and Stallone Schwarzenegger and Stallone on
"The Tomb" movie set

Huey Helicopter Cockpit for AMC's Walking Dead from RJRHuey Helicopter Cockpit for AMC's
"Walking Dead" from RJR

Creepy medical sets from RJR will appear in the upcoming remake of the classic Coma

Creepy medical sets from RJR will appear in the
upcoming remake of the classic "Coma"

RJR on the set of American Reunion

RJR on the set of "American Reunion"

Check out Rich Rappaport online at RJRElectronics.