Squeezed into the recesses of a windowless room in a warehouse in west Atlanta, two laundry carts overflow with thousands and thousands of $100 bills. A fairly realistic arsenal of guns is strewn about, too, among a few bricks of “cocaine,” a block of “heroin,” and a bag or three of “pot.” Lording over the illicit-looking bounty is a skinny, bearded Orthodox Jew from Connecticut: a quick-hugging, high-fiving dealmaker in faded Wranglers and beat-up New Balances. He is Rich “RJ” Rappaport, Atlanta’s premiere proprietor of fake money. Which, here in the Hollywood of the South, makes him one of the good guys.
Rappaport owns RJR Props, a supplier to Atlanta’s movie, TV, and music industries. If you need to make it rain in a music video or want hundreds of $100s for that drug-deal scene, RJ’s the man to see. His money is as close to real as it gets. And, starting at $45 for a stack of 100 bills, it’s a lot cheaper, too.
Rappaport works closely with the Secret Service to keep his faux cash on the up and up. That keeps his clients safe, too. When the feds were called to a shoot of the Netflix series Ozark at Lake Allatoona because the studio wanted to make sure the money was legal, they quickly okayed a scene filled with “millions” of RJ’s funny money. They know his fake money is legit.
The best fake cash, the stuff that looks most like real money in a closeup, is printed on only one side to keep from running afoul of the law. Shot from above or fanning through a stack, it works. The colors, size, and fonts have been meticulously designed to make it look real—but not too real.
The fine print
RJR’s standard-grade money is printed on both sides, so when the cash is, say, being tossed at an exotic dancer, it looks authentic. Close up, if the camera were to linger, your average Walmart cashier wouldn’t buy it. The wording next to Ben Franklin on that version of an RJR $100: “FOR MOTION PICTURE USE ONLY.”
Buy in bulk
RJR sells all sorts of denominations, either fresh off the press or looking like they’ve been through a drug war. Filmmakers can order older money or the newer, supposedly anti-counterfeit bills (circa 2013). All of it is genuine enough for Hollywood purposes, and the bigger the order, the bigger the break on the per-stack price.
Rappaport counts some 30,000 props—as small as cop badges, as big as airplanes—spread over nearly 100,000 square feet in two warehouses, all scrounged from dozens of projects in Atlanta and beyond. He and his staff design and make props, too. Need a bomb or a scary-looking laser? “As real as anything in Hollywood,” he promises.
This article appears in our August 2018 issue.