Will Packer, the wildly successful film producer and founder of Will Packer Productions, is proud to call Atlanta home. Everything about the city excites this Hollywood heavy, who produced box-office hits like “Ride Along 2,” and “Think Like a Man.” And while the burgeoning film industry plays a role in his Atlanta pride, his feelings about Atlanta go much deeper than that.
“It’s just a great time to be here,” he says. “Look at what our sports teams are doing right now. Look at the Falcons and the Hawks. Our community, our sports, our film industry. All these things make this city great and vibrant. It’s just a really exciting time for the city.”
Here, Packer takes a break from the set to talk to Haute Living about his current projects, why Atlanta is the place to be, and what he believes are the keys to his success.
What makes Atlanta a great place to film?
Atlanta has an amazing cinematic backdrop. For a filmmaker, we are always looking for different looks and different ways to tell our stories against interesting backdrops. Atlanta has it all. It’s got the metropolitan feel, it’s got a rural feel, it’s got an urban feel. There are a number of different looks all within a 10 or 15-mile radius. You can be on a big old farm out in Covington or you can be right in the middle of downtown. I also love the film crew and how the community is so embracing of the film industry. Here, it’s still kind of cool to have movie stars coming in shooting their projects in the city.
How has the film industry in Atlanta changed from when you first started?
When I first started, there wasn’t a lot of work. And when I came I was straight out of college from Florida, I started shooting small independent films and movies here before the tax incentive and before so much production started happening in the city. So, I was part of the film community at a time when Atlanta really needed us and was really starved for production. My productions weren’t big but I always brought them here.
In terms of Atlanta, how do you showcase the city in your films?
So many different areas do that. You know, I love the Buckhead community especially the homes, the shops and the malls. I also like the Ponce area now, and East Atlanta has so much culture and flavor. Southwest Atlanta also has rich cultural traditions. So, I think you can do any number of looks and accomplish telling the story of Atlanta in a variety of ways.
Switching gears, let’s talk about Kevin Hart. What can you tell us about him?
Kevin is such a master ad libber and extemporaneous speaker and actor. He shows up and he doesn’t always know his lines word for word. That is the most politically correct way to say that. He makes the scene his own. He has the ability to come in and know the character and bring his own flavor to a scene and sometimes his own dialogue.
You mentioned you were working on the new season of Being Mary Jane, what other projects are you currently working on?
I have a new movie called “Girls Trip” that I am really excited about. “Girls Trip” is going to be if “Bridesmaids” and “Hangover” had a baby and the baby was black. First, you would be looking for the daddy because somebody’s got some explaining to do. Second, it would be this movie. The movie stars Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish, who is a new face. This is her Melissa McCarthy-esque breakout role. The movie is about four women who travel to New Orleans for the weekend. Let’s just say they behave badly and have an empowerment weekend and do whatever they want to do. They need this weekend desperately to get away from it all. I had a lot of fun on this film. We just wrapped up the filming and it will be out in theaters on July 21, 2017.
How do you give back to the community?
I am on the board of the Atlanta Hawks Foundation. I’m a new member of the board and we are so excited about what we are going to do in the community. We are focused on helping the youth youth here in Atlanta to chase their dream and to realize that through academics, athletics and community service they can accomplish anything.
Does your passion for helping youth come from anything personal in your life?
One of the things that was instilled in me very early was from my parents. They taught me that you are only as good as the people that you help. It doesn’t matter what you accomplish on your own. If it’s just you accomplishing it, it means a lot less. What means the most is what you do for others, what you do, and how you behave when no one is watching. That is what really matters. I have always tried to apply that to my life in such a way that I can be proud of a legacy that extends beyond Will Packer the movie producer.
Do you have children? If so, do you pass on that lesson to them?
Oh absolutely. I have four kids. It’s interesting for Christmas this year I was working with the city of Atlanta and Mayor Kasim Reed as well as his Director of Special Events, Ebony Barley. They helped us to identify several severely in-need families. We decided that instead of doing Christmas gifts for ourselves this year, we would do something to help others. Because the Packers have anything they could ever dream of materially. So, we loaded up our vehicles with gifts and went out and brought them to those families. We called our car the Packer Sleigh. The experience meant so much. To see my children be there handing out gifts to kids their same age who have so little meant so much. That was an incredible experience for my kids and for all of us. Each time we went to a home, I would lead us in a prayer circle. I said ‘no matter what you believe in you have got to have faith and ask God to bless everybody’. It was just a great moment.
What career advice
would you give to others, especially to aspiring filmmakers?
Hard work. Unquestionably hard work. But it’s not just hard work that gets you success. You’ve got to have faith and undying never-ending belief in yourself because there are so many times and circumstances and people that will scratch away, chip away at your faith. You must have an unshakable core. That confidence coupled with hard work, coupled with the ability to build great relationships and take care of other people who helped you. That will not guarantee success but it will put you in the best position to succeed.
Who helped you?
It starts with my parents and I have also had several mentors over the years. When I first graduated from college I had an engineering degree and I decided to forgo engineering to take a leap of faith and headed to Atlanta to become a filmmaker. There was a small group of folks in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida who put together a little bit of money to invest in my company.
Back to the film industry in Atlanta, what do you see in the next five years?
I think it’s going to continue to grow. There are new stages coming in and that helps to build the infrastructure. I think that this city and state have been very supportive of the film community and I think that’s going to continue. I think Atlanta is going to be a major production hub and that will be amazing for economic growth of the city.
On Haute Living launching in Atlanta:
I think this an amazing market for a brand like Haute Living. I think this is a market that will embrace the brand. You have so many people here that epitomize embracing the finest. Whether it’s culture, luxury, or excess cars, houses, real estate, or even just life. Embracing the finest things in life. I think this is the market that is perfect for that.