Master Plan: ‘Think Like A Man’ Producer Will Packer Talks Success & Black Hollywood

Movies & TV

Get your chuckle on now and cop the Think Like A Man DVD, available in stores today — Will Packer is practically plagiarizing Master P’s playbook. “If you want Hollywood to pay attention, make money without them,” the super producer says. While attending Florida A&M on an electrical engineering scholarship, Packer and classmate-turned-business partner Rob Hardy shot their first shoestring flick, Chocolate City, with only $20,000 and released it to a niche market—“the same way Master P did it,” says Packer. Once the film netted $100,000, a career switch was evident. Since then, he’s produced 14 motion pictures, including Stomp the Yard and Takers, with his biggest triumph Think Like a Man grossing more than $89 million at the box office. While on the set of his 2013 thriller No Good Deed, starring Taraji P. Henson, Packer discusses chin-checking Hollywood, the stabilizing condition of Black film and some lady named Madea.

VIBE: You’ve spoken before about understanding the power of marketing directly to the Black community. When did that mind-set kick in? Will Packer: I had no intention of being a film producer, and I knew I wasn’t passionate about engineering. I was always set on having my own business, controlling my own destiny. Even though nobody in Hollywood or in the rest of the country cared about Chocolate City, there was an audience that did. It was right there at our university. We sold it to that audience. I made another film, an erotic thriller, and marketed it primarily to African-Americans who hadn’t seen that type of film with themselves in it. I’ve been able to continuously do that. And now my audience is getting bigger and bigger with Think Like a Man, which actually played well with a broad audience. One reason Think Like a Man was successful was that despite being an all-Black cast, it showed a nuanced version of what relationships and Black life is like. Even though the majority of the cast was Black, it wasn’t written as a Black movie. The writers were two white guys. It was written as a relationship movie. I like the fact that we had an awesome cast to add flavor to it. But it was not culturally specific to Black people or any other race. Now that a sequel is in the works, how will that film open the floodgates for other non–Tyler Perry flicks? You have this perception in Hollywood that it has to be Tyler Perry to be a successful comedy. But I was able to show that with the right elements, good material and a smart team you can have success. I applaud him and his brand. What he’s done is help pave the way for other folks—myself included—to do these types of films. And now I’ll be paving the way for others. The lack of Black presence in Hollywood is blatant. What’s the remedy? It’s an interesting time, because the films are making more money than ever, but there are a disparate amount of voices telling those stories. There was a time when Spike Lee, John Singleton, the Hudlin Brothers, the Hughes Brothers, Robert Townsend, the Wayans—all of them had a theatrical film released within the same year. Now, in the past 12 months, we had Tyler, myself and Salim Akil with Jumping the Broom. We need more filmmakers of color telling the story. I’d like to see more filmmakers take their products out independently, put together a good commercial fi lm and distribute it online. Is the atmosphere much different on the small screen? I’m excited by the fact that you have Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson and others with television projects featuring African-American leads. We’ll see if that translates into more of those types of series. I’m excited about my own network, BounceTV. It’s the first African-American-owned broadcast network. It’s myself, my partner Rob Hardy and some other African-American businessmen, including Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III. We have an interesting mix of programming, everything from Richard Pryor to Pam Grier films, from Denzel to Will. Hollywood is reactive, not pro- active. Once we have shows that make money and are successful, you’ll see more diversity.