Profile: Will Packer (1974)

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Will Packer is an American film producer. He is the founder of Will Packer Productions and Will Packer Media.

Early life

Packer was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. He graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 1991 and began attending Florida A&M University that fall. In 1996, Packer graduated magna cum laude from FAMU with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.

Rainforest Films

It was at FAMU that he started filmmaking with colleagues and future business partner Rob Hardy while participating in an internship with veteran producer Warrington Hudlin. In 1994, Packer and Hardy produced their first film, Chocolate Cityfor $20,000 and Packer helped broker a small distribution deal with Blockbuster video. After graduating, Packer and Hardy moved to Atlanta, Georgia and co-founded Rainforest Films. Packer produced and oversaw the company’s studio-financed and self-financed films and distribution projects. Packer and Hardy’s vision was to make films that would appeal to black audiences who hadn’t seen genre films starring people like themselves.

In 2000, Trois, Rainforest Film’s first movie to be released theatrically, grossed over $1.2 million and became the fastest million-dollar grossing film independently distributed by African Americans. Trois was in the Top 50 Highest Grossing Independent Films of the year, according to Daily Variety, and Rainforest Films was at #34 on the list of Top 100 Film Distributors of 2000 listed by The Hollywood Reporter in August 2001. Due to the success of their first film, Packer and Hardy was listed among the “New Establishment” of Black power brokers in Hollywood.

In 2001, Packer helped broker a deal with Sony to produce and distribute urban films including Troiss sequel, Trois: The Escort, and Motives. The film Lockdown, released on home video under this Rainforest-Sony collaboration, was one of Columbia Tri-Star’s top-selling independent releases. In 2005, Rainforest Films released The Gospel. At this time, Packer started using the shortened moniker “Will Packer”.

Packer and Hardy wanted Rainforest’s films to include established actors and actresses as well as those who are up and coming. 2007’s This Christmas, a film about a middle-class family that reunites at Christmas time for the first time in many years, stars veteran actresses Loretta Devine and Regina King as well as R&B superstar Chris Brown in his feature film debut. Packer produced five #1 films with Rainforest, Stomp the Yard, Obsessed, Takers, Think Like a Man and Ride Along. His biggest hits with Rainforest have been Think like a Man, which grossed over $96 million worldwide after being released in April 2012, and Ride Along, which brought in box office receipts totaling nearly $150 million as of April 2014.

In television, Packer, along with Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III, and Rainforest Films partner Rob Hardy, are co-founders of Bounce TV, a United States television network airing on digital terrestrial television stations. Promoted as “the first 24/7 digital multicast broadcast network created exclusively for African Americans,” Bounce TV launched on September 26, 2011, and features programming geared toward blacks and African Americans in the 25–54 age range.

In June 2014, Packer and Hardy dissolved Rainforest Films. The pair were included in a lawsuit brought by former business partner Bernard Bronner in late June 2014.

Personal life

Packer is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (inducted into the Beta Nu Chapter at FAMU).  Packer married his first wife Nina Packer (general manager of Bryant Management and Dir. Of Operations for Blueprint Group, the artist management firm for Lil’ Wayne and his YMCMB label from 2007-2014) in July 2001 and they have two daughters together, Nija Packer and Maya Packer. They were divorced in February 2009. Packer proposed to his fiancé Heather Hayslett live on stage at the 2013 Essence Music Festival.  They were married on Friday, August 28, 2015 in Georgia.

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