Will Packer has taken center stage at AFROTECH Conference 2023!
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The film producer, widely known for films that include “Ride Along,” “Think Like a Man, and “Stomp the Yard,” has shared his journey to success through a nearly three-decade-long career in media and entertainment.
During the Nov. 2, 2023, AFROTECH panel titled, “Lights, Camera, Legacy: Crafting a Timeless Media Empire,” moderated by Emmy Award-winning news anchor Dr. Nicole Cross, he revealed it was while attending Florida A&M University that he was nudged to dive into entrepreneurship and pursue filmmaking.
“I was a sophomore majoring in engineering, and I had just pledged Alpha Phi Alpha,” Packer said during AFROTECH Conference 2023 on the Innovation Stage. “And one of my frat brothers and best friends, he knew that he wanted to be a filmmaker. He wanted to be the next Spike Lee. He was inspired by folks that looked like him that were making movies, Spike, the Hughes brothers, and I was the kid who was a friend of his saying, ‘You know what, I want to be an entrepreneur and I’m not exactly sure what type of entrepreneur I want to be.'”
Since the beginning, Packer’s mark of success has not relied on the gaze of Hollywood. Instead, he is defining his journey on his own terms. His debut film, “Chocolate City,” earned $100,000 from the pockets of college students on a $20,00 budget, according to The Washington Post.
The film also helped to jumpstart Packer’s career and allowed him to pivot to producing films full time.
“I didn’t have the pedigree, the last name, the money, the looks according to what they were looking for. I didn’t fit that model,” Packer said on the Innovation Stage. “But one thing that was undeniable was that I got these thousands of college kids that said, ‘Hey, I’ll go see that movie. I want to go see it.’ And that was just the launching pad that I needed.”
“Chocolate City” left a lasting impression on audiences because it leaned into the power of representation and served as the jumping pad for Packer to navigate the industry in his own way.
“So we made this tiny little movie about college life and we got some level of success,” he expressed. “Now, it wasn’t like we got Hollywood success. And that’s something that is one of the foundations of my story, it’s the fact that I found success by defining it for myself.”
He continued, “I made a small independent movie. A lot of people make small, independent movies. I sent it to Hollywood. Hollywood could care less. That’s the story of a lot of filmmakers. That may be the story of a lot of people in this room with whatever business that you have. But who did care about that movie were those kids at Florida University. They hadn’t seen themselves on screen like that. So, I found a way to tap into that.”
As an entrepreneur, Packer believed strongly in his core audience and worked hard to become successful. He says he drove from city to city in order to promote his films. His hustling mentality played a major role in expanding his consumer base and also securing higher budgets for his next line up of films.
“My first movie had a $20,000 budget. My next one was $75,000. After that was a couple hundred thousand,” Packer detailed. “So I worked my way up to the point where soon I was making movies that had million-dollar, multimillion-dollar budgets. The only way I did that was because each time I was able to turn in a profit margin, made it for X and it made YY, which was bigger than X. So, the math made sense at the end of the day.”
He added, “In Hollywood, people think it’s a creative industry driven by artists. Really, it’s about the bottom line, the bottom dollar. And I think that is a message that will transcend no matter what industry that you’re in, that you have to stay the course that you have to, you know, sometimes swim against the grain against the current. And that you have to stay true to what you believe. And I can tell you for myself and so many others.”
As heavy hitters make their way to AFROTECH Conference Stages, more gems are expected. Don’t miss out on your chance to be enlightened! Purchase your tickets here.