For instant fans of the flick, it’s incredibly hard to have patience, especially if pressing the breaks, means waiting on the latest genius endeavor from one of the industry's most talented producers who also brought us features such as Stomp The Yard and This Christmas.
But finally, now that the wait is over and August 27 marks a new day and a new era in black entertainment, as we’re introduced to one of the most anticipated films of the summer.
Idris Elba, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Hayden Christiansen, Paul Walker, Chris Brown, Matt Dillon, Michael Ealy… dare I go on?
Suited and pressed; set to devour any screen time with a generous dose of chivalry meets chaos. These men, aren’t just any average Joe’s, they are the Takers. And what they’ve come for is more than just the vein of your cinematic attention span. Rather, they’ve come to impart a new layer in motion picture entertainment; a big budget crime, action, thriller.
Takers, is a film about a group of professional criminals, bank robbers to be exact, who under the advisement of their newly paroled partner Ghost, played by Tip “T.I.” Harris, decide to go out with one last large job: A bank job to end all bank jobs. However, they run into a bit of trouble when their mission is intercepted by a hard-nosed detective played by Matt Dillon, who stands between their success and failure of completing the task.
Packer who’s continually proving himself to be one to keep an eye on, sat down with Insight Newspaper to promote this incredible feature, and share more reason’s why we’re going to be instantly taken away by his new feature film Takers.
Insight News: How do you go from an Electrical Engineer to a filmmaker?
Will Packer: I got a scholarship to attend an electrical engineering program at Florida A&M University. I was always really proficient in math and science, so it was a degree that made sense to me. My Dad was an engineer, but it wasn’t something that drove me. I wasn’t passionate about it. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just didn’t know exactly what type of entrepreneur I wanted to be, so while I figured that out, I kept the scholarship and followed my parents’ wishes. I made it through the electrical engineering program, and completed the degree, and graduated magna cum laude.
Along the way, a funny thing happened. I hooked up with my college roommate, fraternity brother, and best friend, Rob Hardy, and he and I formed Rainforest Films while we were in college because he wanted to be a movie director. I helped him make a small independent called Chocolate City, while we were at FAM U. I helped him put together the financing, I helped him find the actors, and I helped him get distribution. It wasn’t until later when I realized that this is exactly what a producer does. After the success of that film, we were kind of off and running. I realized then that I had found my entrepreneurial endeavor, and that was film. That’s what got me into it, and since then, I’ve grown as a creative producer, who looks and develops projects and screenplays and the like.
IN: Did you find it hard to break into the industry, or was it easy after Chocolate City to step into your position and get where you are today?
WP: It’s definitely not easy. It’s difficult to make any movie, I don’t care if it’s a $1 million dollar indie, or a $50 million larger budget studio movie. It’s tough to get a movie made. I think that Chocolate City was definitely a launching pad for me and for my partner to get going. Along the way, there definitely have been additional challenges because once you do it, the challenge is to do it here, to do it better, and to do it bigger.
Takers represents that. It represents my latest foray into a theatrically-released film, putting it out there to be judged by others, and for people to see my work, and my hard earned, hard cut efforts. I hope it will be well received, because this is my latest attempt to do bigger and better things.
IN: You’ve gone from making more urban-based films to this one, in the sense that it’s a more high scale action thriller, and has both white and Black actors and actresses in it. Why Takers?
WP: I loved the script. The content was really, really good. I read it, and thought this could be cool. I thought it would be cool if it has a diversity of characters. You don’t usually see a film like this, with as many African American faces in it as we have. I thought when I read the script, that it would be really really cool to put this crew together. They’re cool, young and hip. When you add Idris Elba, opposite a Paul Walker, and a T.I. and Chris Brown and with a Hayden Christiansen, Michael Ealy and Zoe Saldana- I thought that would be a really interesting mix that audiences would respond to. I also thought that women would respond to this as well. Action movies typically are the domain of male moviegoers, especially young males. That’s how Hollywood kind of looks at these things because that is a genre that young males typically support the heaviest. But I thought that if you put an attractive group of guys in the movie, we could potentially unlock a whole other demo.
IN: What was the most difficult thing for you when it came to pushing this film and securing funding?
WP: Every film has its own unique challenges, and this was no different. It was a film that was very ambitious. It’s a large action film. It’s not a budget on the level of say an A-Team or a Spiderman, or an Expendables, so I didn’t have the same level of budget those guys had, but I had the same vision or a similar vision that this was going to be a big film. That was a challenge. Anytime you’re working with a cast of this size, you’re going to have challenges with regard to scheduling, availability, and making sure you have material that supports all the various characters. You have those challenges. And then in the distribution and marketing process, we’ve had to move our release date a couple of times for various reasons, and that can be a challenge. At the end of the day, I truly believe that things happen the way they’re supposed to, and everything happens for a reason whether we know what that is or not. I’m happy that the film that I made got done, and that it’s being released when it’s being released because I think audiences are really going to respond to it.
IN: When you were reading the script, did you know right away who was going to play each character? Did you have an idea before you even had the casting call, who was going to fit those molds and make those characters come to life?
WP: Absolutely. When you read a script, certain characters and certain actors come to mind and this one was no different. I think Idris Elba was one of the first calls I made, and T.I. was probably the second. Those are guys that I knew and their characters have very pivotal roles in this project. The rest of the cast, are guys I really wanted to work with. I really wanted to work with Michael Ealy because he’s one of the best that are doing it out there today, and I think that he is not as hailed as he should be or will be. Zoe Saldana, I love her. I brokered Chris Brown on three other movies and he brings a level of physicality to his roles that nobody can, quite like him.
I didn’t know Matt Dillon, or Hayden Christiansen or Paul Walker before this movie, but they’re people whose work I was very, very familiar with. Then we have people like Steve Harris, and Glen Turman in the film who have smaller roles, but these are guys that whatever they do, they do it right. Even in our supporting roles we had some truly strong character actors.
IN: What do you think audiences are going to takeaway from this film that they haven’t taken away from your other films in the past?
WP: Hopefully, audiences will walk out of the theater feeling like whatever expectations they had were met, or exceeded. I hope they will walk out feeling like they were entertained and that they had a true entertaining experience. I think that they will. I certainly hope so. I hope that they won’t feel like Will Packer wasted an hour and a half of their lives. [Laughs].
IN: What’s next after Takers?
WP: After this, the next film that will be released is Stomp the Yard: Homecoming which will be out this fall. I’m also working on a biopic, a true story about a woman named Kemba Smith, who was sentenced to over 24 years in prison because her boyfriend was on the FBI’s most wanted list. After six years in prison, Bill Clinton pardoned her. I’m also working on an adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best selling novel, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” We’ve got that, and some other stuff we’re working on, but we want to continue making quality products.
IN: What advice do you have for young writers, and young producers on how to break into the industry?
WP: I always like to tell people that you control your own destiny. I really believe that. You define your own success. Everybody’s path to success is different, but you define what that is, so don’t let someone else define it for you. To young people that have a dream of getting in this industry and being successful: make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and don’t stop because someone else has told you “no.” I’ve been told “no,” so many times. I’ve forgotten the “nos” because they don’t really matter. Once I got that one “yes,” that matters. I was able to move forward and that’s what really counts in this business. I tell people who have a dream, don’t ever get it up, it’s your dream. Why would you let someone else tell you, when your dream is over?