Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz

Will Packer (Film & Television Producer) Discusses his Career, Making Movies that Resonate with Audiences, and More!

June 21, 2023 Kevin Goetz / Will Packer Season 2023 Episode 21
Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Will Packer (Film & Television Producer) Discusses his Career, Making Movies that Resonate with Audiences, and More!
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Kevin is joined by Will Packer, acclaimed filmmaker and founder of Will Packer Productions.

Will Packer, Producer

Kevin Goetz is joined by industry trailblazer, Will Packer. A film and two-time Emmy-nominated producer, Packer is a mastermind when it comes to captivating audiences with stories that resonate across cultural boundaries. From his early days as a student filmmaker at Florida A&M University to the powerhouse behind hits like Think Like a Man, Girls Trip, and Straight Outta Compton, Will Packer has devoted his career to making movies that resonate with the audience. With an unyielding dedication to diversity and inclusivity, he has opened doors for underrepresented voices in the industry.

Beverly Hills Cop and Packer’s early influences (07:15)
Packer fondly recalls the impact of watching movies as a child and how they served as an escape and source of inspiration. He cites Beverly Hills Cop as a significant movie that made him realize the power of representation and humor, featuring a charismatic black lead who became a hero on screen.

From an engineer to a DIY filmmaker (08:11)
Will explains that his analytical mindset, combined with his creative inclinations, gives him a unique perspective. Packer shares the story of his persistence in securing a screening for his first film,Chocolate City, where the film garnered an enthusiastic response from the audience. The movie resonated with viewers portraying a world they could relate to.

Creating inclusive movies with universal themes (11:21)
Packer discusses how movies in the past were often exclusive, designed for specific audiences, but his aim is to create inclusive films with universal themes, featuring black characters but accessible to all.

Diversity leads to success (28:57)
Will and Kevin emphasize the value of diversity in the business world, stating that having more voices in the room leads to increased success. The pair agree that a creative industry thrives when there is a variety of perspectives and experiences represented.

Creating content that people love (34:40)
Kevin and Will discuss the importance of creating movies and media that people "love", not just "like". In this oversaturated media market, he focuses on creating movies that people are passionate about and will rush to tell their friends about.

Producing the Oscars and the “slap heard ‘round the world” (37:42)
Will talks about his experience producing the 2022 Academy Awards, a production that earned him an Emmy nomination. Will goes into the challenges of producing the Oscars, and how Chris Rock saved the show.

Tune in to hear Will Packer's journey in the industry, starting from his early influences and his passion for storytelling, to his contributions to the entertainment industry and his commitment to championing underrepresented voices.

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guests: Will Packer
Producer:  Kari Campano

For more information about Will Packer:

For more information about Kevin Goetz:

46s Film Making
46s: Filmmakers talk origins, challenges, budgets, and profits.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz 
 Guest:  Hollywood Blockbuster Producer Will Packer
 Interview Transcript:

Announcer (00:02):

There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz.

Kevin Goetz (00:24):

In an article that I read about the movie producing formula of today's guest, it said that he always starts by thinking about the audience. He thinks about them en masse, and if he has a formula, it's thinking about who the audience is, where they are, what they're into, what would resonate with them, and what the marketing strategy would be. And then, he does a cost benefit analysis to make sure the audience that he could realistically reach is worth the effort it would take to reach them. Well, this is music to my ears. Will Packer is a record-breaking filmmaker and has produced a wide range of films, including 10 films that have opened at number one. He has produced more than 30 features, including big screen hit comedies like Think Like a Man, Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer, Girls Trip, Night School, What Men Want, as well as the broadly and wonderfully controversial drama, Straight Outta Compton. He also produced and was nominated for an Emmy for the 2022 Academy Awards Oscar Ceremony. In addition to his film production company, Will Packer Productions, he also launched Will Packer Media in 2017, producing television and digital platform content. Will, I'm really excited to have you here. Welcome.

Will Packer (01:48):

How you doing, my friend?

Kevin Goetz (01:49):

I'm good. As you came in, I was thinking about going back to Stomp the Yard.

Will Packer (01:54):

That's how far back you and I go. Which, by the way, was my first ever audience preview for one of my movies, and you oversaw it. I had never done that. Well, you know, prior to that I had small movies. I think I'd had two minor theatrical releases at that time. And spending money to even see what an audience thought really wasn't justified, at least in the minds of the financier because it was like, if this movie makes anything, it's a win.

Kevin Goetz (02:27):

What I love is that you made this one movie for 20,000 bucks. Yeah. Well, first off, let's just go back a little bit. I'm not going all the way back. I'll do that in a moment. But Florida A&M.

Will Packer (02:38):


Kevin Goetz (02:39):

Electrical engineer.

Will Packer (02:40):

Proud graduate.

Kevin Goetz (02:41):

Electrical engineer.

Kevin Goetz (02:43):

Summa cum laude.

Will Packer (02:45):

Very proud. Magna. I wish I could claim Summa. Well,

Kevin Goetz (02:47):

Well, it's only a half a point?

Will Packer (02:51):

Don't say that to the Summas. Okay. Cause they would get very sensitive.

Kevin Goetz (02:54):

My niece, Eller Bart, just graduated from USC with Natasha Obama. Eller was Magna. She was not finished with the finals yet, and she had bought the sash that said Magna. So I said, no, no, no, you are going to get to Summa. So I bought the sash for her. And I literally dangled it in front of her until she finished the finals. She finished and got the, the night before the graduation. She found out she made it.

Will Packer (03:21):

She made Summa?

Kevin Goetz (03:22):


Will Packer (03:23):

It's a big deal.

Kevin Goetz (03:24):

It’s a big deal. Good for her. So I'm not being flippant when I say that.

Will Packer (03:26):

No, no. Listen, I'm very proud of my Magna. So how do you, by the way, my daughter was Summa, so there's somebody in the family who at least, you know.

Kevin Goetz (03:33):

Where did she go?

Will Packer (03:33):

She went to Howard.

Kevin Goetz (03:35):

We're working with several historical black colleges to promote my area of the business in marketing and research. So a lot of the historically black colleges have wonderful marketing programs, business schools, but they focus on sales and marketing primarily. Yes. Not on research. Right. So there's precious few really qualified African-American candidates. So we're trying to change that.

Will Packer (03:59):

That's amazing. I'd love to figure out if we can do something now at, at my alma mater, Florida A&M, because our business school is topnotch, and you are right. Especially when you think about, like you made a statement, you said there's a dearth of African American candidates in the research field. Correct. Right. Correct. Let's do something about that.

Kevin Goetz (04:17):


Will Packer (04:18):

The last statement is what matters. Anybody can make the first statement, but it takes people like you and me and folks in this industry to say, let's do something about it. And the thing is, you gotta do something about it now for it to make a difference in 20 years. People say all the time, where are the candidates? I'm ready to hire right now. Well, you have to be very intentional. It's like, you know, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. Next best time is right now.

Kevin Goetz (04:43):

I am so with you. And you know, it's funny, I guess as a Jewish guy growing up and early on, learning about the persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust and all of that really resonated with me in a significant way. So, I always have a special affinity for any disenfranchised group or underrepresented group when it comes to opportunity. And I think it's a crime and a stain when any group that doesn't get that chance mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it just drives me insane.

Will Packer (05:21):

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin Goetz (05:21):

And I know you've done so much about it. Almost every movie you've made is African-American centric in some way. And I am so appreciative of that. I so admire you for so many reasons, because you have such…

Will Packer (05:37):

Well, tell a few. We got some time.

Kevin Goetz (05:38):

Because you have such a diversity of films, of creative material that has come out of Will Packer Productions.

Will Packer (05:46):

Wasn't always like that.

Kevin Goetz (05:47):

So, will you donate your, your brain to science so we can, we can sort of look at what was going on there?

Will Packer (05:53):

And wildly disappoint science.

Kevin Goetz (05:55):

Well, what went on from an electrical engineer to getting into the film business?

Will Packer (06:01):

Well, I never wanted to be an engineer, but I was really good at math and science. And I think just like innately, I have an analytical brain. It's how my mind works.

Kevin Goetz (06:10):

Well, you also have left and right brain.

Will Packer (06:13):

I have both.

Kevin Goetz (06:14):

You truly do. Let’s not underestimate that.

Will Packer (06:15):

As much as I am in this creative industry, I am an analytical thinker. But I think that gives me an advantage because I think I bring something else to my projects that maybe some of my purely creative, and nobody's just one thing, but my more creative centered peers maybe don't have engineering came about because I was to the point of trying to increase diversity in underserved fields and underrepresented communities. I was a part of a group that was recruited to Florida A&M to get majors to study science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the STEM disciplines.

Kevin Goetz (06:54):


Will Packer (06:56):

And I was, you know, a hard worker, always came outta high school with very, very strong…

Kevin Goetz (07:01):

Where'd you grow up?

Will Packer (07:02):

In St. Petersburg, Florida. So growing up in St. Pete. Good in math and science. 

Kevin Goetz (07:06):

Did you see movies though as a kid?

Will Packer (07:08):

I did. I did. They were, like a lot of kids, that great escape that blows your mind. 

Kevin Goetz (07:15):

What was the first, the first one that really had an influence on you?

Will Packer (07:17):

Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy. It was my first rated R movie. My dad took me, we spent a day, we didn't tell mom, it was just me and dad. It was rated R and the black guy on screen was, was making everybody laugh. And he was the star and the hero and he was cursing and, and charismatic. And he saved the day. And I was like, wow-- Nothing is funnier than young Eddie, right?

Kevin Goetz (07:44)

I think he's fantastic. I want to go back though to what we were talking about with St. Pete. Yes. You grew up there. Were you recruited? You got a scholarship or something?

Will Packer (07:53)

I got a scholarship. Yeah. So I was actually, I knew that I wanted to be in business. I didn't know that I would end up in the arts. I didn't have anybody, I mean, not one person that I knew that was even adjacent to this industry.

Kevin Goetz (08:05)

Is that why you decided to do it yourself and make your first movie?

Will Packer (8:09):

I had no choice.

Kevin Goetz (08:10):

Where'd you get the money from?

Will Packer (08:11):

Florida A&M’s Student Senate, who gave us a small loan to form a cinema club on campus. And that club's first project was going to be our first movie.

Kevin Goetz (08:25):

What was the name of it?

Will Packer (08:26):

Chocolate City.

Kevin Goetz (08:27):

Chocolate City. Chocolate City. And then you found distribution for it?

Will Packer (08:29):

And we made distribution for it. I love that. By distribution, I mean showing it on campus, showing it in the second run theater. Remember second run theaters?

Kevin Goetz (08:40):

Oh. Movie City Five on Route 18 in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Will Packer (08:43):

Ours was called I See Flix. Leon County, Tallahassee, Florida.

Kevin Goetz (08:46):

Yes. Two bucks.

Will Packer (08:48):

It was $2.50 for us. Oh God. See you were in New York. Y'all were big and fancy was a $1.50 and a show. Rocky Horror Picture Show 20 times a day. I convinced the manager at the time of that second run theatrical movie theater to show our movie one weekend. I said, just gimme one weekend. And he said no 20 times. And finally he got tired of me coming in. I remember it was this long hair, pot-smoking white boy. And he would pull on his ponytail and pull on his joint and tell me why he wasn't showing my movie. He'd pull that ponytail, pull that joint and say, it makes no sense. Leave me alone. And he'd take a pull and a pull. And finally I said, you know what? After a while he's going to be amenable. He keeps pulling on that joint. I'm going to get what I need outta him. Tenacity is the name of the game.

Kevin Goetz (09:32):

There you go.

Will Packer (09:34):

So, he plays it.

Kevin Goetz (09:36):

Tell me that you got everyone and God to come.

Will Packer (09:39):

Brother, I pulled up and it was a Friday night. They gave us one show on a Friday night. And the line was in the street. The audience said, this movie speaks to me. This movie is for me. And they were passionate about it. It wasn't just a choice, it was a must. It was, I am invested in this project because it was a world that they knew and could relate to.

Kevin Goetz (10:05):

Well, let's talk about that for a moment, because one of the things that I so admire about you is that you broke a kind of box in a way that, you know, because I worked on a lot of the early John Singleton movies and Spike and many of them were deemed black movies, urban movies, which would be the proxy for that, the word they used.

Will Packer (10:29):

And I love when white people discovered the word urban as a way to say black.

Kevin Goetz (10:32):

Oh no, no. Not this white guy <laugh>. I mean, I was like, I was like, no. But nonetheless that was what you meant. And then multicultural, whatever, that became the word for Hispanic and Latinx.

Will Packer (10:42):

There you go. Brown people. 

Kevin Goetz (10:45):

Yeah, exactly. Multicultural. I don't like those labels. But in research we often use them and I'm as guilty as the next guy.

Will Packer (10:52):

You have to, you get it.

Kevin Goetz (10:53):

But I will say that one of the things that you did when I saw Think Like a Man, for example, was seeing, how do I say this? And I'm just going to not be delicate about it. Okay. It felt like any of the white movies that I saw, but with black folks in the starring roles. Mm-hmm. And it felt like any movie that I could relate to <affirmative>, it just felt like a different take on the same thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> in the best sense of it.

Will Packer (11:21):

Yeah, definitely. It felt like any other movie that you could see with non-black people, which especially at that time meant white people. Right. And that's what I was going after, is because there were, during the Blacksploitation era, for example, and by the way, not just then, movies that very much felt like this is for one particular audience. It's designed that way. It is thought of that way. It is very inside baseball. It is exclusive. If you're not in it and you don't look like the people on screen, it's not for you. Right? That's right. What you're seeing now, and what I've always tried to do is make movies that feel inclusive by having universal themes. They happen to be through the lens of my characters, which are very often black characters. But if a white person says, ah, that's not for me. I don't want to go see it, it's their own either prejudice or barrier or challenge to that type of movie. It's not because, well, I don't understand all the inside jokes they're saying and I don't understand the trauma of growing up in the hood, for example, I don't understand how, you know, this particular lifestyle, I can't relate to it. Correct.

Kevin Goetz (12:31):

You broke stereotype. Yeah. And you really, don't be so modest because you really did it and you did it consistently on so many different movies, which I really have to say helped change the landscape. I mean, I've been doing this a long time, as you know. So I got to see that evolution. Yeah. I got to see, when I started out and even when a black and a white person kissed on screen, you would go to different places in the country and hear tittering. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know what I mean? And I equate it to, as a gay man to going and 10 years ago you'd go and you'd hear tittering when two men are kissing mm-hmm. <affirmative> now it's very rare that they'll do that. You actually begin to see the acceptance. That's why I say we need two generations to die off, excuse me, of boomers and above. But in order to really get to a equilibrium, a place where we can have a level playing field, because the young people, thank God, they just don't care about gender and race.

Will Packer (13:33):

And sexuality.

Kevin Goetz (13:35):

The fluidity of all of it.

Will Packer (13:36):

Yeah. They are, thank God. Right? And that's what happens. It takes time, it takes progression, but it also takes people in power. There's a quote, I'm a big football fan and Bruce Arians is the former coach at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That's who we won the Super Bowl with, with Tom Brady. And he had the most diverse coaching staff in the NFL. Wow. When he won, and he had black coordinators at all the top positions, offense, defense, special teams. He said, one of his quotes is, sometimes you need the right white guy to advocate for you. And he's a very plain spoken, you know, no frills. And what he's saying is that you need somebody in a position of power. And one of the things for me is I really came to prominence doing my movies when you and I met at Screen Gems. Yes. And there was a gentleman named Clint Culpepper. Yes. And Clint Culpepper was in this scenario, the white guy. But he definitely has an affinity for black culture and also understands how important it is for somebody in his position to say, yes, I wanna tell these stories. Now he wants to tell 'em cuz he has an affinity to them. But he also understands, he and I have had this conversation many times, how important it's to do exactly what you just said, break stereotypes, show people that look like me on the big screen doing things that people that traditionally have looked like you or maybe the straight version of you have done for the history of cinema.

Kevin Goetz (14:56):

Right. Well here's the thing, here's the thing. They made money. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And at the end of the day…

Will Packer (15:02):

That's it. There you go.

Kevin Goetz (15:02):

This is not, you know, show art. It's show business. Preach. And seriously. And so when you have movies, like your movies made really, really good money.

Will Packer (15:14):

The only reason I got to do it again. Exactly. And I, it wasn't the philanthropy of lovely liberal Hollywood.

Kevin Goetz (15:21):

I was just going to say, I remember being on a gay lesbian panel at the Writer's Guild. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I was on one side and Dustin Lance Black who had just won the Academy Award for Milk is in the middle. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> And this other guy on the other end who I don't think is any longer with us, he was kind of a theater guy and older theater guy. Yeah. And he was telling people, the older guy on the other end, just follow your heart. Just do things that mean something to you and move you. And, and I'm like going, oh God. So I'm, I knew what I was about to say. It was going to, and he got applause, applause, applause. I come in and I say, well if you want to eat <laugh>,

Kevin Goetz (15:59):

Don't write just things that are from your heart, but write things that people want to see. Yeah. So I said, believe me, Hollywood guys in here, women, ladies, men, if gay movies were successful all the time, Hollywood would only make gay movies. Absolutely. You know? A hundred percent. And so this is not the reality. Of course the ticket to entry is loving something, having a passion for it. And I still stand by that. But, and capital BUT, you better have an arsenal of things in your toolkit because you know, that may not work. And I got applause and boos from some certain people cuz no one wants to really hear that truth.

Will Packer (16:39):

Of course not. We're an artistic community. We don't wanna admit that at the end of the day, the true drivers, the true elements of success are dollars and cents, spreadsheets. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, nobody wants to hear that. That accountants are the ones that are determining the value of these artistic endeavors that we all work so hard on and pour our souls out. Nobody wants to hear that.

Kevin Goetz (16:59):

Well, that wonderful missive, I believe Jeffrey Katzenberg wrote back in the eighties, Paramount Pictures has no responsibility to make art. We have a responsibility to make money. And sometimes when you make money, you make great art. Mm. Not when you make great art, you make, I mean that you can't approach it necessarily with that mindset because I think you can do both.

Will Packer (17:14):

Of course you can.

Kevin Goetz (17:14):

That's why I don't think AI is ever going to replace this business. People are so freaked out about what's AI's role. I think AI is going to lay the foundation for many things. But you need human beings with real feelings and real passion and real advocacy of projects to get behind them, to develop them, and ultimately understand the business decisions where, I preach, which is every movie if made and marketed for the right price should make money. Yeah. Every single movie.

Will Packer (17:56):

Chocolate City.

Kevin Goetz (17:58):

Chocolate City. Yeah. At $20,000. Yes. I bet you made some money on that movie.

Will Packer (18:03):

Yeah, we did. We made a hundred thousand dollars. Wow. Yeah. Yep. Shot it for 20, made a hundred thousand. And knowing what I know now, I could probably, you know, make a little bit more. But it was the reason that I didn't go to business school because I never had a passion for engineering. But I got a scholarship to go to Florida, A&M as an engineer. And I said, once I get my engineering degree, I will immediately go to business school. Cause I know I wanna be an entrepreneur, I wanna have my own business, and I need to learn the business elements. And so I…

Kevin Goetz (18:33):

How did you know that?

Will Packer (18:35):

Because my parents, they said, what do you wanna do at a young age? And I said, I want to be a boss. And they said, oh, you mean you want to have your own business? I said, yeah, sure if I'm also the boss. And they said, yeah, well if you have your own business, by definition you're the boss. I said, okay, how do I do that? They said, well, you can go into corporate America and work your way up and you start off as entry level, work your way up to VP and then a senior executive VP work your way up and then, you know, years and years and years and years and years down the line, maybe you can be CEO and now you're the boss. And I said, that's a long way to go. They said, or you can start your own business and then you're the boss on day one.

Will Packer (19:09):

I said, that's what I want to do. So I went in, looked up like the top business schools cause I said, well if I have an MBA then I'll be able to start my own business. I had no idea which business I wanted to be in at that time. And I, while a sophomore at Florida A&M made a movie with a fraternity brother of mine who is still my good friend to this day. His name is Rob Hardy, and he's still a director in this industry also. And Rob's passion was to be a filmmaker because he had been influenced by Spike Lee and John Singleton and folks like that and Hughes Brothers. And he said, let's make a movie. I helped him to make a small movie and that movie shot for 20,000 made a hundred thousand. And I said, what do I need to go to Wharton for?

Will Packer (19:56):

I have found a model, I have found a widget that I can sell. I found a business and it was that which spurred me into producing. And then I fell in love with the idea and concept of storytelling by seeing how audiences reacted to my project. So it's kind of backwards. A lot of people fall in love with storytelling or films or the industry didn't figure out a way to get into the business of it or monetize it. It wasn't like that with me. I was helping a buddy who wanted to be a director. I was on my way to business school, getting an engineering degree and along the way made some money and then said, this is my business. And then saw how audiences were reacting to stories that featured them, that they hadn't been fed a lot, and said, I love this. I love the feeling of it. Wow. So I married the business with the art.

Kevin Goetz (20:50):

Oh wow. Boy do I love that. When we come back, I want to talk about more of this and some other very hot topics. We'll be back in a moment.

Announcer (21:00):

Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book Audienceology by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never before revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of audienceology into focus. Audienceology, How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love, from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster. Available now.

Kevin Goetz (21:32):

We're back talking to Will Packer. One of the things that I am very concerned about is the lack of credit extended to black businesses to fund a lot of black entrepreneurs. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think I remembered reading something that you were sort of committed to helping in that arena. Is that a fair statement?

Will Packer (21:55):

Absolutely. I mean, I think that credit is typically associated with assets, right? Credit is something where usually, whether you're talking about actual physical lending, somebody, something, or some version of that is always about someone saying, I'm going to extend a resource to you. And the collateral for that resource is some asset that you have. Well, if you're from a community, a culture, a people, a family, a generation that does not traditionally have those assets, then people are loathe to extend resources to you. How you going to pay 'em back? Right. Not lending you something, I don't know. People that look like you don't typically have, you know, houses, or land, or IP, or things of value that can help to solidify this lend that I'm giving you. So it has certainly been challenging. What I have said is that in the position I'm in, I am now fortunate, blessed, and worked very hard to be here, to be able to extend resources to folks that would not otherwise have them.

Will Packer (22:59):

And I do it in a way that it's not always about, I'm going to give you a dollar because you're giving me back two, because you're giving me back $1.50. I now I'm giving you a dollar because I know that you don't have anywhere else to give it a dollar. You need that dollar in a different way than maybe your peers do. And if you are good enough to be in a position marginalized filmmaker with this dollar, then you're probably better than some of your peers that were extended resources throughout. You had to work harder. I know that cuz Will Packer had to work harder. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think you're a safer bet, actually. I think that you are a better investment than some of your peers because of how hard you've had to work to get in the position that you're in.

Kevin Goetz (23:44):

And you're hungrier. Absolutely. And you don't want to prove me right, you wanna prove me wrong. Right? Not me, but the establishment.

Will Packer (23:52:

The establishment, you've got something, you know, it's like going back to the athletic model, you want that guy that's got a chip on his shoulder. You want somebody, that guy or girl that's got something to prove. Wow. And so, you know, whether we're talking about black filmmakers or Latino filmmakers or filmmakers from other marginalized communities, those that have something to prove that are going to work harder. Right. Bet on 'em.

Kevin Goetz (24:14):

I'm a boy from Brooklyn, strictly middle class in Jersey, and nobody handed me anything. And when I started my business, I did it by cashing in my 401K and my IRA and put it all on the line. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> best thing I ever did. So that alone put me in an advantage. Yes. But I wanna say no one was handing me credit. Right. Because that was my collateral. Yeah. So understand and appreciate what you're saying. We've got to find ways to empower, and I don't mean just African-American folks, I mean anyone who is not having that opportunity, the quote unquote or metaphorical collateral. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And how do you believe in them and provide those resources to bring them to another class. Yes. Socially, economically, et cetera.

Will Packer (25:05):

It takes people to take risk. It takes people to, to do things that may not make sense in some black and white spreadsheet. You gotta work hard regardless. When you were talking, I was thinking, I have had conversations with people that will feel like if you're saying we need to do more or extra for folks that don't have the same opportunities that it's taking away from the people that have more opportunities. But that's not true.

Kevin Goetz (25:32):

No, it is not true.

Will Packer (25:33):

If you're successful in this country, in this world, you have worked hard. Right? Now, there's some people that everything was handed.

Kevin Goetz (25:39):

There's enough for everyone. Have you? There's enough for everyone.

Will Packer (25:41):

But people work hard and I want to give people credit for busting their asses. I don't care who you look like, I don't care where you started from. Yep. You worked hard. Bust your ass. If you, even if you started off at a certain level, you maintained it or increased it, you know what? You worked hard to do it. Saying somebody else has less, does not mean that you are less for having more. That's important. And so I want to make sure that just as a global community, we are understanding that no matter what, everybody's not going to have the same thing. We're just not, there are always going to be various classes of people, various socioeconomic differences, it doesn't matter. We can have all the programs in place we want, everybody's not going to work as hard. I don't care what they look like, where they're from. Some people are not going to bust their asses. And some people are just not going to be successful and make good decisions.

Kevin Goetz (26:23):

Whereas you said the glacier is moving, but in order to create, I read this as a quote of yours, I'm paraphrasing, but in order to retain the success, you gotta keep working. When I would get an A in school, what I did is I worked harder to get the next A or even an A plus. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Like that's how my mind worked. I wanted to get the hell outta school because I just wanted to, I wanted to be a professional. You know, by the way, I owned my first business when I was 17 years old.

Will Packer (26:23):

Wow. Wow.

Kevin Goetz (26:23):

Yep. A dance and acting school in East Brunswick, New Jersey. How about that? A hundred students and four teachers.

Will Packer (26:59):

And you didn't have a hundred students and four teachers at 17?

Kevin Goetz (27:02):

Yep. Yeah. 17, 17. I don't know how I did it, but I just had it.

Will Packer (27:07):

That's incredible.

Kevin Goetz (27:08):

And by the way, you talk about having nothing, my parents didn't gimme anything. Right. I honestly, you're going to laugh when I say this, but I used babysitting money and mowing lawn money and shoveling whatever, and teaching, uh, shoveling

Will Packer (27:20):

Shoveling whatever. Whatever needed to be shoveled, you shoveled it.

Kevin Goetz (27:22):

I'm saying.

Will Packer (27:22):

That's, that’s incredible.

Kevin Goetz (27:22):

I was just cut from that cloth. Yeah.

Will Packer (27:26):

Some folks are.

Kevin Goetz (27:27):

And I will just say that diversity, I will say it publicly, diversity means money. And I can show you time and time again how more voices in the room, to go back to that football analogy you mentioned. Yes. Yes. It’s absolutely true. When you have voices representing different personalities, different characteristics, different ways of life in the conversation, it makes for more fruitful, more interesting, more successful anything. Anything. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I'm such a believer in that. And I put my money where my mouth is. My company is more diverse than it is non-diverse, if you will. It just is. We have 300 people.

Will Packer (28:10):

I would argue that's part of the reason you're so successful.

Kevin Goetz (28:12):

I would agree with you. I don't want to sound like I'm disingenuous. I really believe what you say. Yeah. I actually believe it. One of the things I often ask you, and I'm about to ask you the question is, what's your superpower? I believe that one of my superpowers is bringing people who are better than whatever it is than I am. And being self-aware enough to know that I am not good at that, that, and that. I am really good at this, this, and this. So I bring people better than I. And most often they are people who don't look like me.

Will Packer (28:47):

<affirmative>. But you do not let that stop you from your ultimate goal of being successful. No, never. Bring in those people that have a skillset you don't have.

Kevin Goetz (28:57):

Embrace that, the opposite.

Will Packer (28:57):

I am amazed at how many smart people in this business, but in all industries who don't embrace that fact. Bring in folks that are going to help you get to the finish line. Whatever your goal of success is, don't be blinded by, well, I don't know them. I'm not as comfortable. I know these folks. Right. Because if you and I are competing and we're in a creative industry and I've got 10 people, you've got 10 people. And all my 10 people grew up similarly, think similarly, have a similar shared experience. And your 10 people are from all over the place. We're talking creative. Guess what? You’re going to win.

Kevin Goetz (29:30):

Not any question. I mean, there's no question. You cannot argue that. I'm sorry. And I will take them on and you and I can take the world out.

Will Packer (29:37):

Well we just, fortunately, we can show them. I know. By being successful. Yes. With your business and with my business. That's what we do. And that's how we show them. And that's how we give opportunities to that next generation of folks when we're long gone. Cuz you know, hopefully our businesses will still have some impact.

Kevin Goetz (29:53):

What is your superpower?

Will Packer (29:54):

I would say the ability to get people to work towards a common goal.

Kevin Goetz (30:01):


Will Packer (30:02):

That's what I would say to galvanize. And I've been able to gather folks to galvanize behind my projects, my company, but also social causes. I'm a St. Pete native, Atlanta resident.

Kevin Goetz (30:16):

For a while, right? Been in Atlanta before it was cool to live in Atlanta.

Will Packer (30:19):

<laugh> before all of Hollywood, all you people started coming for the tax credit that I also was partly responsible for.

Kevin Goetz (30:29):

And look what Tyler Perry's done for the community.

Will Packer (30:30):

Tyler is, I mean…

Kevin Goetz (30:32):

What a, what a guy. Huh?

Will Packer (30:34):

You look at what Tyler has done as a citizen, no caveat, needs no justification or context. It is just absolutely amazing. Period. Full stop. And you're correct as a human. Yeah. He is incredible. But he's part of this Atlanta community that he and I and some others who were there long, long before it was cool to shoot in Atlanta. But I think what I was saying was just that being in Georgia, which is a very interesting place because Atlanta's a very, very progressive city in the center of a less than progressive rest of the state. It's still very much Georgia and Atlanta's in Georgia. Sometimes people get it the other way around. But it means that I have been able to use some of my influence and power for things that are important, that have nothing to do with this industry.

Kevin Goetz (31:20):

What's near and dear to your heart? Philanthropically?

Will Packer (31:23):

HBCUs are a big cause for me. Yeah. I believe in them. I think that you look at the numbers and they're indisputable. The vast amount of black doctors, lawyers and investors, pharmacists, they come from black colleges. That's where the opportunities are given. That's where, when you talk about people who say, I'm the first one in my family to go to college. If they're black, it's an HBCU, nine times outta 10. That's where those opportunities are. But they change people's lives. They change communities' lives. Education has always been the key. And it's boring to say, but that is the thing that if there is a playing field to level, it's not about giving everybody the same amount of loans or housing prices. Education. You give everybody the same access and opportunity and you give them, you put everybody on the same level playing field of a knowledge base and watch what happens.

Kevin Goetz (32:12):

Well, I don't want that. I don't wanna get too much into this because this will turn into a different kind of podcast today. But I will tell you that I am so upset with what's happened in Los Angeles with the school system. Like unless you're rich and have access. Yep. You get an education that is often perceived to be subpar than all those other folks who then get into the best schools. Right. I call them credit card schools. And so the cycle goes, so the cycle continues.

Will Packer (32:43):

Not just unique to LA though, is it Kevin?

Kevin Goetz (32:44):

I don't know. I don't have kids, so I don't really, what is it like in Atlanta?

Will Packer (32:49):

I would be very hesitant to speak on the Atlanta public school system. I know a lot of great folks that work very hard there. But I think everywhere throughout this country, there is a class system that is specific to education and the access to the best education. That holds we us back as a community. Right? I mean, holds all of us back. See, it doesn't make the, the rich folks with power and access, whatever city they're in that are getting that top education, they're affected by the folks that are not able to get access to that education in one way or another. Because who those folks turn out to be who are in a school system, that they got the potential, but they don't have the access to it. Who they turn out to be is going to affect your life.

Kevin Goetz (33:32):

What are you doing other than movies that excites you? That is to say television alternative media. Because I know you have Will Packer Media.

Will Packer (33:42):

I've got Will Packer Media, which is my kind of everything other than my film business, which is television, which is scripted television, which is unscripted television, which is digital content creation. I actually have a digital brand and platform that's called xoNecole that is geared at urban millennial women. I'm excited about everything that I'm doing in the content creation space. And I'm excited by the fact that I don't have to be making content only for a specific medium. I can make it for whatever medium is right for that content or that audience, that end user. Right. I can make it where, if it's a streaming doc or a theatrical movie or a limited series or a YouTube show, right? I don't have a YouTube show right now, but I'm not opposed to having one. Sure. And if it makes sense.

Kevin Goetz (34:33):

It's all about finding the material that is relatable and then people will follow. Wouldn't that be a fair statement? If it's good. That's what I mean.

Will Packer (34:40):

I certainly think so. You do this with your business and you try very hard to educate the media companies about this. In an oversaturated content environment you have to have content that people are invested in. That's right. That they are passionate about.

Kevin Goetz (34:40):

I say love.

Will Packer (34:40):

That they love.

Kevin Goetz (35:01):

Not like.

Will Packer (35:03):

Like is so 10 years ago. Vanilla. I used to say, if I released a trailer or a commercial or a teaser for one of my projects and people watched it and liked it, great. That's a win. It will then be directly related to the success of that project. And I used to be able to say that. And that used to be true. Now absolutely not, it doesn't matter.

Kevin Goetz (35:29):

You are speaking my language.

Will Packer (35:32):

When I talk to the people in my company now, I say if we release something from a film and people don't immediately say two things. One, I have to see that. You have to, not, oh, that looks cool. That looks, no, I have to see that. And when is it coming out? Where is it going to be?

Kevin Goetz (35:48):

And I would add…

Will Packer (35:50):

Make a date.

Kevin Goetz (35:50):

I would add, and I want to tell everyone who will listen. I've said this before, when Hamilton was announced, I read that I was one of those, I love the Revolutionary War sort of history. And I read the Chernow book and then I heard it was at the public theater. And then I heard it was Lin Manuel Miranda and then a musical. I was like, each time I heard it, I literally said, when can I buy a ticket? Yes. I'm going to tell everyone who could possibly hear me with an earshot that they have to see this. Yes. I didn't care if it was good. That's how passionate I was. If you could have that.

Will Packer (36:25):

See, you're the perfect example with Hamilton of how we as content creators in this industry have to think about our audiences in today's world, period. If they don't have that level of passion and engagement.

Kevin Goetz (36:38):

Okay. So I'm just going to say, I know I've already asked you to be on my podcast and you graciously accepted. Yes. Are you, I'm now going to twist your arm to participate in my new book coming out, which is about, well, it's being written. It's called…

Will Packer (36:52):

How many Books do you have? 

Kevin Goetz (36:53):

Well, I have my one book Audienceology, which came out last year. But it's been a big success, knock wood right here. Congratulations. But the next one is about getting to the green light.

Will Packer (36:53):


Kevin Goetz (36:53):

That's the theme of it. And I have a lot of heads of studios and content creators who speak exactly what you're saying and it would be an honor to have you do that. I do wanna talk about your getting into alternative media, particularly television. I know you were nominated for an Emmy. Congratulations. For the Oscars.

Will Packer (37:21):

Thank you. Thank you. My second nomination. What was your first one? I got Roots. I produced, IP-ed a remake

Kevin Goetz (37:28):

What's, what's Roots? I’m joking.

Will Packer (37:29):

Right. You ever heard of that? Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin Goetz (37:31):

Boy, that was cutting edge television. Alex Haley. My God. Yes. Yeah. Wow. Congratulations.

Will Packer (37:37):

So we did a remake on that. Yeah. So I have now my second nomination of an Emmy. That's correct.

Kevin Goetz (37:42):

Where were you on the night of <laugh>? What was that date?

Will Packer (37:46):

I think it was March 27th. March 26th or 27th.

Kevin Goetz (37:49):

Oh, you're being coy. I was with you.

Will Packer (37:52):

What happened? Did something happen?

Kevin Goetz (37:53):

I was with you. It was called the Academy Awards.

Will Packer (37:55):

Oh, that little show. Oh boy. That thing.

Kevin Goetz (37:58):

I remember being in that room. First of all, it was a beautiful ceremony. The stage was magnificent.

Will Packer (38:04):

David Korins was our production designer. He and his team worked very, very hard. The concept was that every hour, the show was always, you know, too long, but three hours, and so every hour of the show we wanted it to be thematically different. And our design team did an amazing job with that to make sure that each hour felt unique and different. The musical elements were different for each hour. The stage and theme and design colors were different each time. And one of the things that was interesting was that we talked about having a design of the stage that made it feel like the presenters, performers, or whoever might be on stage…

Kevin Goetz (38:46):

Or in the audience

Will Packer (38:47):

Were a part of the audience.

Kevin Goetz (38:38):

So brilliant.

Will Packer (38:49):

And so that gave life to this feeling of everybody being on the same level and in one room and not like folks up on a stage separated.

Kevin Goetz (38:59):

Where were you situated?

Will Packer (39:01):

Shayla and I were just stage left in the wings.

Kevin Goetz (39:03):

Oh, you were in the wings?

Will Packer (39:04):

We were in the wings right there. We've got a whole little, you know…

Kevin Goetz (39:07):

Video village?

Will Packer (39:08):

Producer video village with monitors and earpieces. And so every actor, actress that comes on stage, presenter, whoever they pass us. Right. I speak to them going out, I speak to them coming back, all the winners come out. I congratulate all the winners. All. So you're right there in the heart of it. Just stage left just behind the curtains and the wings.

Kevin Goetz (39:28):

And you produced it with somebody, with Shayla?

Will Packer (39:30):

With Shayla Cowan. We were the first all-black team to do it.

Kevin Goetz (39:34):

So you were together. 

Will Packer (39:36):

Yes. And probably anything that went wrong was all Shayla's fault.

Kevin Goetz (39:39):

Well, before we go there, I just wanna say that all you're probably concerned with, and I'm looking at Shayla from the booth here, is please don't announce La La Land <laugh>. You know? Right. Because it's like, make sure everyone's got the right envelopes. What else could possibly go wrong? 

Will Packer (39:55):

So, Jennifer Todd mm-hmm. <affirmative>, who of course amazing producer in this town and she oversaw the awards committee. So the Oscars ceremony came under her purview for the academy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And one of the jokes was when we talked about the show and leading up to it, she said, listen, no matter what happens, you'll never have a show as memorable as mine <laugh>, because she produced the La La Land Moonlight Show. Oh. So she said, listen, don't worry, have fun. Because no matter what happens, it won't be that bad. Okay. No matter what I said, you know what, I was, you got a point.

Kevin Goetz (40:30):

I was, I was in that room also <laugh>. Now I wanna tell you, were you in that room that night?

Will Packer (40:35):

No, I was not. I wasn't at the La La Land Moonlight. No.

Kevin Goetz (40:38):

No, but this, but you'll love this. This is the greatest. So Neil and I are going to be clever. We were in the balcony, you know, the mezzanine whatever. Yes. So we could do what I'm about to say, which is we got up and the winner is La La Land. And we bolt. We're running down the stairs, out to the valet. Yep. Yeah. And the valets are all lined up. We’re the first people. I say La La Land won.

Will Packer (41:00):

Yeah. You tell everybody.

Kevin Goetz (41:02):

Everybody. I'm so proud that I can announce this to all the valet parkers. We get the car, we go up and as we drive up from where you get cell reception, again, I call my partner Bob Levin. And I said, what'd you think? And he goes, oh my God. And I go, well it was a good show, but not, he goes, no, I can't. You didn't…

Will Packer (41:23):

You're wondering why he's so, you're like, what’s the big deal.

Kevin Goetz (41:26):

It didn't win. I was like, I missed history.

Will Packer (41:29):

History <laugh>.

Kevin Goetz (41:31):

And I was there. Anyway, so Chris Rock comes out at your show and of course we're watching this and we see the famous slap. We all thought it was a bit until we realized two seconds later it wasn't a bit what the hell was going on in your brain?

Will Packer (41:50):

We were the same. We were literally, same thing, thought it was a bit.

Kevin Goetz (41:55):

And once you realize.

Will Packer (41:56):

Chris Rock is one of the most amazing, improvisational amazing comedians of his generation. If there's anybody you don't worry about going off book. Folks who don't know a live show of that magnitude, you rehearse everything and you rehearse everything multiple times. We'd run through that full show multiple times throughout the weekend.

Kevin Goetz (42:13):

That's what you do. So you didn't have diarrhea the night before or the day of.

Will Packer (42:17):

I was feeling so excited. <laugh>, I'm not a typically anxious person. Right, right, right. I get excited about things. And so I, I wasn't super nervous.

Kevin Goetz (42:26):

Once you realized that it was not what you thought, what do you do? Seriously, what do you do?

Will Packer (42:31):

You go into…

Kevin Goetz (42:32):

A zen state or a panic state?

Will Packer (42:34):

I think it was neither. I think it's crisis mode, but you gotta keep your head when all of them are losing theirs and blaming it on you. Rudyard Kipling. Right?

Kevin Goetz (42:34):


Will Packer (42:34):

So I think that I went to Chris as soon as he came off the stage. I was the first person to talk to him and I just, I needed to confirm that it really happened and that this wasn't just some bad bit. That even though at that point it was very evident what had happened.

Kevin Goetz (42:58):

He held it together though.

Will Packer (42:59):

And, well, Chris Rock is the reason that we were able to finish the show. I've said that. I still feel that way. Wow. I think that if he had reacted differently, you'd never know what you're going to do in that situation. But because he is a total pro, and he's been on stages, live audiences for many, many, many years. Hadn't had that happen before, but because he kept his head and was even keeled, it allowed us to continue the best way that we could with the show. And that's what we were trying to do at that point. Absolutely. Make just the best decision. It's live.

Kevin Goetz (43:30):

I'm thinking in my head because my head goes to this place. Of course, I'm thinking the entrepreneur, the producer, I'm thinking, where is he now? What is he doing? What would I be doing? You know, like I'm thinking like that. Yeah. Extraordinary.

Will Packer (43:43):

By the way, you have no idea what you would do. You can try to, you know?

Kevin Goetz (43:47):

Correct, and then play Monday morning quarterback.

Will Packer (43:49):

Of course, everybody does. That's all right. That's part of it. I, but it's just like with the La La Land envelope thing, it's like, okay, if that were to happen, this is what I would do. So you run through that total scenario. Right. But then if there's something that is completely different than that, and that has never happened in the history of that show, and probably much live television at that level before ever, you don't know. You're going to just do the best you can.

Kevin Goetz (44:12):

Would you do it again?

Will Packer (44:13):

I would not. I've done it.

Kevin Goetz (44:16):

Oh, Shayla's shaking her head no.

Will Packer (44:18):

Once, once you, I have such tremendous respect for the folks that have done it before me and that will do it after me. Sure. It's, it's a very, very tough job. Absolutely. 

Kevin Goetz (44:29):

Well, you made history, I mean.

Will Packer (44:30):

What it is is that the time constraints.

Kevin Goetz (44:31):

In the best sense, I mean.

Will Packer (44:32):

I still remain proud of that show.

Kevin Goetz (44:34):

Well, Emmy nomination.

Will Packer (44:35):

The show.

Kevin Goetz (44:36):

The Emmy nomination.

Will Packer (44:37):

And we got Emmy nominated. I'm proud of it. I'm proud of the show, but I've done it. I can move on. It took too much time even before the show. I said to anybody who would ask. And people did ask. I said, no, no, no. This is it for me. I would not do this again.

Kevin Goetz (44:52):

Did you get paid for it?

Will Packer (44:54):

That's not why you do it.

Kevin Goetz (44:55):

I know, I didn't ask that. Did they give it anything? Did you get something?

Will Packer (44:58):

Yes, you do. I don't remember.

Kevin Goetz (45:00):

Did you put your life on hold?

Will Packer (45:01):

You put your entire, and so when you're active, like I am and you are, I truly believe that the show should be done by someone that is just doing that show. I think they should have you know, like for so many years it was Gil Cates, the legendary, and I think that model works where you have, first of all, I think it should be a television producer.

Kevin Goetz (45:26):

A television producer as well.

Will Packer (45:27):

I think it should be a producer. I won't say it has to be just a television producer, but I think it should be a producer.

Kevin Goetz (45:31):

You don't think it has to be a…

Will Packer (45:33):

I don't think it has to be, because I think somebody that…

Kevin Goetz (45:35):

In tandem with is what I meant to you.

Will Packer (45:36):

Sure. But I think feature producers think about narratives in a different way.

Kevin Goetz (45:39):

They do. And they also, it's to honor the movies.

Will Packer (45:43):

Yes. And it is to honor the movies. That is correct.

Kevin Goetz (45:46):

Yes. So I agree with that completely.

Will Packer (45:47):

But I just, I just, that's my opinion. Is that it, it could benefit from somebody doing it multiple years. Yes. Because if I were to go back, which I would not, but if I were, there's so many things that we would do differently just because there's many things you don't know. And I can tell you everything I went through and it doesn't matter. I talked to people who had produced it before, but until you do it. You know? And so, I feel like if you have somebody that can do it by their third year, they're going to really have like a rhythm. That's a's another thing to say though. Absolutely.

Kevin Goetz (46:22):

That’s a great way to look at it.

Will Packer (46:22):

Absolutely. I think it's true. But I'm, I'm too, I don't have the ability with all that I have going on in my companies to put everything on hold and give everything to a single project. Like I did that show and we did that. And that's the other thing I'm proud of is the effort, but award shows are just in a different place. We talked about like, oh God, audience passions and needing to love. I know they don't love award shows. I don't care what the award show is. I can see everybody on social media and everywhere else. It used to be like, the only time you get to see the big stars was when you watch that red carpet and watch the show. I can see 'em every day of the weekend.

Kevin Goetz (46:54):

But I will say the Oscars still through all of it, still have not lost their brand value of being that creme de la creme of that award. That is just the award.

Will Packer (47:07):

I think that is true.

Kevin Goetz (47:06):

You know, it just is. I think that is true. It just is. I want to end with an explanation of the hat.

Will Packer (47:13):

<laugh>. Uh,

Kevin Goetz (47:14):

Because when I think of you, I think of that. I see you in hats. I know you're wearing a baseball cap today. Yeah. But usually it's a derby or…

Will Packer (47:21):

Usually a fedora, or a newsboy cap.

Kevin Goetz (47:25):

Exactly, what's the significance?

Will Packer (47:27):

You know what, I feel very comfortable. It's a little bit of my armor. Right. It's not about my look necessarily. I like the way I looked in hats, but it's like my final piece of my uniform that I put on. I feel like if I'm, and it doesn't always have to be a fancy hat. It could be a baseball cap, but I usually…

Kevin Goetz (47:48):

A signature.

Will Packer (47:49):

I usually like to have it match my shoes and my belt. It's just my final piece of dressing accoutrement. It is my accoutrement to go out and face of the world.

Kevin Goetz (48:01):

Well, will Packer, I officially have a bromance going on with you. I think you are extraordinary. Thank you. I think you are talented. I think you are a visionary and we're blessed to have you in our business and I’m blessed to call you a friend. Yes, thank you.

Will Packer (48:18):

This was awesome. Thank you for having me.

Kevin Goetz (48:20):

To our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our interview today. I encourage you to visit Will's production company website,, to learn more about all of his projects, and for other stories like this one, please check out my book, Audienceology at Amazon, or through my website at You can also follow me on my social media at KevinGoetz360. Next time on Don't Kill the Messenger, I welcome veteran executive and Academy Award-winning producer Cathy Schulman. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the movie-making process. Your opinions matter.


Host: Kevin Goetz

Guests: Will Packer

Producer:  Kari Campano


(Cont.) Will Packer (Film & Television Producer) Discusses his Career, Making Movies that Resonate with Audiences, and More!