There was only one question we wanted to ask Think Like A Man Too producer Will Packer when he walked down the McDonald’s 365 Black Awards golden carpet last weekend at the 2014 Essence Festival.
What actually makes a film a black film?
If anyone would know, it would be Packer — the super-producer is the face behind box-office successes like About Last Night, Think Like a Man, and Ride Along. And after countless arguments in GlobalGrind editorial meetings about what makes a black film, if the genre even exists, we needed to know.
“Here’s the interesting thing about that question,” Packer said. “Hollywood works with labels. And they’ve always been about compartmentalizing film so that they know who the audience is for that film.”
“I’m very proud to be a filmmaker who makes films with universal themes, but that happen to have African-Americans in front of the camera. That’s my goal. Hollywood can sometimes use that as a limiting label,” he said.
“Sometimes they will use that to say, ‘OK, this film won’t travel nationally because it’s a black film. This film won’t make as much money at the box office because it’s a black film, or we won’t give it much marketing because it’s a black film.’ Which means only blacks are the audience for that film. And I certainly make films that highlight African-Americans, but they are certainly not culturally specific. So for me, I don’t love that title the way that Hollywood can use it to limit you.”
At the end of the day, Packer said, it’s not about labeling a film a black film. What’s paramount to those labels is making sure black actors have visibility in Hollywood spaces.
“I enjoy the fact that I can do that. And I want to continue to do that. For me, it’s my mission to have positive African-American imagery. It’s powerful and I have the power to do that. I don’t run from that power. I accept it and I’m proud to be able to do that. But at the same time, I want to make films that are inclusionary and not exclusionary,” Packer told GlobalGrind.
And he’s still at it. On Thursday, Kevin Hart let us all in on the action, posting two photos of he and Ice Cube hard at work on the set of Ride Along 2:
Packer isn’t shy about making sure Hart and others always have gigs in Hollywood.
“I want to make universal films that happen to have black people in it. I think that film is becoming more and more diverse. So it’s only a matter of time before you see that label become obsolete. Film is going to become more diverse because America is becoming more diverse. There’s an economic reality to the ethnic diversity that Hollywood has to react to. They have to realize that the more diverse America becomes, the more the content made for that audience must become diverse.”
You can catch the producer, who proposed to his fiancée last year at the Essence Festival, being honored at the McDonald’s 365 Black Awards by watching the BET broadcast on August 10 at 10 p.m. EDT/9 p.m. CDT. The awards ceremony will also air on CENTRIC on August 17 at 11 p.m. EDT/10 p.m. CDT.
PHOTO CREDIT: Essence Media Center/Chris Mitchell, Instagram
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