Five Favorite Films

Will Packer's Five Favorite Films

Almost Christmas Producer Will Packer Talks His First Production Internship and Bringing On the Tears.

by | November 8, 2016 | Comments

Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Almost Christmas, a holiday film with an amazing cast and crew, opens this Friday. We thought it would be cool to get not one, but two Five Favorite Films entries in celebration of the release. We start today with producer Will Packer, who also brought us Straight Outta Compton, About Last Night, and Ride Along. See the list here, and a followup mini-interview about working with such a stellar cast (and see part two with actor JB Smoove here).


The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 90%

Shawshank Redemption, because I love that it is about the power of the human spirit. That movie is one that I watch when I think about giving up. And that’s rare. I don’t do that anymore, but when I was first starting out in this industry, I would use that film as a metaphor for life because it was really hard and I was getting told “no” by all the studios and [wondered] if I would ever be a successful filmmaker. I would literally look and I would say, “If [Andy Dufresne] can survive and go through all that and keep his spirit then so can I, dammit [laughing].” That’s one of my favorites.

Aliens (1986) 97%

I’m a really big fan, but I also like the combination of action and a little bit of humor and the storyline. I’m a fan of that film just from a pure escapist entertainment perspective. Nothing to do with the overall themes of human nature or people surviving as a human race. None of that. It’s just fun. It’s just a fun movie.

The Usual Suspects (1995) 89%

Yes. I like that one. It was one of those I saw late. I’d talked to everyone else who had already seen it. I like the construction of the narrative in that film.

New Jack City (1991) 77%

That was the first movie that I saw that I felt really painted the picture of the gritty hardcore realities of the urban drug culture.  Done in a way that made it palatable for mainstream audiences. It was glossy and it was like that black version of an Italian mafia film. But I dug it for those reasons.

Boomerang (1992) 44%

I’m skippin’ past all my movies right now in my mind, just so you know [laughing]. You know what? I’m going to go with Boomerang. Yeah. It was either going to be Boomerang or The Color Purple, but I feel like I’m trying to pick movies that not everybody picks. So I’m going with Boomerang. It was Eddie at the height of Eddie. It was a movie that was different than you had seen him do. The romantic comedy genre, and of course Halle Berry, who was still a fresh face at that time. I really enjoyed the construction of that movie. I’m a fan of the Hudlin Brothers [Warrington and Reginald]. They actually gave me my first internship in this industry. Absolutely. Straight out of college. My first internship was on a movie they made for Miramax, called Ride. I went down to Jacksonville, Florida and I was a camera PA on that movie. I learned a lot about Hollywood production. At that point I had made a movie, but it was an independent film that I made while I was still in college. This was my introduction to Hollywood filmmaking.


Almost Christmas brings on the tears, man. What’s that about? Did you have to do that?

Gotta have that with a good Holiday movie. I mean of course you gotta have the laughter the uproarious comedy, but if you really get invested in a family, you’ve got to have heart. And you gotta have moments that pull those heartstrings. The holidays are the best of times and the worst of times. Sometimes you’re just holding on. You’re just trying to survive. And sometimes it’s just, “Oh yeah. I know why I love this family! Other times it’s like ‘How Soon Before It’s Over?'” With a movie like this you’ve got to show both sides.

Yeah, but, I’m sorry, I just thought it was mean.

I have heard that a few times [laughing] I take it as a compliment. What part got you?

Family relations stuff. And especially around the holidays. Even families at their worst — for some people it’s better still than not having that. There’s something to be said for that.

That’s right. Well said. Well said.

Hey, you put it out there! I just recapped. So, what was it like to work with such an amazing cast?

I’ll tell you this. I got this script. It was a Thanksgiving movie about a family that was trying to survive Thanksgiving after the death of the matriarch. I made a movie called This Christmas a few years ago and I had been looking for an opportunity to get back into that holiday family movie genre. And I got this script and I told Dave Talbert, the writer/director, I said, “Listen, I got one big note.” He was so nervous, he was like, “Oh my God. What? What is it?” And I said, “Let’s just make it Christmas.” And he was all in.

The first call I made after that was to Gabrielle Union. Gab and I had done a bunch of projects together and talked about producing together. I hit her up and I said, “YO G!” And she said, “What you got, Packer?,” and I said, “I got something for us.” Having her on board as an actor and as an executive producer really gave us the anchor we needed to go out and get people that are iconic: Danny Glover and people that have been in the game forever doing great movies and great work like Kimberly Elise, who I think is woefully underutilized. And JB Smoove who is so incredibly, painfully witty. He’s so funny.

And even newcomers like Jessie T. Usher and DC Young Fly. I really dig this cast. I’ve made a few of these ensemble movies. You don’t know how the cast is going to come together, but I’ve been very, very fortunate to work with some great casts that really gelled together in a really good way. You can tell onscreen when a cast is working and when it’s not, when they’re just going through the motions. This cast really had an affinity for each other.

We can tell that in the ending credits bloopers reel that you’ve got going. It is so funny. You could just tell everyone loved working with each other.

That’s how it really was on set, yeah.

So now I have to ask, what is your favorite holiday film?

Oh wow! You know what? Soul Food. I like Soul Food. I really do. That was something that was inspirational to me when I made This Christmas and even this movie. That was like the first time I had seen an African-American family that looked like my family and was available to me onscreen. I was barely making movies at the time when that came out. I really enjoyed it.


Almost Christmas opens Friday in wide release.

Tag Cloud

Thanksgiving comic canceled TV shows WarnerMedia best Turner Classic Movies VH1 binge Captain marvel Marvel Studios crime TCA RT21 doctor who Tomatazos Musical FOX die hard Amazon Studios rotten movies we love docudrama Black History Month animated hist dramedy blockbuster social media Tumblr book El Rey disaster A&E Trailer mockumentary Trivia movies batman The CW technology stand-up comedy Hulu ESPN transformers children's TV biography Podcast BET Holiday joker Comics on TV SDCC ratings south america cancelled TV series Disney zombies elevated horror classics Women's History Month comedies Television Critics Association psycho natural history Sundance Now festivals Rocketman police drama Kids & Family TNT Epix Horror New York Comic Con DGA green book toy story diversity spy thriller name the review Hallmark Trophy Talk documentaries Binge Guide Fox News cops tv talk free movies versus BBC indie Martial Arts First Look screenings criterion Election Hear Us Out movie PlayStation Spectrum Originals Baby Yoda hispanic VICE Star Trek YA Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Marvel Lionsgate franchise A24 IFC video on demand ABC Family Grammys comiccon Tubi Warner Bros. cooking Film Festival Sony Pictures TLC Amazon 45 Dark Horse Comics satire Brie Larson Quiz news Summer discovery travel unscripted 007 Netflix Christmas movies Syfy TCA Awards Music SundanceTV casting war cults sports Endgame political drama Adult Swim crossover Anna Paquin serial killer HBO Emmy Nominations First Reviews werewolf emmy awards harry potter 2020 Vudu BBC America cinemax American Society of Cinematographers chucky MSNBC Winter TV TCA 2017 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sundance Travel Channel Mary Tyler Moore Premiere Dates Tarantino Peacock BET Awards psychological thriller Television Academy jamie lee curtis LGBTQ Fall TV cancelled TV shows Superheroe Food Network BBC One CMT Reality Competition HBO Max what to watch space game show Nickelodeon 2016 Nat Geo TIFF Shudder Rocky Writers Guild of America Disney+ Disney Plus The Witch Turner TV APB reviews rotten Country science fiction Cartoon Network Rock Sci-Fi GLAAD CNN period drama MTV thriller WGN 2019 justice league obituary christmas movies blaxploitation all-time medical drama TV Land historical drama Family Amazon Prime 72 Emmy Awards Awards USA sitcom hollywood sequels based on movie GIFs directors worst See It Skip It Interview Drama LGBT universal monsters canceled Funimation DC Comics talk show politics Pixar screen actors guild Paramount DirecTV Lifetime Christmas movies Character Guide crime drama Sneak Peek quibi 21st Century Fox AMC Pet Sematary IFC Films child's play Comedy finale twilight Film Fantasy Valentine's Day sequel Video Games Classic Film OWN Spike San Diego Comic-Con TV renewals breaking bad TCA Winter 2020 HBO Go Teen indiana jones Red Carpet Watching Series E! crime thriller Action Crackle Disney streaming service The Walking Dead X-Men DC streaming service theme song Ghostbusters 2017 Mystery FXX spider-man Chernobyl superhero cartoon Shondaland Year in Review Acorn TV award winner game of thrones CBS anthology spanish language Bravo halloween Musicals films Masterpiece video nature Showtime Universal television Mudbound dragons Photos VOD Pride Month ITV BAFTA 4/20 Ovation comics golden globes Pop TV President Lifetime Freeform foreign anime ghosts Rom-Com Spring TV critics MCU Mary Poppins Returns OneApp cats YouTube Premium vampires The Arrangement Apple TV Plus SXSW teaser Apple TV+ Disney Plus Walt Disney Pictures Britbox Certified Fresh robots E3 Avengers adventure mission: impossible PBS cancelled television Polls and Games Paramount Network romance romantic comedy Reality Cannes TBS Toys spinoff TruTV singing competition Marvel Television kids Best and Worst miniseries Star Wars History Heroines revenge Pop Starz nbcuniversal zero dark thirty richard e. Grant Winners Countdown composers Sundance TV GoT strong female leads Cosplay latino dc independent zombie Logo facebook 20th Century Fox Esquire Set visit ABC series 24 frames mutant Creative Arts Emmys aliens Black Mirror Ellie Kemper cancelled Columbia Pictures USA Network Oscars Super Bowl Western Animation 2018 reboot Academy Awards Netflix parents Disney Channel CW Seed Infographic Stephen King FX Lucasfilm dark documentary Apple stop motion Elton John scary movies FX on Hulu Marathons Comic Book Nominations dogs boxoffice laika sag awards dceu 71st Emmy Awards witnail CBS All Access Mindy Kaling Song of Ice and Fire RT History Discovery Channel concert Schedule asian-american NBC stoner DC Universe Arrowverse PaleyFest cars National Geographic Christmas streaming Superheroes renewed TV shows slashers true crime Calendar adaptation YouTube Red Extras supernatural Emmys fast and furious Amazon Prime Video Mary poppins Comedy Central NYCC Pirates Hallmark Christmas movies 2015 TCM a nightmare on elm street Biopics The Purge Crunchyroll YouTube Awards Tour Box Office Holidays spain Opinion