Will Packer, co-founder of Atlanta-based Rain Forest Films and producer of hit films like” Stomp the Yard” and “Think Like a Man” teamed up with R&B GrammyAward-winning singer Chrisette Michele for a special Verizon media dinner and Q & A session at the legendary Dooky Chase restaurant during the recent Essence Festival.
“Think about what is happening with technology today,” said Torod Neptune, Verizon’s Vice President of Corporate Communications. “In the last 10 years, mobile is the most significant innovation that’s taken place. Five or 10 years ago what was considered innovative was to send a text message.”
Today, not only are millions texting, but for Packer, who just signed a major deal with Universal Television to produce new projects and who has four major projects coming out in 2014, technology allows him to do his job producing movies in a more efficient and time-effective way.
His new films to be released include “Ride Along,” a comedy featuring comedian/actor Kevin Hart and Ice Cube; “No Good Deed” starring Idris Elba and Taraji Henson and the all black remake of “About Last Night” with Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy as well as “Think Like A Man 2.”
“We shoot a scene and it literally took about 24-48 hours, period,” said Packer, a Florida A&M alum who started his company with Rob Hardy while the two were students there. “Now, we shoot something this morning and by that afternoon it is on my smartphone. It is encrypted and protected and all the precautions are taken. That is where technology has come.”
For Michele, technology and social media help her connect with her fans. She has more than 417,000 followers on twitter.
“Technology has helped me to connect with all of these people that I didn’t realize would want to hear what I say,” she said. “It allows me to say hello to everybody.”
In the past artists were saddled with cost prohibitive methods of “getting the word” out about their projects and their music but today technology has made it easier to do their work.
“Hand us a camera and now we plug up to this and plug up to that,” Michele said. “Now we are able to be creative… make things ourselves to put something out there. We may not have to spend the $250,000 that artists used to spend on music videos. Now we can pay about 5G, and we shot things on phones. It puts the power back into the entrepreneurs’ hands.”
For Packer, who just signed a major deal with Universal to produce movies, new technology helps him to do his job quickly and with ease.
“When you think of Verizon you don’t think about an entertainment company supporting the arts,” Packer said. “Verizon is allowing us bandwidth, it allows artists that were shut out of the process before…You had to have hundreds of thousands to be a player, to even be part of the conversation. Companies like Verizon allow those barriers to be brought down. Now you have artists who maybe don’t have a lot of capital, can now have their voices heard.”
During the dinner Verizon gifted journalists a new Galaxy tablet by Samsung.
During the 19th Annual Essence Festival that drew more than 540,000 people to the Crescent city and added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the New Orleans economy, Packer took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend Heather on the main stage in between performances by R & B singers Jill Scott and Maxwell.
The two met at the Essence Fest four years ago. Packer and Hardy a day earlier were on a panel on the Walmart HBCU stage sharing their experiences with young aspiring film makers. The panel was moderated by Rashan Ali of Atlanta’s Streetz 94.5 FM.