We’ve all seen the “home invasion” thriller flicks. Panic Room, The Purge -- there’s literally a film called, Home Invasion. It’s definitely quite the recycled concept. What producer Will Packer calls it, “a well-worn genre.” But, with Breaking In, starring Gabrielle Union, the trope is turned on its head via the film’s mighty maternal unit.
Directed by James McTeigue, “Breaking In” follows single mother Shaun Russell (Union) who fights to protect her family after four criminal convicts -- who desire her deceased father’s prized safe -- seizes their Malibu home, with her children, Glover (Seth Carr) and Jasmine (Ajiona Alexis) trapped inside. Thus, Shaun has to break into her own home to save them.
With Breaking In comes yet another booming Packer production, who teams up with James Lopez, Craig Perry and Sheila Taylor. Union serves as a producer on the film, as well.
We sat down with Packer to discuss the power of telling the story of badass black female characters, taking even more risk moving forward after the success of Girls Trip, his other upcoming projects and his advice for aspiring black storytellers.
Oh, and how a giraffe ended up hijacking the Breaking In set. Yes, a giraffe.
From the moment Packer’s rumbling greeting echoed through the phone’s speakers, it was apparent that we were in for non-stop positive energy. “Mother’s Day (is coming up) and it’s a celebration of mothers -- Gabrielle Union -- whoopin’ ass!”
Packer pondered on just how powerful that image is, in fact. “For decades, we’ve had the white male protagonist who is confronted with this impossible situation and predicament where he has to save the day,” mused Packer. “If you have a woman -- especially a woman of color -- they were the damsel-in-distress or a supporting character and they weren’t centered in the film.”
Packer also touched on his own track record, which he’s very proud of. As he describes Union’s character, “she’s not supermom or robo-mom.”
“One of my favorite lines in the movie is when one of the bad guys says, she’s ‘just a mom’. And that turns out to be the understatement of the year. Because yeah, she is just a mom. But, guess what? That’s enough! Especially, this mom,” he said.
From the looks of the trailer, Breaking In is sure to provide the audience with a lot of surprises and possibly some jump-scares. But, the cast and crew were in for a surprise themselves while filming the movie. As the bulk of the film takes place at night, Packer recounted how they were in the middle of Malibu, California... but, the cast and crew certainly weren't alone.
“We found this big ranch called Malibu Farms. And on this farm, they have animals all over the place. They had giraffes, turtles, horses and peacocks… I think it might have been a hippo on set!,” Packer recalled. “So, there was a shot where we were supposed to be in the middle of nowhere and a giraffe walks into frame!”
He went on to explain how unique of an experience it was for the crew to have to gather the giraffe so that it wasn’t in their shot. “In 27 movies, I’d never had a giraffe accidentally walk into frame!”, he exclaimed.
Twenty-seven films, indeed. And in that journey, Packer purports himself as someone who has always taken risks and had a strong desire to tell our stories. With the unique success of films such as Girls Trip, Packer is now further inspired to push Hollywood to join him in taking such risks. As Packer put it, he has gotten more “swings at the bat,” to tell an even wider variety of stories following that film’s success.
And Packer certainly isn’t slowing down! On our radar right now, is What Men Want (the What Women Want remix starring Taraji P. Henson, now in production), Ambitions, a new soap on OWN and the BET dramedy, Peachtree Place. “Ah man, I’m excited!,” said Packer, on “running the whole gamut” in television where he has a drama, unscripted series (Ready To Love) and a comedy.
“I’ve got another project called Little with Marsai Martin where she’s serving as an executive producer, from a concept that she brought to me where a woman wakes up in the body of a teenager, who’s played by Marsai,” he said.
As we wrapped up, Packer delved on his current power and influence in the industry, which he is intentionally using -- as his responsibility -- to tell an array of stories across many different platforms.
So, what advice does he have for the next generation of storytellers? “Never give up,” he said, firmly. “Period. Never ever give up. This is an industry that is challenging on many levels, but (specifically), it can be very challenging to your self-esteem and your self-confidence. Unlike in other industries, this industry often tells creators, storytellers, actors or writers that you aren’t enough. ‘You aren’t enough, you don’t have the skill set, your ideas aren’t good enough, your movie wasn’t good enough.’ There’s a lot of judgement of individuals. And it’s easy to take that stuff personal. But, those that succeed in this industry, take the notes, take the criticism, take the setbacks and believe in themselves… and keep plowing ahead. You gotta believe in you! If you believe in you, then anybody else external to you? Their opinion becomes far secondary.”
Breaking In shatters into theaters on Friday, May 11.