The golden hour is near as Oscar producer Will Packer prepares to give his take on the 94th Annual Academy Awards on March 27.
It will be different. For starters, the Florida A&M University graduate shakes things up by injecting three funny women — Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes — to host.
He also assembled an all-black production team to put on the biggest night in the industry.
For the first time, non-industrial moviegoers were asked to announce Oscar nominations, a “sign of things to come,” Packer said on his Instagram page of the historic moment.
Now add three scores of music throughout the night and some of the biggest musical stars in the industry are gearing up to perform: Beyonce, Billie Eilish, Reba McEntire and Sebastian Yatra.
The ‘Girls Trip’ producer hosts a show of a lifetime, despite controversy over the Academy’s decision to drop eight craft categories from the live broadcast. The move sparked a backlash as several A-list actors urged the Academy to reconsider.
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In Tallahassee, many locals and Rattlers will be watching the Oscars to cheer on the St. Petersburg native, who earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1996 at FAMU, from a distance.
Last year, the university’s new amphitheater was named in honor of Packer.
Valencia Matthews, dean of FAMU’s College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, said she looks forward to an Oscars production in Packer’s capable hands.
“For our FAMU family, our FAMUly, the fact that kids are watching him, students are watching him, and they’re hearing his name,” Matthews said. “They know the work he’s done… As a theater person, I think all the time and the people behind the scenes that you never see.”
Still, Packer is no stranger to the limelight.
Film by film, Packer has spent years building his career with blockbuster hits like “Ride Along” (2014) and “Straight Outta Compton” (2015). He has worked on over two dozen films that have grossed over $1 billion worldwide.
Talahassee and Thomasville Golden Moment:
Matthews said Packer’s ability to assemble an all-black production for the Oscars is a monumental step toward inclusion in an industry and awards show marked in years past for its lack of diversity, even earning the hashtag # OscarsSoWhite.
“You always have to look at what happens before the scene, what happens on and what happens after,” she said. “Somebody, the bodies put this together. And that’s where we need to be; in all these spaces.”
In a speech when FAMU dedicated the amphitheater in his name, Packer spoke about the performance and how the university prepared him for the road ahead.
“I choose to view this not just as an honor for me as an individual, but as what I represent – a (historically Black College and University) graduate who entered FAMU with no Hollywood connections or knowledge industry, who was able to go and find my voice, find my vision, find my passion and shape my dream and I was able to do that,” Packer said. “To me, that’s the biggest statement.”
Contact TaMaryn Waters at [email protected] or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.