For Joe Boucher, the winding path that led him to Roanoke College, the entertainment industry, and back again began with lacrosse.
Boucher was born and raised in Queens, New York. As a teenager, he got into lacrosse, and the sport led him to Roanoke College.
“We had a good lacrosse program here, that’s how I got introduced to the school,” Boucher said. “That was in fall of 1983.”
The sport was far from his only interest. Boucher was a business major, with a focus in accounting. He gave tours of the campus, which he had never seen before opting to attend.
“I hadn’t visited a lot of campuses,” Boucher said. “The financial aid came through, and this was in the range of what I could afford. I’d seen the brochure and it looked beautiful.”
Boucher was developing another interest during his time at Roanoke College, one that would bring him to California and land him in a new career: film.
Boucher’s road to the entertainment industry began with an article in Newsday, about a group of lacrosse players from Long Island playing for the U.S. National team. An idea for a film began to form in his mind, and he decided he would go to Hollywood, and try to make it.
“I called my mom, and told her I wanted to go to L.A. to make a film, and she said she thought it was a great idea,” Boucher said.
That was Boucher’s junior year at Roanoke College. During his senior year, Boucher started taking theatre arts classes, as the school didn’t have any sort of film program at the time. After graduation, Boucher went back to Queens for a few weeks, and bought a one-way plane ticket to L.A.
From there, he did a few odd jobs, selling cars and working at a gym, before showing up at the Fox Studios lot and, in his own words, talking his way into a mail room job.
Boucher worked in the mail room for 9 months. Then, as it often does, luck entered the picture in the form of the 1988 Writers’ Guild of America strike.
“I kind of had a pick of jobs. It was a good time,” Boucher said. “When the writers go on strike, and production shuts down, everyone kind of disperses, and goes back to grad school or back home to work for the family business.”
Boucher found a job working for Gracie Films, the company founded by director and producer James L. Brooks.
Brooks was a famed television producer with a long career, producing major titles like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Taxi.” By the ’80s, he was mostly working in film, but was making a slight move back into television, producing “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
Boucher found himself working on a small production team involved in a popular segment from “The Tracey Ullman Show,” an animated portion called “The Simpsons.”
When “The Simpsons” was greenlit for a 13-episode spinoff, Boucher was one of the original six-person team involved in the production.
“The Simpsons” was an immediate runaway success, eventually becoming one of the longest-running TV shows in history. Boucher served as a producer and post-production supervisor on the show for its first six years.
“It was a good opportunity for me to use a lot of my different skills,” Boucher said. “Whether it was management skills, finance skills, some art skills, or people skills.”
After leaving “The Simpsons,” Boucher went on to serve as a producer on another classic animated series, “King of the Hill.”
Boucher spent 13 years working on “King of the Hill,” taking regular trips with the writing and production team to West Texas, where the show was based, to ensure the tone and content were correct.
“It’s funny how we got the vibe right, considering most of us were from New York or L.A. or other places like that,” Boucher said.
While working in L.A., Boucher began to get back into lacrosse, coaching a kids’ team after having children of his own.
The coaching served as a gateway, leading him toward a new career in education.
“After like, 25 years of being self-centered about my own career, it felt like a good time to try to give something back.”
When a job opened up for “Director of Student Life” at Roanoke College, Boucher jumped at the opportunity. For some time, the school had been interested in him returning to start a Media Arts Program, and he was interested in the chance to come back.
“I felt like I wanted to come back home, and at that time, Roanoke College felt like as close as I could get,” Boucher said. “Most of my family had dispersed from Queens.”
Boucher came back to Roanoke College in 2012, and by 2015, had established a film festival with some of his students, the Basically Tarantino Film Festival.
Every year since, with the exception of 2020, students have produced films for the festival, with a maximum run-time of 12 minutes, and a requirement that students incorporate two lines of dialogue and two props that change each year.
“The students came up with the Tarantino idea, and some copying his style more seriously than others,” Boucher said. “Some of the students will always take it as an opportunity to make their own style of film, regardless of the ‘Tarantino’ theme.”
The film festival is entering its seventh year, with the public showcase set for 7 p.m. Monday at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke. Following that, before the end of the semester, school administration will vote on whether or not to officially begin a “film studies” degree program.
And finally, after 30 years in the making, Boucher is hoping to begin production on the lacrosse film he’s had planned since his path to L.A. started. The hope is to begin work on the film next year.
“It’s hard to explain how I came back,” Boucher said. “I always loved films, but a lot of it, I think I’d credit to lacrosse. Lacrosse has always seemed like a really spiritual thing to me.”