By Erin Keating
On March 31 Roanoke alum Joe Boucher spoke to RC students about the role of the producer and the atmosphere of the Hollywood studio. The RC class of ’87 business major got onto the Fox Studio lot to work in the mailroom and worked his way up. Boucher was very humble, laid-back, and really cares about what he’s doing and wants to see Roanoke students succeed in the future. He was so friendly and it was hard to tear away from his conversations. The talk started a few minutes late because he was so engrossed in speaking to the staff and students individually.
According to Boucher, producers encompass many different roles to make a show function: writers, lawyers – frequently to fight with the censors of the network especially over what they deemed acceptable language by their broadcast standards – mentors, even coffee-runner sometimes, and have a working knowledge of literature and trends. He stressed the importance of audience connection to how film and TV are important today. One of the questions he asked was, “What would you do if money wasn’t an object?” He encouraged students to become skilled at what they loved. Boucher believes that the key to success if finding that one opportunity where you can rise.
Boucher also offered insight into some writing techniques that will give students a better understanding of the screen-play writing process. Boucher explained that film writing is content and idea based whereas TV writers need to focus on the writing and have more time to develop the character. In a movie, a dynamic character may only have an hour and a half to develop and change whereas TV characters have years to grow. We’re in a golden age of TV, according to him, but there will always be some bad material out there. Despite our perceptions of the glamorous lives of screenwriters and producers, Boucher says there’s a lot of chance left of to screenplay writing. It’s a collaboration effort, unlike some other forms of art, so it’s impossible for one person to take credit for it. Even when the final script is formed, there are still many layers of production that have to follow the writing and then it is up to the audience to decide the fate of the show. According to Boucher, “No one knows anyone in Hollywood,” because people might make all the right moves and you still not get picked up for a series.
Boucher quoted the producer of Interstellar: “A producer must know when a decision has taken so long its expensive and when expensive is worth it,” which leads to Boucher’s least favorite part of the job, making hard decisions about who gets to stay on the staff. Boucher says he absolutely hates firing people and would like to find them a new job before he fires them because he sees each person’s ability to contribute as an individual.
For those considering how to break into the screenwriting and production field, Boucher encourages students to make use of the technology available. Although some people may think that downloading and streaming pose a threat to the traditional movie industry, screenwriters can really benefit from them if they know how to take advantage of it. Even Boucher’s daughter is a successful YouTuber, showing that he is very familiar with how to become successful online.
Roanoke was and still is a big influence in Boucher’s life and the decision that he makes always comes down to what he believes will be a good idea and what he feels good about. He was very open about his desire to help and encourage Roanoke students and has been working with students in workshops as well has having one-on-one sessions with the winners of the screenplay contest.