Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cincinnati Pastor Directs Successful Poker Movie


March 23, 2011

Cincinnati Pastor Directs Successful Poker Movie

 “I never exactly know how to answer the person next to me on the airplane who asks me what I do for a living,” says Joe Boyd, 37. “I mean, I’m a pastor…that’s what I was trained to do. But I am also an actor, a movie producer and an author of fantasy novels. It’s a complicated answer.”

Boyd never intended to be anything other than a pastor. He graduated from Cincinnati Christian University in 1995 and immediately went to Las Vegas to start a church for twenty-somethings. As a Christmas gift, Boyd’s wife enrolled him in The Second City Training Center in 2001. (The Second City is a renowned comedy school with many famous alumni including Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Tina Fey and Steve Carell.) Boyd personally studied under current Saturday Night Live star Jason Sudeikis.

“What started as a hobby quickly become a second career,” Boyd reflects. “I began doing my work at the church as a volunteer and performed improv comedy nightly on the Las Vegas Strip.” So Boyd went from the pulpit to the casino literally overnight. He played the role of Michael Just for over 500 shows in the Las Vegas/Broadway company of Tony n Tina’s Wedding. From there Boyd moved to Los Angeles in 2005 to pursue acting. He landed many small roles in movies and TV shows including a recurring role on ABC’s General Hospital.

“I was happy to be a working actor, but I didn’t really want to be doing soap operas and Ford commercials forever. I decided to take matters into my own hands and write the sort of movie I would want to be in.” That’s when he wrote the screenplay for a poker-based comedy called Hitting the Nuts.

Then the unexpected happened. “The Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati called me looking for a teaching pastor. At first I was honored, but not interested. However, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So I called them back six months later and before I knew it, I was moving my family from L.A. to Cincinnati.” That was the summer of 2007.

Boyd showed up at his new pastorate with a half-finished movie in tow. “I told them that I really wanted the job, but that I had to finish this movie. It’s not a Christian movie or anything. It’s a relatively mainstream PG-13ish comedy about poker.” The church agreed that Boyd could finish the project over his vacation time. It took several years to complete, but Hitting the Nuts premiered on October 8, 2010 at the Cincinnati Film Festival, where it won the audience choice for Best Feature Film. It trailed that with another Best Feature Film win at the Derby City Film Festival in February. In short, the movie was not only finished, but became a recognized success.

The word of an award-winning poker movie leaked out to the international poker community, causing a recent burst of interest in the film. “I checked Google last week to find that there were hundreds of online articles written about the movie in 24 hours – many of them in places like Russia, Germany and Sweden. It seems like people all over the world want to see this movie. Which, of course, is a great thing for a producer to discover.”

Boyd and his company, Rebel Pilgrim Productions, have decided to self-distribute a limited amount of DVDs on the film’s website at Pre-orders for the April 15th release began last week.  “Our current strategy is to sell DVDs to the thousands of people who have been asking us for the movie. Then we’re going to take the data to a distributer and get this thing out to the world. I have no doubts it will be a success.”

It seems that Boyd isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He has two films in production now:  A drama, Fenced Off, is set to release later this year. And his biggest project to date is a romantic comedy called A Strange Brand of Happy starring Grammy Award winner Rebecca St. James. That movie shoots this fall in Cincinnati. As he says, “I moved from Hollywood to Ohio to become a pastor again. Turns out, it was the best career move I ever made as a filmmaker. I’m getting to do both of my dream jobs at once…in Cincinnati, a city I love. I’m a blessed guy.”

For more information on the movie visit the official site at

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