For these big LA filmmakers, the pandemic gave them a new home and a new community: Boulder, Colorado

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Courtesy Focus Features
Filmmaking duo Bill Holderman, left, and Erin Simms work on the set of “Book Club: The Next Chapter.”

The engaged team of filmmakers Bill Holderman and Erin Simms moved to Boulder near the beginning of the pandemic, and they brought their work with them. 

To follow the success of their 2018 film, “Book Club,” starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen, they finished writing the sequel in their new home. 

In the much-awaited sequel, the four best friends take their book club on the fun “girls trip” they never had — a trip to Italy. Their trip becomes an unforgettable cross-country journey.

The couple are co-writers and co-producers of the film, which Holderman also directs. 

For years before moving to Colorado, Simms, who is from Montreal, and Holderman, who is from Chicago, lived and worked in Los Angeles for 10 and 20 years, respectively.

When Holderman’s kids and their mom moved to Boulder eight years ago, that began many visits to the Centennial State for the couple. 

“And then during the pandemic we decided, ‘You know what, no one needs us in person anymore. Let's go make the move that we'd been hoping to make for a while.’ So it was actually, that was the inspiration,” Holderman said. “And it was great …. All of the nature was there and open and a lot of fresh air and it was fantastic.”

“And then 10 months went by and we're like, ‘Well, I guess we better get rid of our place in LA, cause this is nuts.,” Simms said. “And I don't know if we ever realized that we were gonna be full-time Boulder people, but we never left. And of course, the pandemic went on and here we are, we're home-based Boulder.”

They also didn’t leave their filmmaking behind, bringing their work to Colorado. 

“And, and the thing that's interesting is the way that the film business works now, always, you know, a little bit chasing tax incentives and these things, you know, it's very rare to make a movie in Los Angeles,” Holderman said. “You're always in these other hubs. And so for us, we can write wherever we are. And so Boulder's a great place for us to write and the rejuvenation of being able to get out, walk out our front door and walk into the mountains and get that free fresh sense of just place and clear your mind is something that I think we really value.”

Simms acknowledged that the pandemic forever shifted everything for everybody. 

“If we're gonna be making a movie in Rome or if we're gonna be doing post-production in New York, we're certainly not gonna travel back to Los Angeles on our time off to not be with his kids. So the LA of it all just kind of stopped making sense,” Simms said.  “We love coming back here and being with people that are in our community, in our business, certainly. But by the time we left, we were a little tired of having no other kind of relationship than just people in the film industry.”

Their new film, “Book Club: The Next Chapter,” is a sequel to 2018’s “Book Club.” Stars from the first film are returning for the second.  The writing for the sequel began in LA, and in the autumn of 2019, scouting for locations in Italy began.

Holderman said they had a draft before moving to Boulder. 

“And then, when the pandemic happened, everything shifted. We got to Boulder, and truthfully, that's where the script that became the movie really took shape.” 

“We wrote it at the dining room table in our new house in Boulder,” Simms said. 

Courtesy Focus Features
Bill Holderman directs actors on the set of "Book Club: The Next Chapter."

The pair remembers that some of the big breakthroughs came in their Boulder house. Simms said, “And the day that we cracked the real element we were at Devil's Thumb Ranch, which became one of our favorite places. And we would go into the little like business conference room, we'd go for a cross country ski and we came back and we cracked something and that was it,” Sims said. “So, I mean, Colorado is deep in this.”

Though the couple is much younger than the characters in these films, they had personal inspiration for the women in the story. The exploration began while they worked for Robert Redford. They spent time thinking about and writing work that could bring actors like him back to the big screen.   

“So for us, that was part of it. And then the other part was very innocently, I was sending “50 Shades of Grey” to my mother for Mother's Day,” Holderman said. “Erin saw me doing this and thought I was crazy, but just crazy enough that she then followed suit and sent it to her mother and stepmother. And so we then we just had a very, you know, innocent talk about our moms reading these books.”

The pair are also huge fans of the four women in the cast, and wrote Book Club with them in mind.

“It was a combination of a bunch of things happening at once. Him sending 50 shades, which just blew my mind and opened my mind to this idea that I had never had before,” Simms said. “That you could still be sexual and confident and not embarrassed about your age. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It was really me wanting my mother to be inspired by that.” 

For the couple, the depiction of female friendship in movies is an important topic to consider. 

“And I think historically when you had multiple female characters, there was always a sense that they had to be in serious conflict or they had to be catty,” Holderman said.  “Erin speaks about this a lot, like that's not how she is with her female friends. There's a lot of love and there's a lot of support. And so one of the things that we really loved about the first movie and then really wanted to expand on in the second movie was making sure that that female friendship was depicted more honestly.” 

“I don't think female friendship is like kumbaya, but all of my friends, I've never had some kind of like throw down cat fight with. And I've had friends since I'm 12 years old that are still my best friends.” Simms said.  “And you know, we talked a lot about this, it's like these relationships are kind of the longest relationships you have in your life that aren't your family. They're chosen people in your life that you commit to and recommit to sometimes from when you're a little kid all the way till the very end.”

Simms added that the characters in their film don't apologize for their age. 

“And I think I've heard it a lot. I'm you know, starting to feel invisible at a certain age, especially for women. That's really what our movie's about … not accepting the things you're saying to yourself in your head. Like, I'm invisible. I no longer matter, I'm not viable,” Simms said.  “It's actually just challenging yourself to continue to take yourself seriously, continue to follow your dreams, whatever, however big or small and not feeling too embarrassed to do that.” 

Simms says she wants the women to be real and not stock depictions of older women. “Our characters can use a cell phone. They know how to operate in the world. You know, it's, you actually go to the movie and maybe you're this age and you see yourself properly represented on the screen that you're a real person who actually functions and isn't being made fun of, which I think happens a lot in movies with older people. We're not making fun of older people. We actually think they're awesome” Simms said.

Now that they have proven they can still make movies while living in Colorado, Holderman said it’s nice to feel connected to their home state and to let everyone in Colorado know that good work is being done all over the world. , 

“And you know, the truth is, I think storytellers are all across the country as we know. And for us it's fun to be able to connect with the people that are our new neighbors and, and part of our new community. Cause I think, you know, they're inspiring us and hopefully they find value in the entertainment that we're putting out as well.”

Book Club: The Next Chapter” from Focus Features opens nationwide on Friday, May 12.