How ‘Bolivar’ Writer-Director Nell Teare Explored Grief in Her Debut Feature Film (Exclusive Video)

Loss is something just about any audience member can relate to, but it’s not necessarily something that everyone can mine for art. Nell Teare, the writer-director-star of the indie film “Bolivar,” faced this challenge head on in telling the story of Maggie (Teare), a professor trying to resume her career and family life after a crushing personal tragedy and divorce. She stifles her sadness by downing glasses of wine and managing a one-night stand with Jake, a bartender (Chris Petrovski) who gets pulled into her increasingly odd behavior.

In a Q&A with TheWrap’s Awards Executive Editor Steve Pond on Aug. 31, Teare was joined by her costar Robert Pine, producing partner Jerry Cope, editor Noah Harald, and casting director Jamie Castro for a special screening in L.A. During the discussion, the writer-director explained that she drew from personal experience to tell this story.

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“I lost my mother 11 years ago, and lost my dad a year ago just after we finished this,” Teare said. “I had all this grief and examination and excavation. My mom was an actress and when we were little, she always talked about how one day we would make movies together. And we’d all be in the movies together. Grief is kind of a sort of brain damage or other state of being, and the [movie’s] twist seemed like it would fit right in there. So I wrote it in three weeks and then I had a lot of time to visualize it.”

Cope was tasked with how to find an appropriate and safe way to gather the actors and crew for the production, as their shooting schedule in the middle of the pandemic proved a training ground for the new normal.

“We were waiting for the guilds to determine what the protocols were going to be. And then once they did that, we were waiting for health and safety officers to be trained and that was a whole thing. And so, you know, they, in August [2020], we were pretty confident that we could roll in September. We were actually the first film to shoot under the new protocols. And Robert was gracious enough to sign on.”

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Pine, a veteran actor who’s been in projects ranging from “Magnum P.I.” to the current AppleTV+ miniseries “Five Days at Memorial,” needed little convincing to jump aboard to play Jerry, Maggie’s tender-tough, gardening enthusiast dad.

Casting director Jamie Castro, an Emmy nominee this year for her work on the Netflix miniseries “Inventing Anna,” also loved getting back to work, with one small caveat.

“One of the roles, you know, the hot guy at the bar, Jake?” Castro said. “That was one of my first self-tape sessions, which was a bummer, because that’s one of the roles you want to see in person,” she said, prompting a hearty, knowing laugh from the audience.

Making “Bolivar,” which is currently seeking distribution, ended up being healing for Teare.

“It was very cathartic, obviously,” she said. “And the reason that Jamie and I decided that I would do this role and not just direct is because I sort of wrote myself into this. She’s a little bit more sad than I am, I’ve got a little bit more buoyancy, but I am similar in a bar,” she said.

Watch the full video above.

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