Music Saved My Life: The Lady in Number 6
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  • Post published:13/05/2021
  • Post last modified:13/05/2021

People keep asking me how “The Lady in Number 6” came about, so why not explore how I got to meet the unbelievable Alice Herz Sommer.

It was two years ago.

As a member of the Academy of Motion Picture, I had just seen the documentary sections, and was struck at the power and brilliance of the people featured. Ordinary people with amazing mentalities doing extraordinary things. At moments like that, the mind slips into neutral and just spins. I went for a bathroom break.

That was when I decided I would do one good thing each year. For me, that meant finding a person who had achieved something remarkable, someone who could teach us something so beneficial it would make our time on earth seem a little more special.

The next day, I called an Oscar winning documentary filmmaker (also an ex-client of mine from my days at the Hollywood talent agency ICM) and said, “I want to make a documentary every year, any ideas?”

The Lady in Number 6“It’s funny you should ask,” was his response. Coincidentally, he had received a call about a woman living in England named Alice Herz Sommer. One-hundred and seven at the time, Alice was the oldest pianist in the world and, even more unbelievable, had survived a concentration camp. I knew I’d found something remarkable.

I told him to start work that day. I called a friend in London, Chris Branch, who I had done a few films with. We’d made some profit on our last project, and I told him I wanted all of it back to make this new idea a reality. You’ll probably lose all the money, I told him, but here is this amazing women and here is why we need to do this film. Without blinking, Chris said, “I’m in!”

So our documentary was born. The more we learned, the more incredible the story became.

Steven Spielberg met with her while doing research on Schindler’s List. She spoke four languages, even more amazing considering the vast repertoire of songs she’d memorized. Her friends talked about how powerful an influence her music had on them as prisoners. How it hardened their resolve and gave them hope.

For all of them, surviving a concentration camp had become a second chance at life, one that brought a sense of appreciation few experience. It was life-changing, hearing these stories and the wisdom that had stemmed from them. Unforgettable little bits like “put as much as you can in your head because no one can take that away from you” and “few things matter in life, your health and human interaction, nothing else really matters.”

Several months later, I spent some time alone with Alice. Looking for more insight into her old age, I asked her what I now realize were “shallow” questions.

“What do you eat?” I asked, thinking there was some magic food source, to which she replied Meals on Wheels, and then described to me how the service worked. Clearly diet wasn’t behind her vigor, nor was it the reason she was always laughing.

I often think about what I learned from my experiences making a documentary with and about Alice.

For starters, the human brain is remarkable. It causes stress, love, hate, and worry. Yet with practice it can focus only on good. When it’s not focused on the positive, important energy is being wasted. Energy which is limited, and burnt, by stressing and worrying.

Alice Herz SommerI learned we need to be more involved with our families at home. We must be awake and share experiences with our children. For Alice, the atmosphere in the home is more important than the one at school. In a time where every country in the world is fretting over less money for schooling, it makes sense we should instill a sense of wonder and learning at home.

We owe it to our children to watch more documentaries. Kids all over the world grow up on superheroes. What we, their parents, must remind them, is documentaries tell stories about real superheroes. Superheroes are based on great people, real people, like Alice Herz Sommer. The best documentaries are about great people who have made a difference. They know the first step to change is very powerful. We should all follow that mantra!

As a family, why not pledge to watch one documentary a week? Start by working your way through the Oscar nominated films. It doesn’t get any better than that.

By the time I had finished my visit with her, I couldn’t help feeling I hadn’t done enough to grow as a person or to help others. Alice Herz Sommer is the type of person you walk away from thinking “I am not worthy.”

Was I doing my bit to make the world a better place?

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was Alice’s example should be followed, rather than used as a comparison for myself. Thank you, Alice, for teaching us all such important lessons on living. Happier and healthier.

“The Lady in Number 6” Trailer

 

Please visit “The Lady in Number 6″  website

 

Photo Credits

All Photos Courtesy Of Nick Reed


Guest Author Bio

Nick Reed
Nicholas ReedProducer of “The Lady in Number 6”, Nick Reed segued into the world of marketing before embarking on a Hollywood career. He began as an actor on films directed by Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, then joined mega-talent agency, International Creative Management, eventually heading up its Motion Picture Literary Department.

He has been involved with successful films including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Elizabeth, Training Day, and the Bourne series.

Blog / Website: Nick Reed

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