Cast members Madison Iseman and Fin Argus vistited Zach Sobiech's family and friends in his hometown before filming "Clouds" in 2019. From left: Sammy Brown, Madison Iseman, Amy Adamle, Grace Sobiech, Mitch Kluesner, Fin Argus
In October 2020, Disney+ released the movie “Clouds,” an inspiring film based on the true story of teenage songwriter Zach Sobiech who rose to fame before passing away from osteosarcoma, a deadly bone cancer, in 2013. The movie, directed by Justin Baldoni, centers around Zach’s musical partnership with childhood friend Sammy Brown (played by Sabrina Carpenter) and then-girlfriend Amy Adamle (played by Madison Iseman), who stand by him as he navigates living while dying.
We asked the real-life Sammy and Amy, and Zach’s friend Mitch, what it was like to see Zach (and themselves) portrayed in a movie, and what they remember most about their friend.
How did each of you meet Zach?
Mitch: I met Zach when we were sophomores in high school. We immediately bonded over our love of science. Every Tuesday we would skip class to go to the hospital for his treatments. Through those many trips, I spent a lot of time with him in the hospital, which allowed me to see the more medical side of his battle with cancer.
Sammy: I’ve known Zach since we were toddlers. Our families went camping together growing up, and that’s where we started making music together – around the campfire. In high school, we both started taking music a lot more seriously and when we found out he was terminal, so that’s how our album “Fix Me Up” happened.
Amy: I met Zach through Sammy during our junior year. We both knew we liked each other, so by the end of junior year we started dating, and that’s when we found out he was terminal, so our relationship was pretty serious pretty quickly. We had to be really open with each other, and we had to talk about things that no one really has to talk about when you’re 17. As Zach would have said, we had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
How did finding out that Zach was terminal change your friendships with him?
Mitch: When we found out he was terminal, we had to take the approach of let’s do this today, let’s not be afraid of what other people think of us, let’s just be ourselves. He inspired us to seize the day, which sounds cliché, but that was the reality, we didn’t have much time with him and wanted to use every moment we had left.
Sammy: I feel like he taught us about mindfulness before mindfulness was a cool, trendy thing. Because senior year of high school, everyone is looking to the future, to college, but Zach knew that wasn’t going to be the case for him. So when we were all together we had to be really careful to just be in the moment and enjoy where we were at.
Amy: Our senior year was the last of so many things, but it was amplified with Zach. This was our last high school football season, but it’s also the last football season Zach will ever get to see. He taught me a lot about how to go deeper in relationships, because a lot of times high school relationships can be kind of surface-level, but when you’re in the situation we were in, you need people around you who can handle it when things get really tough.
I know that Fin Argus, who plays Zach, and Madison Iseman, who plays Amy, came to visit your hometown before they started filming – what was it like to meet them?
Amy: They’re only a couple years younger than us, and they’ve never played real people before, so it was a new experience for all of us. None of us really knew what to expect, but it went so well and it’s something I will never forget. We took them around to places we were with Zach, and we got to hang out with them in the Sobiechs’ basement and Zach’s room, places where we spent a lot of time together and that are so special to us. I actually shared a few letters that Zach and I wrote to each other with Fin and Madison so they had something to draw from outside the script.
Mitch: Having those tender moments with Fin and Madison and Sabrina, and talking with them at the Sobiechs’ house – it felt a lot like how I think it would feel if Zach were still alive.
Sammy: Meeting them definitely gave me family-reunion vibes. We did things like we would have done in high school with Zach, like all cramming into the backseat of someone’s car and driving around, trash-talking during a game of Catan – we got familiar with each other pretty quickly. And then the next weekend, Sabrina visited my place in Brooklyn, and being with her felt so normal so fast, which was weird considering how not normal the situation was. She’s a great gal.
For more, read Behind the scenes of the Zach Sobiech movie, "Clouds."
What was it like to see Fin dressed as Zach for the first time, and to be on set watching Zach’s story be turned into a movie?
Mitch: Honestly, I screamed the first time I saw him in his bald cap. He looked so much like Zach, which made it feel like I had unexpectedly ran into someone I hadn't seen in a while. Then when he started talking, it’s like “Of course it’s Fin,” and I snapped out of it, but it was a bit jolting. But being on set was incredible because it didn’t feel like the people there were doing this as a job, it felt like everyone was very invested. It was a genuine, loving atmosphere.
Sammy: I felt the same way, it’s like seeing a ghost but you can touch it. They had Fin wearing Zach’s actual clothes… your brain can’t possibly compute it. It was an intense process for sure, but it was clear that everyone was working really hard to take good care of Zach’s story.
Amy: Since everyone knew we were Zach’s friends, it sometimes felt like we were being watched a little bit. There were a lot of eyes on us when they were filming a big moment. But walking onto set for the first time, I just thought about how unbelievable it is for so many people to be working on this story that is so personal to us. That part felt special.
This movie is based on a true story, but it obviously can’t be completely true to life. What are some things it leaves out that you want to tell people about?
Amy: There’s a scene where Zach and I break up in the movie – that never happened in real life, but I understand why it had to happen in the movie to sort of give Zach’s character motivation and push the story forward.
Sammy: I want to make sure people know Amy and I were really good friends in real life, and still are! Madison and Sabrina do a good job capturing that in small moments, but they don’t get very many scenes just one-on-one with each other since it is Zach’s story.
Mitch: Neve Campbell as Laura is unbelievably good, and I also want people to know that Summer Howell, who plays Zach’s younger sister, Grace, rolls her eyes just as much as real-life Grace—so she gets a ten out of ten.
Watch the "Clouds" trailer here. "Clouds" will be released on Disney+ on October 16.
What are each of you doing now? Do you feel like Zach has directed your path in some way?
Amy: I went into journalism, which I always knew I wanted to do, even in high school. Zach knew I wanted to go into news and he really encouraged me to go for it. The connections I got from being part of his story helped me create relationships with people that helped me get into the news business. I’ve told stories of people like Zach, kids with cancer, and that’s been the most rewarding part of my career so far.
Mitch: My whole career is a response to my time with Zach; I went to the University of Minnesota and majored in biochemistry, I volunteered extensively at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, and now I research new therapies for pediatric cancers. As I’ve been exposed to others battling cancer like Zach, it has cemented my desire to do something about it. Ultimately, I want to be a pediatric oncologist and develop new therapies, so I can help patients and their families as they suffer from these horrendous diseases. This is how I keep Zach’s memory alive, while also channeling my pain into something constructive.
Sammy: I’m working as a children’s book publicist in New York, and I think my experience with Zach helped give me the courage to make that leap. I’m still making music… but it’s been a bit of a bumpy road since he died, since we always made music together. But, last year I wrote a song called “Purple Pink” that will be featured in the end credits of the “Clouds” movie. I actually finished it on May 20, 2019, which was the sixth anniversary of his death, so that sort of felt like a sign from him.
To learn more about the real people behind "Clouds," read our blog post: The True Story Behind "Clouds" and the Real Zach Sobiech.
Donate to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund
Treatments for osteosarcoma, the cancer that took Zach too soon, haven’t improved in decades. Zach wanted his legacy to change that. 100% of all donations to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund go to research for better treatments for this deadly cancer.