Audio student explores family history through film in Up From The Rubble
13 Aug 2020
Audio student explores family history through film in Up From The Rubble
13 Aug 2020
Accomplished musician and Bachelor of Audio student Simon Reich is out to inspire with his latest project titled '"Up From The Rubble" - a documentary that explores his father's experience of World War II. This cross discipline project is being created as Simon's final capstone project.
Tell us a little bit about “Up From The Rubble”
I am currently a student at the SAE Institute in Melbourne, studying audio and film making. I have begun pre -production on a documentary about a survivor from World War II who has been through incredible hardships and been at pivotal historical moments during the Second World War. He just happens to be my dad.
For instance, the Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie, where a small band of the German High Command, plotted to assassinate Hitler, my dad and his mother were the live-in cleaning lady at one of the conspirators houses and when the plot failed they needed to escape quickly to save their lives. Unfortunately, their boss and his family were tortured and killed. When Hitler shot himself, my father was a mere 50mts away, in an underground bunker fearing for his life with the Russian onslaught of troops. Both his mother and himself, expected to be killed but were liberated by a group of Soviet personnel. He has stories of being bombed in a five storey apartment block which then caused his partial meltdown on the day of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Just like in the Twin Towers, the Allied bombs blew up on the top storey and caused all the subsequent stories to collapse as dad and his mother ran downstairs to the basement, but were trapped inside the building for two days while they dug out with their hands.
Trying to escape Berlin by train, became another horrific chapter in my dad’s life, as Allied fighter planes, in an attempt to stop the train, raked each side of the carriages with gunfire. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise the Nazis had laid mines on each side of the tracks, to cut off the rail entrance to the capital if needed. Warning shots ended up being the death knell of nearly 1,000 people, but amazingly my father and grandmother were standing near the gangway connection door and the explosion catapulted them down a steep ravine, which enabled them both to survive. Because dad’s only guardian was now in hospital, he roamed the bombed out streets and was eventually rounded up with all the orphans and street urchins in Berlin and pushed off to cattle carts at a train station. Even as a small boy, my father knew this was not good and subsequently escaped the soldiers, returning to the relative calm of his mother’s hospital room. The thought of what could have been at the end of that train trip, brings shudders.
He was also a part of the Berlin Airlift, where Stalin stopped all food and supplies to West Berlin in an attempt to get rid of the Allied forces and take over all of Berlin for himself. Dad (though a nine year old boy at the time) chased the American aeroplanes flying overhead, that dropped off the essential goods, so he could catch the sweets thrown through the bomb doors by the US personnel. The 70th anniversary of this momentous occasion was celebrated last year. These and lots of other tales of near death experiences and triumph over adversity would pepper this documentary and show how a war-torn refugee has made a completely new life for himself in Australia and now has a large family and new memories created in his adopted country. At a time, when the issue of refugees is quite a controversial topic, my aim is to show how people migrating from war torn countries can be a huge benefit to not only their new home, but reflect well on the country of origin. My father brought a huge amount of German taught skills to Australia and then proceeded to pass these invaluable lessons onto his apprentices.
What inspired you to create this project?
The reason for enrolling in the SAE Bachelor of Audio, was to improve my recording knowledge, as I felt my compositional skills were on an industry standard. But the skilled lecturers have shared so much information in songwriting and composing, that the one thing I felt I was quite good at, has been improved exponentially. The main reason for choosing SAE, was because they had a brilliant film department and my goal of scoring movies would be further enhanced by not only musically collaborating with the film cohort, but also establishing relationships with future bright stars of the film industry. So with this in mind, even though I am an audio student, I decided on creating a documentary about the amazing stories of my father’s World War II experience and then completely score the finished product as a showreel to my abilities in this area.
What do you hope audiences will get from watching “Up From The Rubble”?
My overall hope is that people will be inspired by the tenacity of the human spirit. Even though Manfred was surrounded by adversity, he managed to survive the war, immigrate to a new country and create a successful life. It’s truly a heart warming story.
Manfred had a harrowing experience in WWII - what lessons do you think we can learn from his circumstances in war?
Despite rampant violence, daily carpet bombing and constant fear and anxiety, my father and his mother forged on. Considering what some people are complaining about during COVID-19 lockdowns, my father went through hell! Sometimes, we need perspective, when viewing what we think are current disasters.
What does it mean for you to be able to make this film?
When I pitched this movie to the faculty, one lecturer in particular said he wished he had captured the stories of his grandmother before she died. Unfortunately they are now lost forever. This is one motivator in making this film - to convey the stories of my father, as I believe, we are now 80 years from World War II, but society has not learnt anything about the futility of war. One fantastic side benefit of this process is that as dad is interviewed, stories I have never heard before are now coming to light. My father may have coped by pushing these memories down all his life, but as he gets older, he is viewing this experience as a very cathartic process.
What do you think Manfred will think of the film?
Years ago, my father would not have wanted to be part of a project like this. He was in denial about the emotional aspects of what he saw, as a way of coping with the atrocities all around him. But time has definitely softened him and after a partial meltdown, while watching the 9/11 terrorist attacks on TV, he realised that the past was still very much a part of his daily life. I think talking about his experiences has provided a healing outlet for him later in life.
You have a background as a musician rather than a filmmaker, have you encountered any challenges in making this film?
Because I knew I wanted to do this as my capstone project, I specifically took on my elective subject, outside of my core subject, as film editing. The ability to learn about other creative media disciplines within the SAE campus, has been a huge benefit to my knowledge base in the preparation of this movie. The class provided a thorough background in documentary and the use of paper edits and flowing, engaging edits.
How has SAE been able to assist you in this project?
The magnificent, up to date film and audio equipment at the SAE campus, means this documentary will be made using apparatus I could never afford and the talented students making up both the audio and film departments are always keen to collaborate on other projects, to enhance their portfolios and gain additional experience in their chosen fields. The enthusiastic lecturers are also a great source of inspiration and ideas. Creating a capstone project is like building your own baby from scratch and the more informed advice you can get, the better the final product will be.
You also have had other success recently due to your music, could you please tell us a little more about that?
I have a large following across the world for my solo piano pieces. I regularly appear on the Soundcloud New & Hot Top 50 charts. Only last week I reached the No.1 spot with a tune I recorded at the Melbourne campus Neve studio, using the recording space acoustic piano. With these tunes, my go to method for composing is improvisation. I noodle around on the keys until I find a theme and then start the ProTools session and away we go! I often don’t know what is going to happen and it’s this “jumping into the unknown”, that creates a huge “buzz”. I often don’t hear the final piece, until I go back into the control room and listen back to the final product. It obviously resonates with audiences around the world, as I have over 1.5 Million streams!
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