The True Story Behind “Clouds” and the Real Zach Sobiech (2023)

In October 2020, Disney+ released the movie “Clouds,” an inspiring film about 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, chronicles Zach’s senior year of high school and the last year of his life. When the movie begins, Zach (played by Fin Argus) has already been fighting cancer for several years, and he’s recently found out his cancer is terminal. So he sets out to write several songs as a way to say goodbye to his family and friends.

But how much of “Clouds” is based on the real Zach Sobiech?

(Video) Meet Zach Sobiech | My Last Days

The Real Zach Sobiech

The real Zach Sobiech was a teenager and singer/songwriter from Stillwater, Minnesota. “Clouds” is based on the book “Clouds: A Memoir” written by Zach’s mom, Laura Sobiech. Laura wrote the book in just 12 weeks, shortly after Zach passed away on May 20, 2013.

“Writing a book sounded so intimidating, but I decided to follow Zach’s lead and say yes to opportunities that came my way," Laura said. "That’s what he always did in the last year of his life – say yes to things – even when it was scary.”

Learn more about Laura's experience writing her book in our blog post, "Clouds: A Memoir" - Q&A with Author Laura Sobiech

Discovering Zach’s Music

Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was just 14 years old. A few years later, doctors told him his cancer was terminal. That’s when Zach, who learned to play guitar when he was little, decided to write a handful of songs to say goodbye to his friends and family.

His most popular song, “Clouds,” went viral, first in his home state of Minnesota, then across the United States and around the world. “Clouds” and Zach’s story attracted the attention of Justin Baldoni, who was directing a documentary series called “My Last Days” about people who were living while dying. Justin became close to the Sobiechs while shooting the documentary, which inspired him to turn Zach’s story into a movie.

(Video) Clouds: History vs. Hollywood

The True Story Behind “Clouds” and the Real Zach Sobiech (1)

Fin Argus, who plays Zach, used Zach's real crutches while filming "Clouds."

Watch “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech” here. Justin worked closely with Zach’s family while bringing Zach’s story to life, even having Fin Argus, the actor who plays Zach, wear Zach’s own clothes and use his real crutches while shooting.

“Clouds” continued to gain popularity during 2013, hitting #1 on iTunes the day of Zach’s funeral.

(Video) Clouds by Zach Sobiech

For behind-the-scenes fun facts, read:Behind the scenes of the Zach Sobiech movie, “Clouds.”

Zach’s Friends, Sammy and Amy

Zach’s best friend Sammy Brown, played by Sabrina Carpenter, and girlfriend Amy Adamle, played by Madison Iseman, were two of Zach’s biggest supporters while he fought cancer during his senior year of high school. Sammy and Zach, friends since they were toddlers, had been making music together in a band called A Firm Handshake. One of their songs featured in the movie, called “Fix Me Up,” was Zach and Sammy’s goodbye song to each other.

Amy and Zach had been friends during high school, and started dating after Zach found out his cancer was terminal.

“She sat down with her mom and talked through it, and what they decided was, would you date him if he didn’t have cancer? And she said, yeah,” Laura said. “She really helped him through some hard times.”

Amy and Zach dated throughout their senior year of high school and even attended prom together shortly before Zach’s death in May 2013. Amy and Sammy both had the opportunity to meet Sabrina Carpenter and Madison Iseman, and were able to visit the “Clouds” set during shooting.

(Video) Inspiration behind 'Clouds'

For more about Amy and Sammy, read our blog post: Zach Sobiech's friends and then-girlfriend talk "Clouds" movie

Zach’s Movement

Before Zach passed away, he and his family decided to create the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund to raise money for better treatments and cures for osteosarcoma. Proceeds from Zach’s music go towards his fund, which has raised millions for osteosarcoma research. Zach was inspired to give back in this way not only because of his own struggle with osteosarcoma, but because he watched other kids go through harsh cancer treatments alongside him.

“I often think about a moment during Zach’s fight where he was sharing a hospital room with a young boy, who also had cancer,” Laura said. “He said to me, ‘Mom, if I had to die so that little boy could live, I would.’ Ever since, that’s been the goal of the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund – to use Zach’s story and legacy to fund research that will save the lives of kids with osteosarcoma.”

In the seven years since Zach’s death, researchers funded by the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund have made 16 new genetic discoveries about osteosarcoma and opened a clinical trial for a new drug to treat the disease.

“Without the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, and Zach’s vision of developing a program focused on osteosarcoma, we would not have the core of researchers and scientists and dedicated effort that led literally in the last five years from an idea to a national clinical trial for patients with osteosarcoma,” said Brenda Weigel, MD, MSc, a clinician and cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Weigel was also Zach’s oncologist.

(Video) Justin Baldoni’s Promise | Clouds | Disney+

In 2020, Children’s Cancer Research Fund collaborated with the Sobiech family to create Zach’s Movement with a goal of raising awareness and continuing Zach’s legacy to defeat osteosarcoma. Learn more about Zach’s Movement here.


The True Story Behind “Clouds” and the Real Zach Sobiech? ›

Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was just 14 years old. A few years later, doctors told him his cancer was terminal. That's when Zach, who learned to play guitar when he was little, decided to write a handful of songs to say goodbye to his friends and family.

What is the story behind Clouds by Zach Sobiech? ›

Background. At age 14, Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that mostly affects children. In May 2012, Sobiech's doctors informed him that he had up to a year to live. Sobiech recorded the song "Clouds" about his battle with cancer.

Was Zach alive during the filming of Clouds? ›

Baldoni reveals that while Zach was still alive, he promised the teen “that I would do whatever was in my power to keep his story alive. To keep him alive.” The resulting film is “Clouds,” titled after Sobiech's hit song.

Did Zach Sobiech pass away? ›

What disease did Zach Sobiech have? ›

Doctors diagnosed Zach Sobiech with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, when he was just 14. In his final year of high school, he learned the cancer had spread and he only had six months to a year to live. He then decided to follow his dream of being a musician.

What is the original story of Clouds? ›

The real Zach Sobiech was a teenager and singer/songwriter from Stillwater, Minnesota. “Clouds” is based on the book “Clouds: A Memoir” written by Zach's mom, Laura Sobiech. Laura wrote the book in just 12 weeks, shortly after Zach passed away on May 20, 2013.

How did Cloud forget Zack? ›

How does Cloud forget about Zack? We know that after Zacks death, Clouds mind was warped by trauma and that he essentially turned himself into a Cloud/Zack hybrid taking on some of Zacks persona and history while seemingly erasing Zacks existence from his memory.

How long were Zack and Cloud captured? ›

He managed to kill a weakened Sephirot by being basically to stubborn to die. Cloud and Zack were captured experimented on for 5 years, by following a procedure that was basically the same as the one used to create SOLDIERs, Cloud survived by it was severely weakened by Mako Poisioning.

How did Zack come back to life? ›

Those who completed Final Fantasy 7 Remake saw a late-game scene showing that Zack is still alive in that timeline. By defeating the Whispers and changing their destinies, the game's heroes opened the door to new possibilities, which evidently includes Zack surviving the Shinra onslaught.

Was Sammy in love with Zach? ›

Yes. The real Sammy Brown has shared that she and Zach grew up together, and there was a moment in real life where Zach found out that she had a crush on him.

What hospital did Zach Sobiech go to? ›

Summer: Zach is diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 14 years old. December: Zach began protocol chemotherapy for osteosarcoma at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

Did Zach Sobiech go to prom? ›

Amy talked it over with her mom, and her mom asked her, "Would you still date him if he didn't have cancer?" Amy said yes. Zach and Amy continued dating throughout their senior year of high school. Zach even took Amy to prom not long before his death in May 2013.

How accurate is Clouds? ›

Yes. Clouds is based on the true story of Zach Sobiech. Sobiech grew up in Lakeland, Minnesota, and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma—an aggressive tumor of the bone—when he was 14. He died of complications with cancer a little over a week after his 18th birthday, in 2013.

What is the meaning of osteosarcoma? ›

Osteosarcoma (also called osteogenic sarcoma) is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones. The cancer cells in these tumors look like early forms of bone cells that normally help make new bone tissue, but the bone tissue in an osteosarcoma is not as strong as that in normal bones.

What happens to Zach in Clouds? ›

The movie transitions to showing Zach's mother (Neve Campbell) finding his college essay and reading it. She's in the grieving process as it's clear that Zach has died. After the first credits, we see Sammy and Amy taking pictures with friends and they notice a cloud in the shape of a Z behind them--a sign from Zach.

What is the message of the movie Clouds? ›

Zach Sobiech inspires others to do the same as he: make the most of life. In the film, Zach Sobiech (Fin Argus) tells viewers that you don't have to be told you are dying in order to start living.

What is the purpose of the movie Clouds? ›

Parents need to know that Clouds is the true, often sad story of Zach Sobiech (Fin Argus), a teenager diagnosed with terminal cancer who became known to many via his hit song "Clouds," which was recorded in the final months of his life. But the movie has a generally positive tone, thanks to Zach's natural good nature.

What happens in the movie Clouds? ›

Seventeen-year-old Zach Sobiech is a fun-loving high school senior with raw musical talent. But a few weeks into his senior year, just after asking out his long-time crush, Zach's world gets turned upside down when he finds out his cancer has spread, leaving him with a life expectancy of just six months.


1. Zach Sobeich, One Year Later | My Last Days
2. Clouds Cameos: Zach's Family and Friends in the Movie
(History vs. Hollywood)
3. Zach Sobiech "Clouds" Celeberity Music Video | My Last Days
4. Zach Sobiech’s Family Reflects On ‘Clouds’ Movie Before Disney+ Release
(WCCO - CBS Minnesota)
5. Clouds - An Inspirational True Story | Disney+ Original Movie Review
(Smells Like Teen Angst)
6. Fin Argus & Neve Campbell on Disney+'s Clouds & the true story of a viral sensation
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