We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘respect your elders”, yet how often do we have the chance to ask, and listen, to our grandparents’ wisdom? In Lives Well Lived, filmmaker Sky Bergman acquires a collective of 3,000 years of life experience to show that growing old doesn’t mean growing silent. See lives-well-lived.com.
How did you select who to interview?
The project began with my grandmother. When she was about to turn 99 years-old she was still going to the gym. It was phenomenal to see the energy she exuded at her age so I thought I should film her and ask for a few words of wisdom. After I put together the video of her at the gym, it inspired me to find other people out there who were over the age of 75, living life to the fullest. I sent out an email to about 1000 people and asked if they had someone in their lives that they wanted to nominate for the project. At that point I had no idea that it would become a feature-length film. I realized that it was important tell as many different stories as I could; so I sought out people that demonstrated a spectrum of experiences that would be relevant and inspiring to younger generations.
A lot of the people you interviewed had lives affected by World War II. Is that something you had expected?
I was surprised by an unexpected story line that emerged from the generation most impacted by WWII. As their stories unfolded it was evident that these were ordinary people who rose to the challenge of extraordinary times. I believe it is the reflective nature behind Lives Well Lived that provided a platform for their personal stories to prompt future generations to understand that democracy and human rights are fragile and to hopefully be inspired by the unbreakable human spirit.
What’s the most valuable lesson you gained from meeting these people?
I think the most valuable lesson of the film is that each of the people that were interviewed overcame great life challenges yet have developed a positive way of looking at life. I think my favorite quote from the film by Dr. Lou Tedone sums it up well, “Happiness is a state of mind. You can be happy with what you have, or miserable with what you don’t have. You decide.”
What inspired the questions you asked the interviewees?
I had a list of 25 questions that I asked each of the interviewees. I worked with many people to come up with the questions, because I felt that I had a great opportunity to capture the thoughts of an age group that is usually not listened to. I also consulted with a few of the social science professors at Cal Poly and they provided additional insight.
Why is it important for you to define a life well lived?
I started working on this project as I was approaching 50 years old. At that point in life, it is a good time for reflection.
What is your definition of a life well lived?
My definition of a life well lived is to be kind and loving, to try to learn something new every day, and to be grateful for what each new day will bring.