Neurologist Turned Producer
Local physician happily finds himself in the film business
“All my life I’ve liked to read and write,” says Nicolas Bazan, M.D., PhD., professor and director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at LSU Health New Orleans. “I’ve written probably around 700 scientific papers over my career and about 25 technical papers, but a little over a decade ago I finished my first novel.”
That novel, “Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind”, brings to life the realities of Alzheimer’s through the trials of a fictional New Orleans street musician.
“Most people don’t realize that one of five women over the age of 65 will, for sure, have Alzheimer’s,” Bazan says. “And for men it’s one out of 11. I think we are all in denial regarding the magnitude of this issue.”
So, beyond his daily research work, Bazan chose to tackle a separate part of the problem: awareness.
“My goal with writing the novel was to reach a bigger audience — create more awareness than I can just doing the science I do,” Bazan says.
But while he may have set out to be an author, Bazan says he never imagined that his first novel would also make him a filmmaker.
“About eight years ago, Richie Adams — the director of the film — happened to be doing some filmmaking in my lab at LSU and we started talking about my novel,” Bazan says. “He became interested, and things just went from there.”
Adams and Bazan co-wrote the screenplay for what became “Of Mind and Music,” and were joined by New Orleanian Brent Caballero. All three served as producers for the film that shot entirely in New Orleans in less than two weeks with a budget of under $2 million — all of which Bazan says was funded by friends and family.
“Of Mind and Music” is currently being released in the U.S. and Canada through Monterey Media.
The title character in the film has more in common with Bazan than just his occupation. “The house the doctor lives in in the film is actually my house,” Bazan laughs. “We were going to rent another place Uptown but we couldn’t afford it.”
Bazan’s mother-in-law — who speaks only Spanish — also appears in the film as the doctor’s mother. “The actress we hired couldn’t come, so we decided to cast her. She was about 93 or 94-years-old at the time. She loved it.”
She’s not the only one: The film has received rave reviews from critics and garnered more than 12 awards on the festival circuit, including five Audience Awards. The first public screenings of the film were held for a week back in February at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center. “It was a packed house,” Bazan says.
Bazan says he feels fortunate that the film attracted “some real movie stars,” including co-stars Aunjanue Ellis (“Quantico,” “The Book of Negroes,” “Men of Honor” “The Help,” “Ray”) and Joaquim de Almeida (“Our Brand is Crisis,” “Desperado,” “Fast Five,” and “Clear and Present Danger”).
“They were all just so motivated and attached to the idea,” Bazan says. “All of them had had some kind of experience with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or dementia.”
Thrilled with the reception the film has had thus far, Bazan says he’s hopeful that it will also help contribute to the fight in a monetary way.
“Whatever money I make off the film,” he says, “I’m donating 70 percent back to Alzheimer’s disease research at the Neuroscience Center of Excellence.”
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life and is thrilled to be covering its emersion in her newly-adopted home.