Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey

Journey performing in Manila, in the film DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY, a Cinedigm/ Docurama Films release 2013. Photo courtesy of Ferdie Arquero and Nomota LLC.

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey (2012/2013)

Opened: 03/08/2013 Limited

Limited (20+)03/08/2013
NoHo 703/08/2013 - 03/21/201314 days
Quad Cinema/NYC03/08/2013 - 03/21/201314 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Facebook

Genre: Music Documentary

Rated: R for some language.

From the slums of Manila, to star-spangled hysteria.


Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey follows the real life rock 'n' roll fairy tale of Filipino Arnel Pineda, who was plucked from YouTube to become the front man for iconic American rock band Journey. In this Cinderella story for the ages, Arnel, having overcome a lifetime's worth of hardships, must now navigate the immense pressures of replacing a legendary singer and leading a world-renowned band on their most extensive world tour in years.

Director's Statement

It was the winter of 2008. I had just finished shooting a documentary that took two years to film, and I had to face the daunting task of sifting through six terabytes of footage. The Internet was a great source for avoiding what ultimately had to be done. As I was procrastinating, an email from a cinematographer friend from Manila caught my attention. It was titled "Best U.S. Embassy Visa Application Story I've Ever Heard." As a Filipino living in America, I was very familiar with these sometimes funny, but mostly sad stories of trying to get to the promised land. I read it and was in stitches.

It was written by one of the immigration agents at the American Embassy in Manila, and it was about this guy Arnel Pineda, who said that the reason he was going to the U.S. was that he was invited by the band Journey to audition for lead vocals. "Journey? The rock band Journey?" Arnel nodded meekly, producing some flimsy emails and correspondence from the band. In a dubious voice, the agent asks Arnel to sing "Wheel In the Sky." Arnel belts it out loud enough for the entire waiting room to stop and listen to an amazing rendition of an old classic. "Look sir, there isn't a person in this Embassy who would believe that story--going to try out for Journey! So I tell you what, I'm giving you that visa. You're going to try out. And you're going to make it." The email ends with a link to the YouTube clip of Arnel singing "Faithfully."

As I watched the clip, I got goose bumps. I Googled Arnel and discovered that he DID get the gig, and was now about to record and go on tour with Journey. I forwarded the email to my manager in Los Angeles, Peter McHugh, with a note saying someone should really make a documentary film about this. He emailed right back with "YOU should. I will track down their management."

After tussling with Imelda Marcos (the former first lady of the Philippines, about whom I had made a film) in open court for sullying her "good name"--even though she had signed an airtight personal release--I swore I would never make a film about anyone famous again. And on top of that, Journey? The thought of music rights clearances was already making my head hurt. Little did I know that Peter was serious, and soon enough I was talking to John Baruck, the band's manager--and my filmmaker self could not stay away from a great story.

After some back and forth, they decided that they were not ready for a documentary to be made about them. "Maybe next year," was the decision. I said, "Next year, there is no story. This year is the story. Let me film one day with the band rehearsing with Arnel. I'll put together a ten-minute sample, and if you decide there's no story, you'll never hear from me again." This was also my way of hedging my bets--what if this was a ten-minute film? Iconic rock band finds unknown on YouTube, period. What if Arnel was not really willing to be filmed?

All my doubts were put aside when I was finally allowed to film for one day and met Arnel in person. I found him to be profoundly articulate about his inner life, and a genuinely nice person with an extraordinary personal history. Documentary gold. I cut a ten-minute sample for the band and sent it off. John Baruck got back to me immediately. I remember the phone call because I had just wrapped a day of shooting a commercial, and I was afraid to return his call and get a negative verdict. When I finally got the energy to call back, John said, "Okay, when can you get your crew out here?"

Well, be careful what you pray for. I had no money to go out there and just follow the band on tour! Meanwhile, Capella Fahoome Brogden, an established producer based in Baltimore, got in touch after seeing the sample. I told her where I was with it and she said, "Let's just do it." I reminded her that these things cost money. She had a little put away and she was willing to gamble what she had to start the process. So with a lot of trepidation and a gigantic leap of faith--I had never made a film without funding in place--we crewed up and joined the band on tour.

Journey had been touring for some thirty years by the time we joined them on the road. It is a well-oiled machine with very many moving parts. Imagine a big organization moving locations--personnel, equipment, even the cafeteria--every other day or so. That's what touring with a big act is like. To insert ourselves into this scenario was not an easy task. Although the band's management agreed that my crew and I were going to be filming every aspect of the tour, little did we know how unprepared the company was for us. They were used to the networks parachuting in for a day or two to film short pieces for the morning talk shows and then leaving--out of their lives and never to be seen or heard from again. But filming day in and day out for a feature length documentary? The road manager had to integrate us into a fragile ecosystem. And some days were tougher than others, like when Arnel was sick or the sound check didn't go as planned. There were so many things that could go awry. I remember filming Neal Schon in the dressing room right before a show and, per usual, he was practicing on his guitar. After a few minutes, he looked up and said, "You're still here?" Uh, this was months into the filming. "Yes, Neal, we're still here. "

And on our part, it was tough keeping up with this humungous moving caravan. With extremely limited resources, Capella, myself, and the crew--along with our equipment and luggage--were crammed into a mini van driving all night, singing Journey songs to stay awake after having filmed the entire day, and trying to keep up with big tour busses as they raced through highways and byways to get to the next stop--only to do it all over again the next day.

What kept us going was a great story, and Arnel remaining open and accessible throughout the summer. In some ways, we ended up being his companions on the road. For starters, I was the only other person who could speak Filipino and I believe Arnel found comfort in being able to lapse into his native tongue. If we had filmed him in subsequent years (he finished his fifth tour with the band this past summer), we would have ended up with a very different film. By the second year, he had a roadie, his wife, and a few friends traveling with him; the entire dynamic had changed forever.

As a documentary filmmaker, one of the most exciting things about the process is not knowing how it's all going to turn out. Observing life as it unfolds through the prism of the camera's lens is a privilege. The fact that Arnel was--and remains--successful makes this a feel-good film. It's a quintessentially modern rags-to-riches story, one that could only have happened in this self-referential age of social media. And no matter how cliche it seems, it really is a story of never giving up. Or, at the very least, surrounding yourself with friends who never stop believing in you.

As Capella, Josh Green (Executive Producer), and I have travelled to film festivals the world over, it is apparent to us that audiences young and old feel a powerful kinship with Arnel. Over and over again, the hearty bursts of applause and standing ovations have overwhelmed us. Audiences truly like Arnel, they want him to succeed, they root from him because his success affirms that in this crazy world we live in, good things still happen to good people. He truly is everyman.

I resist calling this a music documentary. It is a documentary that has, at its center, a profoundly charismatic figure with a great story to tell. And yes, it also has great music. You will leave the theater humming.

-- Ramona S. Diaz, Director

Selected Festivals

  • 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, Spotlight
  • 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival, Closing Night
  • 2012 Silverdocs, Opening Night
  • 2012 NewportFilm Special Screening
  • 2012 Traverse City Film Festival, Audience Award Winner
  • 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival
  • 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival
  • 2012 DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, Closing Night
  • 2012 Sound Unseen Minneapolis Film Series
  • 2012 New Hampshire Film Festival, Audience Award Winner
  • 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival, Gala Screening
  • 2012 Citizen Jane Film Festival
  • 2012 Gold Coast Film Festival
  • 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival
  • 2012 Savannah Film Festival
  • 2012 San Diego Asian Film Festival, Opening Night
  • 2012 Naples Film Festival
  • 2012 Virginia Film Festival
  • 2012 St. Louis International Film Festival
  • 2012 Dubai International Film Festival
  • 2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival, Audience Award Winne

Filmmaker Biographies

Ramona S. Diaz (Director/Writer/Producer)

Ramona Diaz is a filmmaker whose credits include SPIRITS RISING, an hour-long documentary about women's roles in the 1986 People Power revolution in the Philippines. SPIRITS RISING received a Student Academy Award, the Ida Lupino Director's Guild of America Award, a Golden Gate Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival, and a Certificate of Merit from the International Documentary Association. SPIRITS RISING has been screened internationally and has been broadcast on public television stations in the United States and Australia.

Diaz's film, the ITVS, Sundance, and Center for Asian American Media-funded IMELDA, a full-length documentary about the former First Lady of the Philippines, garnered the Excellence in Cinematography Award for documentary at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and the ABCNews Videosource Award from the IDA. The film was released theatrically in the United States and the Philippines, screened in over fifty film festivals around the world, and was broadcast on Independent Lens on PBS in May 2005.

Diaz most recent PBS film, the ITVS, Sundance, and CAAM-funded THE LEARNING, is a documentary that follows several Filipino teachers in Baltimore City across two school years, chronicling the sacrifices they make as they try to maintain a long-distance relationship with their children and families, and begin a new one with the mostly African-American students whose schooling is now entrusted to them. The film was part of POV's 24th season on PBS.

Diaz is currently in production on THE BILL (working title), a hybrid documentary film about reproductive justice funded by ITVS, Sundance, and Chicken & Egg. Diaz is also in development on PACIFIC RIMS, based on a book by the same name written by Rafe Bartholomew, which looks at the Filipino national character through the country's obsession with basketball.

Prior to pursuing a career as an independent filmmaker, Diaz was an associate producer for CADILLAC DESERT, a major PBS documentary series about the quest for water in the American West. In 2005, Diaz broadened her repertoire to include television commercial directing and producing. Diaz is a graduate of Emerson College, Boston, and holds an MA in Communication from Stanford University.

Capella Fahoome Brogden (Producer/Executive Producer)

Capella Fahoome founded Defining Entertainment in 1994 with the mission of creating good and meaningful programming that documents powerful stories of the human spirit. With Fahoome's commitment and perseverance, Defining Entertainment has done just that. She has an impressive portfolio of multiple narrative and documentary feature films, television series, national television commercials, as well as a long list of PSAs and short films.

Fahoome produced the independent feature film EUPHORIA (Houston WorldFest, Santa Fe Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival) with a $1,000,000 grant from the National Institute of Health. EUPHORIA traveled the country exploring the mindless pursuit of the "American Dream" using a variety of props and visual metaphors. While intended for a teenage audience, EUPHORIA has captivated a much broader following.

Fahoome is also a creating producer of "Random 1," an original A&E TV series that followed a grassroots organization attempting to positively impact strangers lives through human connections. Following "Random 1," Fahoome produced LOST IN WOONSOCKET (SXSW, currently part of OWN's Super Soul Sundays), a documentary about two homeless alcoholics and their journey to regain relationships with their families and find their place in society again. Among the narratives Fahoome produced was I DO & I DON'T, a feature-length comedy starring Jane Lynch ("Glee," TALLADEGA NIGHTS, 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN). The entire movie was shot on location in Baltimore with a local crew.

Fahoome resides in Baltimore with her husband and children. She grew up in Detroit and holds a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.

Josh Green (Executive Producer)

Green is a partner in New York-based production/distribution outfit, Game 7 Films. He associate produced Sona Jain's FOR REAL and Ann Hu's BEAUTY REMAINS. He executive produced Kief Davidson's acclaimed IFC Films documentary KASSIM THE DREAM (2009). In addition to DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY, Green produced Roger Paradiso's documentary on the original Sugarhill Gang, I WANT MY NAME BACK, also slated for a 2013 release through Image Entertainment. Green is in post-production on Academy Award nominated filmmaker Daniel Anker's documentary on directing icon Sidney Lumet. Also, Game 7 is attached to produce contemporary South African western, FIVE FINGERS OF MARSEILLES, set for production in Spring 2013.

Green previously served as the Vice President of Distribution for New York-based Emerging Pictures. He was responsible for securing new exhibition venues for Emerging's digital cinema network, which has more than 140 locations in the U.S., and for managing marketing efforts for the network. Green further coordinated the distribution campaigns for exclusive HD programming playing at Emerging Pictures venues, including independent and classic films, cultural programs like operas and ballets, and other special events.

Green has previously acted as a sales agent/producer's rep to secure third party distribution for completed films, and managed Emerging's theatrical and DVD distribution businesses while they existed, coordinated campaigns for many films. All in, Green has had an agency or direct distribution role on more than 50 films.

Green is a frequent speaker at film industry panels, schools, workshops, and other festival events. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University.

Jung Choi (Associate Producer)

As an alumnus of the Rhode Island School of Design painting department, Jung Choi has always brought a fine artist's perspective to story telling.

Choi is one of the founders and original visual arts curators of the Kearny Street Workshop's multidisciplinary youth arts exposition, APATURE, showcasing the works of emerging Pan Asian artists.

While a part of the public television department at the Center for Asian American Media, a publicly funded member of the Public Broadcasting Service minority consortium, he produced web sites hosted on that promoted national broadcasts of films for, by, and about the Asian American community. During his six years at the Center for Asian American Media fostering and creating new content for the public television market, he became intimately familiar with the challenges and rewards of independent documentary production. Giving voice to marginalized communities and bringing minority programming out of the interstices of the human experience and to the fore has been at the center of Choi's work.

Freelance credits include serving as associate producer for the nationally broadcast series "Searching for Asian America." Other credits include location sound department for Wayne Wang's, THE PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA, as well as the critically acclaimed HBO series, "Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices." LOST AND FOUND: THE LEGACY OF USS LAGARTO earned him an Emmy nomination in the camera department. Choi served as associate producer and director of photography for the upcoming eponymous feature documentary about the ukulele virtuoso, JAKE SHIMABUKURO.

Choi and Chihiro Wimbush, a 2011 Bay Area Video Coalition Media Maker fellow, founded K Pacific Productions. Together they have produced short films profiling fine artists and exceptional personalities. Whether bearing witness to the challenges of immigrants in America, documenting the process of installation artists, discovering hermetic savant artist engineers in the wilds of Oregon, traveling cross-country with conspiracy theorists, or covering the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Japanese American veterans of World War II, Choi and K Pacific are dedicated to giving agency to voices in the periphery.

Leah Marino (Editor)

Leah Marino has edited a number of documentary features that have aired nationally. Most recently, she edited Ramona Diaz's, THE LEARNING, a story of Filipino teachers recruited to work in inner city?Baltimore that aired on POV in September 2011. She also worked on?PORTRAIT OF A WALLY, about a painting seized from the Museum of Modern?Art in New York City because of a Holocaust dispute. Marino has also edited THE CREEK RUNS RED, about an environmental super-fund site in Oklahoma, which aired on Independent Lens; the racing documentary GET BACK TO DIRT, the first independent film to show on Speed TV; and LIGHT FROM THE EAST, a documentary film about an American actress' exploration of events inside the Ukraine during the Soviet Union's collapse, which premiered at the 2005 SXSW film festival. Marino also edited Diaz's IMELDA, which won numerous awards, including an IDA award for use of archival material.

Marino started her professional career as an assistant editor on "Chicano: A History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement," a four part series that aired on PBS in 1996. She currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Julia Dengel (Director of Photography)

Julia Dengel's career as a producer, director, and cinematographer has spanned four continents. Her first documentary feature--COWBOYS, INDIANS, & LAWYERS, about Western water politics--aired on PBS in 2007. She has worked as a documentary cinematographer since 1993, contributing to such films as Daria Sommers and Meg McLagan's LIONESS, about American women soldiers who fought in Iraq (aired on Independent Lens); Jennifer Fox's MY REINCARNATION, about Tibetan Buddhist teachers Yeshe and Namkhai Norbu (released theatrically and premiered POV's 25th season in 2012); Kim Snyder's WELCOME TO SHELBYVILLE (aired on Independent Lens); Cynthia Wade's "Hope Against Hunger Sesame Street Special" (aired on PBS) and LIVING THE LEGACY (aired on Independent Film Channel); and Rachel Grady's CNN Heroes Special, "Double Amputee Finds a Cause." Dengel also served as associate editor for AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, a ten-part documentary series co-produced with American Playhouse that aired nationally in 1999.

Dengel's most recent work will be featured in Jacob Cohl's film on the making of Broadway's Spiderman: Turn off the Dark; Susan Kaplan's FALLOUT, chronicling the battle over an aging nuclear power plant on the Jersey Shore; Stephanie Riggs' THE STANDBYS, an exploration of the struggles of Broadway understudies; and Martina Radwan's moving exploration of homeless children in Mongolia.

Dengel's work has been supported by numerous foundations, including the New York State Council on the Arts, the Colorado Council on the Arts, Independent Television Service, the Wellspring Foundation, the Kenney Foundation, the Haymarket People's Fund, and the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media.