It took five years for Ramona Diaz and her producing partners Capella Fahoome and Josh Green to make her documentary, Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, which opened in limited release March 8. And every step of the way, they thought it would get easier. It never did.
"We thought, well, we'll get it in the can and then it will be easy," Fahoome says. "Then it was, well, we'll get it edited. Then it was, we'll submit to festivals."
"But each step seemed tough in itself just to get through," offers Green.
Don't Stop Believin', which had its debut at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, follows singer Arnel Pineda, who was discovered in a YouTube video and hired to be the lead singer of Journey. Until that point, Pineda was a former street kid in the Philippines, singing in a cover band in a Manila club. Suddenly, he was singing in front of 20,000 people in a stadium in Chile -- as frontman for Journey.
Diaz, who is Filipino, felt compelled to tell Pineda's story, once he was announced as Journey's new lead singer. But Journey's management didn't think there was a movie there. They offered Diaz the chance to film for one day while the band rehearsed in the San Francisco Bay Area, to see whether she could convince them to let her make the film.
"The first time I met Arnel, there was a quality about him that was just golden," Diaz says. "He was very open and the camera loved him. And once we cut that footage together, the band's management saw that there was a story there."
The film includes extensive footage of Pineda talking to Diaz and her camera, sometimes in English, sometimes in his native Tagalog, openly discussing the pressure he felt - both from Journey fans and from himself. Even as he started an American tour with Journey, he couldn't quite believe that this would be a lasting job.
"He became more confident as they went on, but he was always hedging his bets," Diaz says. "He felt like he was always auditioning. Even when he gained confidence, he didn't want people to have high expectations. He would always tell us before a show, 'I have a cold; I don't feel I can sing that well.' And then he'd go out and blow us away."
Pineda was onboard from the start, Diaz says. The rest of Journey was another story.
"It was a process to gain the trust of the band, its management and its crew," Fahoome says. "A long process."
Says Diaz, "When they gave us access, I don't think they understood what that meant. The crew particularly wasn't used to having cameras around backstage and on the tour bus and at the hotels. They were surprised when they said we could stick around for the summer, that we actually did it. We ran into a lot of resistance getting backstage."
As they followed the tour, the filmmakers saw a relationship blossom between Pineda and the rest of the band. The band has been around in various forms since the early 1970s, when it was formed as an offshoot of Santana. But it hadn't had a singer for a couple of years - and they took a major leap with an untested unknown like Pineda.
"I mean, he wasn't even famous in Manila," Diaz notes. "And here he was, the lead singer of Journey."
"We began to call it a bromance," Green says. "It was a huge leap of faith on all their parts. The band had some skepticism at the start but they became a family as he earned their trust."
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