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Making Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey

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Three days before the premiere, my producers and I sat in a dark studio in a post-production house in NY and watched the final color-corrected, sound-mixed version of the film. When the lights went up after the screening, we were all a little shell shocked; we looked at each other as if to say "what now?" We were stunned that we had actually pulled it off. The usual reckoning took hold -- the "if we had known then what we know now, would we still have done it" variety. We all knew, of course, that we would still have closed our eyes and jumped off the proverbial cliff four years ago.

This is nothing new. I bet every filmmaker feels like they've been through battle whenever they finish a film. But this time, in particular, seemed a little bit more arduous than usual. With no funding to speak of, we went on the road with a major band, following them in our mini van as their powerful tour busses hurtled from one venue to the next. Try keeping up with that. And that's only for starters.

I swore, too, that I'd never make a documentary so dependent on published music because clearing music rights is a confounding process that only very few people really understand (and they'd like to keep it that way so you have to hire them to do it for you). It's a labyrinth of publishers and master recordings and sync rights and performance rights, on and on and on. The documentary field is strewn with projects gathering dust on a shelf because they were never ever able to clear the rights. So of course it would just make sense that I ended up making a film with music from one of the most "evergreen" catalogues in classic rock history, and one of the most difficult to clear. Thank god the film is about the band and they made good on their word to help us clear all rights -- which may sound obvious, but is not always the case. Just ask any filmmaker who has attempted to make a film about Nirvana.

So why go through all this suffering, right? The answer is two-fold. Front and center is the very charismatic central character of the film, Arnel Pineda. What could easily have been a five-minute film -- rock band finds lead singer through YouTube -- is a much bigger story because of the camera's unfettered love for Arnel Pineda. Arnel returns the affection by being the most candid and open subject I've ever had the privilege to film.

The second reason is the music. Even though you don't think you know Journey, if you've been to a prom, a wedding, or even a sporting event in this country, you know Journey. The songs are big and anthemic. And evergreen.