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Tribeca Film Festival highlight: 'Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey'
by Shaina Moskowitz -
April 25, 2012 has been all over the scene covering the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. One of the highlights of the festival thus far has been Ramona S. Diaz's documentary Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey. We highly reccommend this film. There will be two more showings this week on Friday, April 27th at 8:30pm at the AMC Loews Village and there are rush tickets available for this Saturday, April 28th at 9:30pm at the SVA Theater.

The film tells the true story of Arnel Pineda's journey to becoming the lead singer of the iconic rock band Journey, which is probably best known for their song: Don't Stop Believin'. He was discovered on youtube by Journey's guitarist Neal Schon. Born and raised in the The Philippines, Pineda was a cover singer for many years and was always hoping for his big break. He was very poor growing up, but he continued to work hard. His biggest fan posted many of his performances on youtube and then one day, he got a message from Neal Schon and relayed it to Pineda, who thought it was a hoax! It wasn't. Six weeks later, Journey flew him out to California for a test run and the rest is history, as they say.

We had the opportunity to attend the film's world premiere and pre-party reception at Double 7 in the meatpacking district where we spoke with Director Ramona S. Diaz, Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda, Journey bandmembers Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, the film's executive producers Josh Green and John Baruck (the band's manager of 14 years!). Check out highlights from our conversations below:

Q: How did you get involved with the project?

Ramona S. Diaz: I'm originally from the Philippines, so I'm plugged into the Filipino-American community and so there's always stuff going around on e-mail. And they e-mailed me. I received this e-mail from a friend of mine and the title was, 'The Funniest Visa Application Story I've Ever Heard,' and that was the title, so I clicked and it was really the funniest. It was written by the immigration agent that interviewed Arnel to give him his visa.

Q: What was it like collaborating with Arnel?

Ramona S. Diaz: He's fantastic! I think the whole reason that I really wanted to do it--aside from the music and aside from what an opportunity to film Journey--was Arnel. The camera loves him, and he's very open and he’s such an interesting story and he tells it so well. He's a very articulate narrator of his personal life.

Q: What was it like collaborating with the iconic bandmembers of Journey?

Ramona S. Diaz: It was pretty incredible you know and I don't think I could ever take for granted that they did give us access and they did give us rights to their music to put in this film. I mean you can’t ever take that for granted! It's so amazing and I'm thankful. I'm always thankful.

Q: How did you first hear about the documentary?

John Baruch: I was approached by Ramona. The band had just gotten together and we were just starting rehearsals in San Francisco and Ramona called me and wanted permission to shoot a documentary on Arnel joining the band. I didn't know who she was, and Journey is a big band, so I was actually very reticent to allow that. She was persistent and asked me if she could just bring a camera crew to one day of rehearsal and could they have five or six hours of interviews and access to Arnel just to shoot a little bit and then she would put together a 5 to 10 minute clip to show me what she could do. And I agreed. It was the least I could do, she was from the Philippines, so I figured she would have a good angle on it and I kind of liked the idea of one of his country people just doing a profile about him and she sent me the short and it was compelling. It was actually powerful within the five minutes and I told her she could do it.

Q: What was that journey like bringing a documentary film crew on tour with Journey?

John Baruch: Well it was actually pretty easy, Ramona is a sweetheart and she followed instructions very well and stayed out of everybody's way. We made time for her to do interviews every day and allowed access to the cameras, backstage, on the bus, wherever she needed to be. And it went very smoothly and then we talked about the film in terms of the beginning, middle and an ending and came to the conclusion that the ending needed to be in Manila and we needed to go back there. At the time we weren’t scheduled to go back there, so I put together a special trip to Manila for our concert. We also shot a DVD there, Live in Manila, which we sold two years ago and it provided the setting for Arnel to tell his story and to be in his homeland!

Neal Schon: You get used to new people being around and pretty soon we didn't notice that they were filming all the time. And I think she got some great stuff, but most of all I think the story itself is really incredible you know. It's kind of like one of those fairytale stories that you just dream about or read about in a book and it's a dream it’s not a reality...I discovered him and I was looking on Youtube for a singer and I decided I wanted to look on Youtube just because I didn't want to go through all the auditions, the flying people in from all over the world and all that kind of stuff. It's really very very expensive and time-consuming and half the time they walk in and you listen and you go, sorry it's not it. And then you spent all that time and it just wastes a lot of time and energy and so I decided to do it through Youtube. And what I liked about Youtube is that it couldn't be altered, whatever was on their was for real even if it didn't sound good, you know that it's real and not doctored in Pro Tools, so it worked outyou know. I lucked out!

I looked for two days straight under: male rock and roll and R&B singers and checked out a lot of people and I found some good vocals, but I didn't find anyone until I hit Arnel that I thought could live on top of our music. It takes a very strong vocalist and they have to be coming from the diaphragm and the chest and singing properly and none of this nose or throat voice--that doesn't cut it in this band--because you have giant guitars thunderish drums and it's a big sound and really we’ve seen guys try to come to do it and it's not easy gig. There were some big shoes to be filled that Steve Perry left and so when I heard Arnel’s voice I was very stricken by it in such a confident way that I just went, 'that is the guy.' And when I told Jonathan and I told management about it they were like 'great so where is he? in LA or New York?' I'm like, 'no, actually he is in the Philippines and they started laughing saying you're out of your mind. Does he event speak English?' and I said, 'I don't know, I don't care if he does or not, I know he can sing in English that's exactly what I said. If he doesn't speak English we will teach him,' I said, he sings that well and I said, 'your job is to go get the paperwork together and get him over here. '

Arnel Pineda: For me especially, it's kind of a divine intervention...two weeks before Neal found me on Youtube I was on the verge of giving up everything that I worked hard for, I’d been waiting for something to come up for the past 25 years and nothing really happened, so I decided and told my wife this is it, I give up, nothing is going to happen to me, I'll remain as a cover singer for the rest of my life…then suddenly this thing happens Neal found me on YouTube!

Q: Do you have a favorite Journey song?

Arnel Pineda: Not necessarily! There’s a lot of Journey songs. I have loved Steve Perry from the very beginning, from the very first time that I ever heard his voice, so until now I am still a big fan. I can never ever compare myself to him when it comes to singing. I think he will always be the voice for Journey and I just happen to be here to continue the legacy that he started.

Josh Green: What I love about the movie is that you actually watch the process of them becoming brothers. You really feel the closeness of these guys supporting Arnel...they were not treating him like a work-for-hire. It was really just like a collaborative type of supportive love!

Q: What do you hope people take from the film?

Jonathan Cain: For the future? Is that people appreciate just anything is possible, part of this story is that a kid that comes out of the ghetto of Manila makes something out of himself. But the other part of the story is that he's always been a special man and with his extraordinary heart single-handedly fed his family, his father, his brother, got his brothers through school and he was always a positive problem solver, so his Karma was up. He came to us and I recognized his positivity right away and I said this guy can ride on my bus anytime, you know what I mean? You want somebody like this in your camp, so I think the people that watch this movie will say, this guy deserves all the success that he is achieving now. So that that's the thing: that the good guys can win...It’s a story about persistence and dedication and dreaming and just sticking to it and Arnel, here he is!

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