Interview: Ramona Diaz: Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

Ramona S. Diaz's Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey tells the story of Arnel Pineda, a man who was plucked from YouTube to become the new frontman for Journey, the iconic rock & roll band.  Diaz was given complete access to the band and their 'process,' capturing everything as they adjusted to their new lead singer and preformed on their highly successful Revolution Tour.  We got the chance to sit down with Diaz and discuss her film, the art of making a documentary, and what the band thought after seeing the film.

College Movie Review:  At what point did you decide to make the film and how long did it take to get all the pieces to come together?

Ramona Diaz:  The minute I met Arnel in 2008 when they were rehearsing before embarking on the Revelation Tour, I knew I had to make this film.  This story could have been a short film - iconic American rock band finds lead singer on YouTube - end of story.  But because of Arnel - how articulate he is about his internal life, how accessible, and how much the camera loves him - it is a more sweeping film.

[As far as time], we started the process in 2008 and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2012...four and a half years, which is really par for the course.

CMR:  Can you talk a little bit about your access to both Arnel and the band?  Was there ever a time when you weren't granted an interview or access to particular material?

RD:  After negotiating we were given the access we needed.  At first they were resistant to me filming them composing a song.  But after a while I was able to capture the process in Manila in 2009.  The scene [didn't make] the film, but it will be on the DVD.

There are some scenes that, while you're shooting, you feel like you need so badly or the film won't survive.  Then you get to the editing room and it's a completely different story.  It turns out I didn't use the scene, but it's still a great scene and a privilege to have been allowed to witness and record it.

CMR:  At the end of the shoot how many hours of footage did you to pull from?

RD:  A lot.  We worked in the digital realm so I [don't know hours], but I know how many terabytes of footage [we had] - something like 6-7 TB of HD footage.

CMR:  Did that make for a taxing editing process?  Were there many storylines left on the cutting room floor?

RD:  It took us close to a year to edit.  As they say, the first cut will never be as good as the rushes but the final cut should never be as bad as the first cut.  The very first cut was very, very long so yes there were very many storylines that we had to cut.  But you'll still get to see some of them on the DVD.

CMR:  What was the band's initial reaction when they finally got to see the final cut?

RD:  They loved it.  By the time we screened it for them last year (right before we premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival), I think they had given up on the idea of the film ever being finished.  It took us four years.  For a band that writes, records and releases an album in six months, this was an eternity.

CMR:  The film hits theaters on Friday.  What kind of emotions are you feeling now that the public is going to have an opportunity to see it?

RD:  So very excited.  It's like we're about to share this secret, amazing story and person with everyone.  I'm looking forward to finally introducing Arnel Pineda to the rest of the world - the world beyond Journey.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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