Johnny Depp in Documentaries

(established 2007; last updated 12/31/15)


Here is a list of Johnny's known participation in music-related documentaries.   See more details below, and please click images to enlarge. 

 
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Interviewee/Archive Footage/Performer
1992    Rolling Stone 25: The MTV Special
1998    Where It's At: The Rolling Stone State Of The Union
2001    Music Behind The Scenes (archive footage)
2004    Taraf de Haïdouks Live At Union Chapel
2006    Gypsy Caravan AKA When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan
2007    Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
2007    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream
2008    Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora (unreleased)
2012    Arts In Context:  Bill Carter And The Blame
2012    West Of Memphis
2013    Sunset Strip: The Movie
2013    That's What I'm Doing Here (unreleased)
2014    Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued
xxxx   Friends Of The Viper Room (unreleased)
 
B1
Narrator
2010    When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors
 
C1
Director
2016?   Untitled Keith Richards Documentary
  
D1
without Johnny's planned participation
2007    Do It For Johnny Depp (unreleased)




Interviewee / Archive Footage / Performer

A1) Rolling Stone 25: The MTV Special (1992)

     This was a television documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine.  Johnny appears only very briefly, and he doesn't get a chance to speak about music per se.  In one brief clip, he remarks about how uncomfortable it is to pose for photographs, and in a second, he says that he was shocked when he made it to the cover of the magazine (in January of 1991).

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Ad that appeared in Rolling Stone (Oct. 29, 1992 and Nov. 26, 1992 issues):
RS ad

Some references to the special:



A2)
Where It's At: The Rolling Stone State of the Union (1998)

     This television documentary was shown on ABC on May 21, 1998.  Johnny is credited on IMDb as a participant.  Here is a description found by Maggy from the initial airing:

It's about what's up. Rolling Stone magazine is turning 30, and to note that, publisher Jann Wenner has produced a two-hour special titled Where It's At: The Rolling Stone State of the Union.  Airing at 9 tonight on ABC, Where It's At (named for the catchy Beck tune) examines pop culture and the attitudes of today's youth _ as opposed to yesterday's youth, who may not relate to what's being said but will get to hear a lot of Bruce Springsteen. Younger viewers get Marilyn Manson, the most surprising commentator on the show, plus Sean "Puffy" Combs and Fiona Apple, Jewel and Beck.  The film poses a lot of questions about spirituality, values, identity and hope. Marilyn Manson talks about religion; Bruce Springsteen, Fiona Apple and Johnny Depp about fame; Jewel on body image; Tom Wolfe, Salt-n-Pepa and Rosie Perez on sex and love.

     In addition to speaking about fame, Johnny comments on the violence facing today's youth, as well as his love and value of music.

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November 26, 1998 Rolling Stone blurb about this film:
whereitsat-rs



A3) Music Behind the Scenes (2001)

     This is a listing on IMDb that includes Johnny (as archive footage) in the credits.  It appears to be a miniseries that aired in the UK in 2001 and in Finland in 2004.  After years of searching for more information, I have found an Australian ad that describes the miniseries as a look at how music is incorporated into films.  Johnny isn't mentioned specifically, but Donnie Brasco is listed as one of the films covered in the episode Suspense, and Edward Scissorhands is listed for the episode Independents.  Therefore, presumably, Johnny is being credited for the archive footage shown from those two films.

The Australian ad:
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(note: I found this ad on a Google search and have no idea if the offer is still available.  It seems very pricey, though, even considering Australian currency).



A4) Taraf de Haïdouks Live At Union Chapel, from The Continuing Adventures Of Taraf de Haïdouks: The DVD (2004)

     Taraf de Haïdouks is a Romani band with whom Johnny appeared in the 2000 Sally Potter film, The Man Who Cried.  This part interview, part performance film features Johnny in three segments, discussing the first time he met Taraf de Haïdouks, turning on musician friends of his to the band, and specifically, the reactions of Iggy Pop and Jim Jarmusch upon seeing Taraf for the first time.
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A5) Gypsy Caravan AKA When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan (2006)

     Screened on May 1, 2006 at the Tribeca Film Festival.  The film is a brief look into Romani culture and Rom (Gypsies) from around the globe as five famous Romani groups (Esma Redzepova, Maharaja, Fanfare Ciocarlia, Taraf de Haïdouks, and Antonio el Pipa Flamenco Ensemble) tour the USA and Canada.  The film visits their families at home in Spain, India, Macedonia and Romania.  Johnny participates in this film discussing Taraf de Haïdouks.  The film has been released in the US, Europe and Japan, and continues to screen in select theaters.  It also aired on television on select PBS stations in the spring of 2008.  The DVD was released in Region 2 in April of 2008 and Region 1 on August 26, 2008.  Extra bonus materials include an extended 11 minute interview with Johnny.

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        From the press kit:                             Promotional postcard:                       Honors:
press kit            gypsy postcard            honors


A6) Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)

     Made its debut January 20, 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival.  The film celebrates the life of the late legendary frontman of The Clash and more recently The Mescaleros. The film was made by Julien Temple. Johnny is one of the contributors, along with former Clash members Mick Jones and Topper Headon, and many other noted musicians and actors such as Bono, Steve Jones, John Cusack and Matt Dillon.  Most of the interviews were conducted in front of a bonfire.

     The film had additional screenings across the pond, including the Dublin Film Festival in February of 2007, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Seattle and LA Film Festivals, a number of screenings on May 9, "Joe Strummer Day," and at Cannes (as an unofficial screening?)
 It was released theatrically in the UK on May 18, 2007.  It also had US screenings in Brooklyn, Seattle and LA.  The film was released in the US via Independent Film Channel on November 2, 2007, and had a limited theater run through December 2007.  In 2007, the film won the British Independent Film Award for Best British Documentary.
     The Region 2 DVD was released on Sept. 17, 2007, and the Region 1 DVD was released on July 8, 2008.
     Screencaps thanks to Liz/Endora:

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A7) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:  Runnin' Down A Dream (2007)

     This documentary about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Johnny is one of the participants, discussing the band in general, his participation in the video for Into The Great Wide Open, and inviting the band to play opening night at the Viper Room.  The 238 minute film was shown at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 14, 2007, in select theaters on Oct. 15, and on the Sundance Channel on Oct. 29.   It was released as a 3DVD/CD bundle exclusively at Best Buy stores on October 16, 2007.  A 2 DVD version of the film, with 3 live bonus performances not included in the Best Buy package, was released on October 28, 2008.  The film won a 2009 Grammy Award (eligibility year 2008) for Best Long Form Music Video.
     Petty says (according to an unsourced quote from a Petty message board):  "It looks pretty great. I think he's mostly based it around the concert we did in Gainesville (Florida) in September. It sort of goes into flashbacks, with lots of archival footage, and then just keeps coming back to the present, whether it's the rehearsals or on the airplane or at the concert in Gainesville."
     Johnny's past ties to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers include starring in the Into The Great Wide Open video and endorsement of the band on MTV in the early 90's.

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A8) Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora (Unreleased; screened in 2008)

     This documentary was about the South Florida music scene of the late 70's and early 80's, about Sheila Witkin as one of the driving forces of that scene, and about the Memorial Reunion Concert that was held in her memory on January 28, 2007 in Pompano Beach, FL.  Johnny participated in this show as a member of The Kids.  A second show was also held on May 20, 2007 at The Scene in Pompano Beach to capture additional footage from Z-Cars, The Cichlids, and Charlie Pickett for inclusion in this documentary. The film had its World Premiere on April 12, 2008, at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in Mizner Park, FL, with a second screening on April 17.  The film also had 4 screenings at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival from Aug. 29-Aug. 31, 2008, including brand new interview footage of all four Kids together.
     As of 2012, there has not been any word on additional screenings, a theatrical release, or a DVD release, and as of August 2012, the official website was no longer active.  It seems unlikely at this point that there will ever be a general release of this film.

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               Posters:                                        Palm Beach Int'l Film Festival Description:                                 Sun-Sentinel Review:      
poster sm    rock poster 2    palm beach press release    sun sentinel review


A9) Arts In Context: Bill Carter And The Blame (2012)

     Debuted on KLRU in Austin on July 26, 2012.  This PBS special celebrates Bill's long career as a songwriter and musician.  It covers Bill's early days as a songwriter, his meeting and subsequent lifelong collaboration with his wife, Ruth Ellsworth Carter, and the strong bonds he has formed with fellow Austin musicians.  Interspersed with the interviews is performance footage from a May 18, 2012 concert that was taped at the original KLRU Studio specifically for this documentary.
     Bill and Ruth tell of meeting Johnny in the early 90's, which led to the formation of the band P, and also about the impending birth of Johnny and Vanessa Paradis' daughter Lily-Rose serving as the inspiration for the song, Paris.  They also discuss watching the West Memphis Three documentary, Paradise Lost, with Johnny in the early 90's; Bill and Ruth's friendship with Damien Echols and Damien's wife Lorri and their longtime support of the successful effort to free the West Memphis Three is a basis for their song, Anything Made Of Paper.
     Johnny himself is featured in some clips chatting and jamming with Bill, and also in some archive performance footage from the SXSW Austin Music Awards in 1993 and the Continental Club in 2011.  

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A10) West Of Memphis (2012)

     Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2012.  This documentary about the West Memphis Three, made by Peter Jackson, features Johnny.  Johnny appears on stage as part of the Voices For Justice concert on August 28, 2010 in support of the West Memphis Three.  He is shown doing a reading of Damien Echols' letters and performing with Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Bill Carter, and others.  The film had its official premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012, and its official release on Christmas Day, 2012.  Johnny is also featured prominently in the West Of Memphis: Voices For Justice soundtrack; see the JD Rocks! Discography section for more info.

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wom poster

 
A11) Sunset Strip (2013)

     Johnny is interviewed in this documentary about the legendary Sunset Strip.  Johnny is a former owner of The Viper Room, a prominent club on The Strip.  The film screened at SXSW on March 16, 2012 and had its LA Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on June 19, 2012.  The film premiered on Showtime on August 16, 2013.  It became available for download and streaming on October 31, and a DVD is planned for sometime in 2014.
     Johnny speaks about various aspects of The Strip, and focuses in particular on The Viper Room:  "
What I wanted out of The Viper Room, first and foremost…  wouldn’t it be great to have a place that you could go to where you weren’t necessarily on display all the time, or you didn’t feel like a novelty, you know.  You didn’t have to sneak in and sneak out and hide and all that.  And you could listen to the music that you and your friends like.  And we wanted to hear Louis Jordan, and we wanted to hear Cab Calloway, and we wanted to hear old blues, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf.  So that was the initial thing, you know.  Let’s make this place feel like it should’ve been, or like maybe it was back then, you know, in the 30’s.  A speakeasy.  It was called The Melody Room then, which is like at that time, I mean, the people that I heard that had played there were like Charlie Parker, Coltrane, all these amazing, amazing players from back in the day.  So yeah, we were all very excited about the history of the place."  He also discusses the tragedy of River Phoenix' death at The Viper Room, and how Johnny Cash's appearance there in 1994 helped to "cleanse" the club after the tragedy.

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A12) That's What I'm Doing Here (Unreleased; 2013)

     In 2012, Bill Carter's former manager Matt McCormack embarked on making a film chronicling the lives and careers of three legendary Texas musician-songwriters: Carter, Alejandro Escovedo, and Charlie Sexton.  Concerts of Carter and Escovedo were filmed as footage to include in this documentary, including Carter's December 7, 2012 show at The Mint in LA in which Johnny performed.  Unfortunately, virtually all of Matt's progress was destroyed in a flood in Austin TX in the fall of 2013.  Some footage that Matt had uploaded to YouTube does exist.
    The good news is that Matt has now revived his own music career and is focusing on his songwriting and performing, so here is hoping for a lot of great music from him in the future!

the mint


A13) Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued (2014)

     On November 21, 2014, Showtime aired this documentary about the recording of Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes.  The album, released on November 11, 2014, features songs using some newly discovered Bob Dylan lyrics from the era of The Basement Tapes (ca. 1967) that were thought to have been lost.  T Bone Burnett produced the album, with artists Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, and Jim James composing and arranging the music to Dylan's lyrics. Johnny filled in for Costello on a day that Costello had a scheduling conflict and could not attend a recording session.  He played on the song Kansas City, which was sung by Mumford.

lost songs poster   dylan blurb

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A14) Friends Of The Viper Room (unreleased)

     A Kickstarter campaign took place in May of 2013 for a new documentary about The Viper Room, which Johnny co-owned from its opening in 1993 through 2004.  Called Friends Of The Viper Room, it is directed by Repo Man and Fame actress Olivia Barash, who was a promoter and VIP liaison at The Viper Room back in the day.  Former club co-owner Chuck E. Weiss has already participated, along with Bob Forrest, Norman Reedus, Maria McKee, and others.  The filmmakers do plan/hope to interview Johnny.
     A 4.5 minute trailer was released in September of 2013.

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     In July of 2014, Barash reported that the film had been set back a little with some crew changes, but that they were back on track and planning "some super cool interviews again in August for FOTVR!" Their facebook page showed a glimpse at a list with some of the upcoming interviewees:

viper interviews

     Unfortunately, there have been no updates since July of 2014, even after inquiries on Facebook and Kickstarter.  Apparently the film is dead in the water, and Kickstarter supporters are out of luck.



Narrator


B1) When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors (2009)

     Johnny narrates this film about the legendary band The Doors. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2009, with a temporary narration by the director, Tom DiCillo.  It also screened with DiCillo's narration on February 7 at the Berlin Film Festival, where the official announcement was made that Johnny would narrate the final version of the film.  DiCillo then made the decision not to screen the film again until Johnny's contribution was added, forcing him to pull out of the South By Southwest Film Festival in March.  Johnny's recording was done sometime between about March 17 and May 20, 2009.  The film screened for the first time with his narration on June 21, 2009 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, with an additional screening on June 24.  DiCillo lauds Johnny's narration as "fantastic" and "crucial": "He brings something very personal to the film." "[Johnny] had been my first choice. My sense was always that the film needed a real actor to perform the narration, someone who could genuinely relate to the Doors and tell the story as if it really meant something to him. He has succeeded."  After attending the screening in Deauville, DiCillo further stated, "Depp’s narration is even stronger than I’d remembered. His presence in the film is quiet, assured, emotional and powerfully intimate."  Doors drummer John Densmore was also quoted in Variety as saying, "It's the inflections; it's so personable. He's an icon like Jim, so he brings something that's closer to Jim."
     When You're Strange is the first feature documentary about this legendary band.  The film contains some never before seen footage of The Doors, who were together from 1965 through Morrison's death in 1971.  It also contains rare footage from Morrison's experimental film, HWY, taken from the original 35 mm negative.
     The film had a private buyers' screening in NYC on June 30 and also one in Paris at around the same time.  It screened at numerous film festivals worldwide in the summer and fall of 2009, including Deauville, San Sebastian, Woodstock, Rio de Janeiro, The Times BFI London, Viennale (Vienna), and Mar del Plata (Argentina). In 2010, it screened in Santa Barbara, London, Dublin, Austin (SXSW), and Aspen.  It won the Audience Award from the SXSW Film Festival in the category, 24 Beats Per Second.
     
The film received an R rating from the MPAA: "Rated for some sexual content including references, nudity, drug material and language." When You're Strange had a limited US theatrical release beginning April 9, 2010, with an opening weekend of $66,833 in 8 venues.  It has been released in The Netherlands, France, the UK and several other European countries.  Its television premiere was May 12, 2010 on PBS, as part of the American Masters series.  The DVD was released on June 29.  The film received an RIAA Gold Certification on September 10, 2010 in the category Video, Longform, and it won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video on February 13, 2011.

Johnny Depp on When You're Strange:

“DiCillo’s When You’re Strange is a meticulously crafted, exhilarating ode to one of music’s greatest, most exciting ensembles; The Doors.  Watching the hypnotic, hitherto, unreleased footage of Jim, John, Ray and Robby, both on and off the stage, I felt like I was there, with them, living and experiencing what they were experiencing, seeing it all through their eyes. Ultimately, Jim has been resurrected here to remind us that he is to this very day, one of the most significant frontmen/poets/shaman to ever grace a stage and that the band behind him, kept the music alive every step of the way, adding fuel to an already raging fire, all along their wild and electrifying ride into history.  The raw material entrances throughout.  In terms of a rock n’ roll documentary, or any kind of documentary for that matter, it simply doesn’t get any better than this.  What an honor to have been involved.  I am as proud of this as anything I have ever done.”

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DVD
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Director


C1) Untitled Documentary about Keith Richards (2016?)

     Johnny is directing this documentary, originally given the working title Happy, which began filming in January of 2010.  Johnny, Keith, Patti Smith and others were spotted on set in LA on January 30, 2010, and Johnny later said that they shot for about 5 days.

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     Johnny first announced plans to direct this film during a Serbian interview he gave while attending the Kustendorf Film Festival on January 14, 2010.  
As a guest on the Jonathan Ross show, which aired February 26 (see part 1 here), Johnny spoke a little about the documentary:  "It’s a thing that we’ve talked about for a number of years now, that we finally had a moment, the two of us, to get together and do like a first installment if you will, and so basically, all it is is exactly what Keith and I have been doing over the years, is sittin’ around in hotel rooms, talking, gabbing, having a drink, and, we documented it.  So it’s something that we’re doing together, and we did 5 days and it went extremely well.  It was just incredible."  A Phillipine Inquirer piece elaborated a little bit more: "The Keith Richards documentary came about in a very strange way. Keith and I have spent a lot of time together over the years, whenever he’s off the road and I’m off a film. We would usually end up in the living room of his hotel suite or my house or his place in New York. We would talk and I get all these incredible stories that just haven’t made it out there in the world. I suggested to him that maybe we could try something like that on film and he went, ‘Yeah.’ For a number of years, he was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see.’ Finally, bless him, he deigned to give it a shot so it’s something that we’re doing together."
     In December of 2010, while promoting The Tourist, Johnny briefly mentioned the project for myFOXdetroit.com, saying he thinks of himself more as the "hunter" or the "capturer" of Keith than as the director or producer.  "Keith is being a wild beast that you just sort of document.  You just turn on the camera and let it run out, and feast upon what he has to say."  In January of 2011, in the Entertainment Weekly Music Mix blog, Johnny provided a few tidbits: that they had filmed one "installment," which is presumably what was filmed in January of 2010, which included 35 hours of conversation and performance footage.  The performance footage features Patti Smith, Norah Jones, and members of Keith's band X-Pensive Winos.  He also added that the filming was done by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. 
The plan was to film two more installments; details are not known as to whether this plan was followed.
     On March 24, 2013, Drum Doctors tweeted a photo of owner Ross Garfield with Johnny, with the caption: "Johnny Depp & me @ the Keith Richards film shoot yesterday" (March 23rd).  While he didn't specify what kind of film shoot it was, it possibly had something to do with the documentary.  Other rumors circulated that there was some performance footage taken at around this time.  In a spring 2013 interview printed in the British OK magazine, Johnny was asked about whether he would ever direct another film (after 1997's The Brave).  He replied, "Yeah, actually I have been working on a film for about the last four years or so. And we've just completed the filming part - and it's a documentary on Keith Richards."  Asked if it will be similar to the Rolling Stones movie (Crossfire Hurricane), he said, "Most definitely not [laughs]."  He offered another brief description of the film process in a July Daily Mail article: "Actually, it’s a little strange to call it a documentary, it’s more an opportunity to experience Keith – as people don’t get to see him because he’s quite a mysterious being. Essentially it’s Keith and I sitting around having a conversation and what it boils down to is his wisdom and his philosophy and his experiences – and that would be cut with footage of his life." Keith similarly described the film in a July 2013 Mojo sidebar:

mojo article

     Faces/one-time Rolling Stones sideman Ian McLagan also told ABC News Radio in a July 2013 interview that he will appear in the film.  He divulges that a few months ago, they filmed in Johnny's house, which jives with what had been reported above.  McLagan also says that they recorded "new renditions of the Keith-sung Stones classics 'Happy' and 'You Got the Silver,' as well as a brand-new Richards composition." No word on if Johnny actually performed on the recording, but it sounds awesome!

     The film is now listed on IMDb as being in post-production.  In January of 2015, while promoting the film Mortdecai, Johnny was asked about the film and touched upon it briefly.  He mentioned that Keith had seen a "rough cut" and that he's taking his time with it but that it's very important to him.  However, in April of 2015, Keith told Rolling Stone: "We shot some stuff, but I don't think there's anything in the cards about it.  I don't think he's going to use the footage and I don't think I've seen Johnny for a couple of years."  Hopefully, Keith was just being overly cautious about the status of the film.

     Luckily, the documentary made the news again in late 2015, when cinematographyer Dariusz Wolski sat down for an interview with Collider and made mention of the film's status:  "(It was) an amazing experience, actually there is a screening of it tomorrow at UTA, yeah it was pretty incredible, yeah.  You know, the movie has a pretty long history because we shot original footage 3 years ago, 4 years ago,  and then we came back to shoot more stuff with Tom Waits, which was probably a year and a half ago by now. It’s hard to imagine because we do this stuff and then everybody goes away does their own movies and we come back.  But there is a new version of it screening tomorrow.  I can’t wait to see it.  (Asked whether it might screen at a film festival) Yeah.  I hope so, because it’s an exceptional film… It’s an exceptional film because you have like a truly personal insight into Keith."  Let's hope to hear some news about screenings or a release in 2016!



Music Documentaries without Johnny's planned participation


D1) Do It For Johnny Depp (Unreleased; screened in 2007)

     This was a documentary about the quest of filmmakers Haylar Garcia and Darcy Grabowski to bring a screenplay (entitled Narcophonic, the Ballad of Bad Bax) about guitar maker Scott Baxendale to Johnny.  Originally named Do It For Johnny, it first screened at the Bug Theatre in Denver Colorado on Sunday, January 21, 2007 and had its official premiere at the 22nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Jan. 28.  During 2007, the film was also an official selection for the Vail, Sonoma Valley and Hollywood Film Festivals and won Best Documentary at the Rainier Independent Film Festival. 
     In late 2008, Garcia told blogtalkradio host Betty Jo Tucker that the film had several distributors for foreign release, and that they would be distributing the film themselves in the US.  He had expected the film to be available in the US in 2009.  
There was a new trailer added to YouTube in March of 2011. As of early 2011, the film was listed under Moving Pictures Film & TV Distribution, also known as ICAP Media; however, these links were no longer active by the fall of 2011. The official site is gone and the MySpace page has not been updated in a few years, and no other news seems to have emerged about a possible release.  It seems unlikely by this point that the film will ever have a general release.
 
    The documentary featured information about Johnny's musical history.  It included an interview with Ringo Jukes from the Rock City Angels, and reportedly featured 3 RCA songs: Mary (cowritten by Johnny), Beyond Babylon and Hell's Kitchen.

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e-mail if you have any additions, or corrections, thanks!

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