The Bon Jovi Story: A Tale of Teamwork, Endurance, and Balance

Even if you’re not a Bon Jovi superfan (which director Gotham Chopra and producer/editor Alex Trudeau Viriato definitely are now), Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story has something for you. The four-part series, now running on Hulu, is so much more than “just” the story of one of the biggest rock stars in the world.  

Sure, for anyone who loves Bon Jovi the band or Jon Bon Jovi the man, the episodes are bursting with iconic moments and previously unseen gems. But there’s so much more to it beyond chronicling an illustrious career. At its core, this is a story about trust, hard work, endurance, and resilience. It’s also about family—the kind you’re related to by blood and the kind you’re bound to by sweat and tears.

In this installment of Made in Frame, we’re honored to have been invited into the process of making this extraordinary series by the team behind the camera—as well as by the man in front of it, Jon Bon Jovi.

Only in My Dreams

Pretty much every kid who ever became a rock star began by dreaming that someday they would be like [insert idol here]. In the case of Jon Bon Jovi, the Led Zeppelin poster in his suburban New Jersey bedroom represented the tantalizingly impossible. But something happened in the Asbury Park music scene in the 1970s. A new kind of rock star emerged, a working-class poet, in the form of Bruce Springsteen and the musicians who formed the E-Street Band. As Bon Jovi says in the first episode, that’s when he realized that being a rock star could be “possible.” 

Dreams, paired with desire, are often mistaken as the simple formula to success. With this series, director Gotham Chopra and producer/editor Alex Trudeau Viriato dug deeply into the arduous road Jon Bon Jovi has traveled since his early teens to achieve his well-earned recognition as one of the enduring greats of rock and roll. No spoilers: there is no success without seriously hard work, bumps in the road, and sudden detours. 

I Believe

Gotham, along with Tom Brady and Michael Strahan, is a co-founder of Religion of Sports, a production company dedicated to creating sports documentary content. Among the greats whose stories Gotham has told are Brady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steph Curry, and many more.

Gotham directed and Alex edited the ESPN series Man in the Arena.

Jon Bon Jovi, who knows and admires Brady, sought Gotham out after watching the 2021 docuseries Man in the Arena, which Gotham directed and Alex edited. Bon Jovi was impressed with the way they handled Brady’s story. “It was the ancillary stuff that Alex put into the edit that caught my eye because I’d known Tommy’s story,” he says. “I’m a huge Brady fan, but this took me on a subliminal journey with some of the ways that they technically were shooting this docuseries.”

So how does a sports documentarian pivot to telling the story of a rock legend? Consider this: elite rock stars are made from much the same stuff as elite athletes. Playing hundreds of multi-hour stadium shows a year to tens of thousands of fans is, in many ways, no less athletic a feat than playing a season that ends in a Super Bowl or an NBA championship. You could just as accurately have titled the Bon Jovi series Man in the Arena.

When Bon Jovi and Gotham met in Los Angeles for the first time, Bon Jovi knew he had found the right director to tell his story. “I thought, ‘There’s no need to meet with anyone else or discuss this any further with him.’ I put that trust in him, and I left it to them,” he says. “The creative control was in their hands. That was the wise thing to do, not be a producer, not to have a vanity piece, not to create a puff piece, to trust that they were going to do that.” 

“I make docs about human beings, incredible elite performers. This is now set in music, but in this case it’s very specifically the same thing,” Gotham says. “It’s a guy dealing with an injury, trying to come back and get to the place he once was. It’s a comeback doc. And the qualities that define Jon, like the anatomy of his greatness, are very analogous. What makes Jon special is his unwillingness to give up, his resilience, his endurance, his accountability as the leader of a team. So all of these things I see in Jon Bon Jovi, I see in Tom Brady, Steph Curry, all the athletes I’ve worked with.”

(You Want To) Make a Memory

Once awarded the project, Gotham decided to put his own band back together, choosing Alex as his key collaborator. “Alex is a gifted filmmaker and storyteller,” Gotham says. “As a director, I get a lot of the credit, but you’re only as good as the people you put around you. And I couldn’t choose anyone better than Alex as a producer and editor on this.” Alex likewise brought his longtime assistant editor, Charles Farrell, onto the project. 

Thank You, Goodnight begins at the very beginning. Bon Jovi gave Alex and Gotham access to his personal library, which dated back to his childhood and early days as a high schooler performing his first gigs. Gotham also captured copious new interview and concert footage with Bon Jovi, following the most recent incarnation of the band through their limited 15-show tour in 2022. He sought out current and former members of Bon Jovi to round out the story with other points of view. Perhaps most notably, he elicited thoughtful and candid reflections from Richie Sambora, who discusses his time with Bon Jovi and his decision to leave. 

“Everybody has different memories of what happened, how it happened, and why it happened, because it’s all filtered through the lens of emotion. Trying to navigate what’s the truth or what’s the shared truth is a challenge,” Gotham says. “Then you have the new members of the band who came in under different circumstances, so it’s really an ensemble piece. And there really is no objective truth. It’s all subjective. Everybody has a different version, certainly when they’re recollecting it 30- or 40-plus years later. I’d say that was the biggest challenge—trying to do justice to everybody’s perspectives and memories.”

Originally, Bon Jovi had imagined that the series would be structured as one episode per decade. But reality took him on another journey—one that shaped the series to be far more intimate. After the 2022 tour Bon Jovi decided to undergo surgery on an atrophied vocal cord. As the driving force of his band for four decades, the wear and tear on his body was more than even his disciplined self-care regime could overcome. Gotham documents his decision to proceed and his road back in unflinching detail, as Bon Jovi works through the extensive rehabilitation to regain his voice.

Jon Bon Jovi allowed Gotham (and, by extension, us) to see the real man, at his highest highs and lowest lows. “I’m not afraid of opening an artery and saying, ‘Bleed,’” Bon Jovi says. “Let’s just show it all.”

Labor of Love

Showing it all meant going through a lot of footage. “The explosion of the band coincided with the explosion of MTV and VH1, so the band was always covered by the media,” Gotham explains. “We had 40-plus years of incredible archives to sift through and make sense of to build that origin story.” Which meant that Alex and Charles had more than 80 hours of archival footage to cull through—in a wide variety of formats—in addition to the newly filmed material.

Alex watched every second of it. The two-year project, which began in April of 2022, demanded the kind of meticulous care that he and Gotham held themselves to—and knew Bon Jovi trusted them to deliver. And as the footage came in and the present-day story unfolded, the series took shape in unexpected ways, juxtaposing past with present as the filmmakers discovered the themes and threads that tied the band together, or conspired to unravel it.

Although the process of making this show was painstaking, there were a number of factors that made it less daunting. For one, Alex and Charles were working together in Premiere Pro using the Frame.io integration, a combination Alex had already come to rely on during Man in the Arena, which was in post-production at the peak of the pandemic. 

Given the success of the remote workflow during that project, Gotham, Alex, and Charles all felt comfortable replicating it for this one. From a technology standpoint, Alex and Charles were able to easily access cuts and assets by using Productions, part of Premiere Pro. Likewise, Alex and Gotham were able to easily share scenes and cuts through Frame.io while Gotham was on the road with Bon Jovi, allowing them to always keep moving the project forward wherever Gotham might have been.

While Alex was editing episode two, the team brought in editor Brady Hammes, with whom Alex had worked on Man in The Arena, to start cutting episode 3, along with assistant editor Charlie Manclark. Alex knew that Brady would understand the subtext of that episode, in which the brotherhood of the band begins to crack. “Brady brought fresh energy to launch the third episode and this created even more collaboration dynamics where Frame.io could shine. And Charlie is a great personality to have on the team,” Alex says. “Not only is he calm and super efficient, he’s a stud editor, as well.  Brady and I had no problem tasking him with anything creative inside the edit.”

It’s My Life

If you were to only watch the MTV footage, Bon Jovi embodied the rock and roll dream with their adoring crowds in far-flung locations and chart-topping singles. But as Alex and Gotham weave the present day interviews into the story, it becomes clear that being a member of Bon Jovi took a toll on each of them.

As they married and had children, some of them brought their families on the road. Others experienced the guilt of absence or went through divorces. Most experienced burnout after seemingly endless years of touring, yearning for rest and a semblance of normalcy.

Bon Jovi was like a family—although in the early days, a wild one.

It’s a familiar scenario for many filmmakers, who perhaps less publicly and glamorously work long hours in the pursuit of a creative life. As was the case with the young Bon Jovi, the choice to forfeit balance for success was a no brainer. Similarly, many (ultimately successful) young filmmakers throw themselves headlong into projects that demand the same kind of single-minded dedication and focus. 

Until they aren’t as young and want to have families of their own. Like Alex did. Now a father of three, Alex is clear about the importance of finding the balance between a successful career and family life.

“It took months, maybe years to get that balance right, of when I could be accessible to my family and when I could not. Remote work is great in that you’re at home, but now you’re actually balancing your home life with your work life. I’m there to make dinner, I’m there to walk my kids to school, and I’m there to be engaged with them throughout the entire day, while making sure that when it’s time to work, that’s when I’m focused. But I can still be a dad, I can still do my job,” he says. “Just because you’re a filmmaker or you’re trying to make it in a very hard industry, doesn’t mean you need to put all that aside.”

Now you’re actually balancing your home life with your work life. I get to see my kids ten times more because I’m working remotely. Adobe and Frame.io have opened that world for us to do that.

During the pandemic, when remote work became necessary, many people in the industry bemoaned the lack of in-person collaboration. As the pandemic waned, we entered a period that we referred to as “the new normal.” Four years later, remote work is, in many cases, standard operating procedure, with more and more people embracing the work-life balance it affords. 

And that’s in large part because the tools support remote workflows so seamlessly. “Adobe and Frame.io have opened that world for us to do that,” Alex emphasizes. “At the end of the day, I get to see my kids ten times more because I’m working remotely.”

All I Want is Everything

But balance isn’t the endgame in itself. Because what it means for Alex is that when he’s happier, he’s more creative. He’s more able to devote himself fully to his work during the hours he’s working because he’s less likely to have anxiety about missing out on family time. 

What’s even better is that because collaborating through Frame.io benefits the entire process, it ultimately results in a better end product. According to Gotham, “Frame.io is the most valuable tool probably in our entire process because it’s not just me and Alex. We have an incredible team surrounding us: assistant editors, producers, graphic designers. A big part of this film is the composer and the subject—who definitely had opinions and wanted to be involved. So Frame.io was an invaluable tool to be able to share, make notes, and make sure we know who is making the notes. It’s a really critical tool in the evolution of the storytelling.”

Alex particularly cites the importance of music within this project. Although they judiciously used many of the classic Bon Jovi songs, there were also places where they wanted something different. “Having Tico [Torres] on drums and David [Bryan] on the keyboard, it’s hard to hear when other people are talking. So you have to be really balanced about when you’re using a song to celebrate it or when you’re using a song to move a scene forward,” he explains. 

Gotham and Alex brought composer Miles Hankins in to help create the score. “We didn’t always want rock and roll underneath Jon—we actually wanted something more cinematic,” Alex says. “It was about Jon going through his struggles in what we call the story of Jon today. It was completely separate and had its own identity. And we used live instruments, live recordings, to give it more of a raw, authentic feel.”

I’m much more concerned with capturing the emotion of a story before you worry about the narrative. It’s, like, ‘How is this supposed to make me feel?’

Gotham, likewise, emphasizes the role that music plays in the cut. “I give a lot of credit to Alex. The editors I really love to work with use music to find the pace, mood, and tone and then we edit to that. I’m much more concerned with capturing the emotion of a story before you worry about the narrative. It’s, like, ‘How is this supposed to make me feel?’”

It’s Complicated

And that’s where it becomes especially challenging. Retrospectively, you have the history that was documented by mainstream media as a glitzy rock and roll joy ride. Contrasting with that are the present-day interviews with band members, family, and associates who help contextualize the past.

And then you have Jon Bon Jovi, who (for the most part) willingly admits Gotham into his inner sanctum to capture some of the rawest and most intimate moments of his present-day life. The trust therein is lost on neither Gotham nor Alex. 

“I was on tour with Jon back in April, two years ago, when he was really trying to figure out where he was with his voice, and it wasn’t going particularly well,” Gotham says. “You could feel the tension. There was no way we were going to be able to capture that with a big presence. So I had to grab a camera and slip myself into the dressing room. I got yelled at and kicked out of that dressing room a few times, and then I would slowly fade myself back into it.”

“To some extent, there’s risk associated with that of him just saying, ‘Fuck off, get out of here.’ Which he did, actually, in hindsight, say a few times. But I don’t get my feelings hurt and just gently come back, and it pays off. As we all know as filmmakers, those are the moments you’re really searching for.”

The filmmakers, of course, made the most of those moments, further testament to Bon Jovi’s trust. “To watch Jon go through that makes him very relatable,” Alex says. “Everyone knows him as the superstar, but he’s dealing with emotions and family just like the rest of us. And your job as the editor is to find those moments that people can relate to and tap into and they can see, these aren’t supernatural beings, they’re humans. To me, the best documentaries have that balance of entertainment and the human elements that make everything relatable and real and true. It’s not just some fabricated, ‘Look how great life is and how amazing everything is.’ It’s far more raw and real when you get it right.”

There are several of those quiet, intimate moments throughout the four episodes. But in stark contrast is the sequence Alex built to show just how demanding and exhausting the band’s schedule was in the early days and at the peak of their popularity. “I read a biography about the band and they talked about how many shows they did in the eighties. They did 240 shows, took a few months off, and then did 240 more. They went to Taiwan and then back to America and then Europe. How did they do a three-hour show and then sleep four hours and do it again? I was exhausted just reading about it,” Alex says. 

“I wanted that to be reflected in the editing and pacing of those sequences. It should feel exhausting. I wanted [to use] so many images to not overwhelm or confuse you, but to make you feel like you’re taking it in the way they were experiencing it,” he adds.

Trailer for Hulu’s Thank You, Goodnight

Using Productions in Premiere Pro helped Alex and Charles go through the incredible volume of material without stepping on each other’s work. “I could jump into his project, he could jump into my project, and we could kind of go back and forth and talk about things. So even if we were working on the same sort of moment, I could be gathering while he’s editing, and I could see where he’s going, and he could see what I worked on as soon as I click save,” Charles says. “It was even easy for less technical people to access the project. We had a story producer [Elisabeth Harris] who was able to go into Premiere Pro and look at footage, and we were all able to work together and be more collaborative.” Additionally, Brady and Charlie were able to work freely on episode three without interfering with what was happening on the other episodes, which allowed them to make progress on multiple episodes concurrently.

Given the huge quantity of band footage that exists, Alex endeavored to find the very best moments he could, and to “audition” them as quickly as he could. “I was pulling things off YouTube, off Vimeo, and you’re getting different codecs, you’re getting different types of films, and I don’t have time to wait for them to be transcoded,” he says. “I’m just pulling in because I want to see if these ideas work. And sometimes I know they’re going to be temp, I know it’s never going to get past legal, I’m never going to be able to use these clips, but I just need it in and I need to see if the idea works. I need to see if this scene concept is even worth our time for the next week exploring it.”

With Adobe it’s instant. I’m bringing in everything in real time.

“With Adobe it’s instant. I’m bringing in everything in real time and then we’ll figure out how we’re going to sort it out once the actual footage starts coming in. That’s when having a strong archival producer like Shane Munguia comes into play, to sort through everything we can keep and license—to go down the dark rabbit holes and find what we need. It’s helpful to us all when we’re in the same Adobe Production.”

The other feature that Alex and Charles relied on was auto transcription. With all the newly captured interview footage, being able to easily search through it by keyword was a real time saver. Even, according to Charles, searching through the archival and concert footage was easier. 

And then there was Text-Based Editing in Premiere Pro, which Alex used in the interview-intensive fourth episode. “With documentary editing, you’re a writer. You’re writing with existing words, sentences, and stories, and you’re collecting all of those to try and tell your version of the story.” Being able to essentially “write” the edit is yet another way to quickly get a feel for what’s there and what’s working.

No regrets

Throughout the series, Jon Bon Jovi talks about his legacy. What will he leave behind? How will it matter? While no one can predict what more he might do in his lifetime, what’s obvious is that he’s already packed so much into the past 40 years: music, acting, philanthropy, and functioning as the head of the industry that is Bon Jovi. 

But he also has four children who have been raised by a father who knows exactly what it means to persevere in the face of adversity. From the time he was a teen with the first single he took to record companies to the present day in which he’s working hard to regain his voice, Bon Jovi knows that there’s no such thing as success without hard work. 

That ethos isn’t lost on Gotham. “I’m a dad and my son is now 16 years old, and I think through that lens. What would I want my son to take away from this? The gift that Jon has is not the voice. It’s the unwillingness to give up. It’s the hard work. It’s showing up every single day. When he recorded his first song and sent it out to a dozen different publishers and recording companies, twelve doors slammed in his face, and he was the guy who was like, ‘Okay, well, I’ll go and figure out the thirteenth door.’ And to me, that’s really inspiring, and that’s what I show my son. I’m like, ‘Do this. Don’t give up. Keep working, keep at it, and the universe will deliver.’ 

What would I want my son to take away from this? The gift that Jon has is not the voice. It’s the unwillingness to give up. It’s the hard work.

It’s not as if Gotham or Alex needed Jon Bon Jovi to model that kind of work ethic. Obviously, had they not already been like minded there’s little chance they would have been entrusted with this story with such unfettered access.

Bon Jovi has a kind of medal of honor he bestows to those in his inner circle. He explains: “Once upon a time, Elvis gave out something called TCB, the medallion of the Memphis Mafia, which was a lightning bolt, and it said Taking Care of Business, TCB. He gave it to his most trusted friends. Nobody, at any price, could ever buy that.

“I was a fan of Elvis and picked up on that in a number of the books. Back in 1987, after the success of ‘Slippery When Wet,’ I thought, ‘I need to replicate that concept and have something that we can share with the band and the crew that achieved this moment in time—because who knows if it’ll ever happen again?’ I shaped this in the Superman logo and put the ‘Slippery When Wet’ road sign, tire marks, and the cheapest little diamonds on it.”

“I presented them to, I think, 13 people the first year, 1987. Subsequently, we came up with a rule, what it would take to qualify for one. If you were on the road crew, you had to do two world tours, not parts of a world tour, the entire world tour. It was hard. You had to be a major contributor over the course of several albums if you were a producer. Forget record company executives…it was just virtually impossible.”

“I’d say that in the last nearly 40 years, maybe a hundred of them are out there now, maybe. There’s a very small class, and it takes a lot for me to consider somebody. Alex and Gotham received this, because typically, I’d have made them do two documentaries, at a bare minimum. But they both earned this for telling the story.”

Bon Jovi’s assessment of what it takes to make a successful band echoes the success of this series and the effort behind making it.

“If you’re not in a rock band, and this doesn’t make much sense to you, think of it this way. If you were on a team, you may be able to relate to that. If you were in a family, you’re obviously going to be able to relate to that. If you’re in some kind of a corporate structure, you’re going to be able to relate to it. It’s the inner workings of teamwork, on what it takes to be a part of something that’s bigger than the individuals. It becomes the sum of its parts, and the whole is what represents what you present to the world. And if for nothing else, to see what comes across as fun takes a lot of hard work.”

Whether you’re reading this article or watching the documentary, what stands out is that Jon Bon Jovi isn’t content to rest on his (considerable) laurels. “The day you get fat, it passes you by. You are not going to be Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant by putting your feet up. It’s just not the way it works because there’s another Kobe Bryant and another Tom Brady and another Jon Bon Jovi. And even if that person is me, I’m not going to be the best version of me. I have to strive to be the best version of me,” he says.

Bon Jovi’s 16th album, “Forever,” drops on June 7, 2024. The single, “Legendary” represents Jon Bon Jovi then, now, and forever. He is the still the best version of himself.

For us at Frame.io, there’s nothing we respect more than teams working hard to create their best work. So when our product lets creatives find a little bit of balance? That’s what motivates us to keep working for our customers.

Lisa McNamara

Lisa McNamara is Frame.io's senior content writer and a frequent contributor to The Frame.io Insider. She has worked in film and video post-production approximately since dinosaurs roamed the planet.

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