March 15th, 2012
06:33 PM ET
Cult classic '80s films like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Lost Boys” helped make Alex Winter famous as an actor, but these days he is enjoying acclaim for stepping behind the camera.
He ventured to SXSW in support of his documentary about the fall of the online music sharing company Napster. Winter said he originally planned to do a narrative film on what eventually became the documentary, titled “Downloaded.”
Winter told CNN he first met Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning in 2003 “when Napster was falling apart.” The actor turned producer said he learned that Fanning and his co-founders were interested in telling their story, and Winter shared that goal.
“Frankly I was interested in it because I felt it was a world-changing technology,” Winter said. “The divide back then between the youth generation [who] were creating these new technologies that were about to change everything and the establishment was a bigger gulf than it is today, and it’s a pretty big gulf today....I felt like we were sitting on a revolution that no one realized was happening.”
Winter said it took him years to get the project off the ground – partially, he believes, because in the early 2000s there was very little understanding of the technology which gave rise to Napster.
With the recent success of digital music services like Spotify, Winter felt the time was right to revisit what has become a documentary tracing the rise and ultimate fall of Napster, which found itself at the center of a battle over music piracy.
“Two things were going on,” he said. “One, the technology was becoming commonplace. Yet on the other, the war between the existing establishment - and even Congress to some degree - and the youth generation who were bringing forth these technologies was getting worse.”
"Downloaded" includes the Napster founders, music artists and heads of the record industry discussing what would become the forefather of online music sharing. While Winter stepped back to let others tell the tale, he does have a point of view about what Napster accomplished.
“I still do have the feeling that the world was revolutionized by two people who had inherently good motives,” said Winter, who pointed out that Napster went bankrupt because it was dependent on the record industry’s cooperation, which never materialized. “This wasn’t a company that was run by pirates, though the world was over taken by pirates after Napster went away.”
As for his own career, Winter said he still loves acting and plans to return to it at some point. Many fans don't know that he actually came to Hollywood to direct before he found fame as a movie actor.
So will we ever see him reunite with Keanu Reeves for another “Bill & Ted”?
"We've kicked the idea around, and it may happen," Winter said. "We are not wholly opposed to it."
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