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Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers #49: Alex Winter Charts The Rise and Fall of Napster in ‘Downloaded’

Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers #49: Alex Winter Charts The Rise and Fall of Napster in 'Downloaded'

Director Alex Winter’s work with “Downloaded,” began a decade ago, when he sold his feature screenplay about Napster’s early 2000s story. Now, he has scrapped the script, lost the narrative feature, and developed his own documentary on the subject, which he hopes to give a new view on the music industries tumultuous relationship with the company.

What it’s about: Downloaded charts the rise and fall of Napster and the birth of the
digital revolution. It’s the story of the young mavericks who helped
ignite the biggest youth revolt of our time.

Tell Us About Yourself: I started out as a child actor on Broadway with co-starring roles in THE
KING & I, PETER PAN, and Simon Gray’s CLOSE OF PLAY at the
Manhattan Theater Club. After attending NYU film school I began
directing commercials, music videos and THE IDIOT BOX; a hit show for
MTV that I starred in and co-wrote and directed with Tom Stern. Tom and I
went on to write and direct FREAKED for Twentieth Century Fox, which I
also starred in, alongside Randy Quaid. Freaked was acclaimed by many
critics including Entertainment Weekly, who listed it on their ‘Top Ten
greatest comedies of the Nineties.’

I starred in several other feature films, including the BILL AND TED
franchise, THE LOST BOYS and Percy Adlon’s ROSALIE GOES SHOPPING.

After Freaked I went solo as a director and made FEVER, released by
Lionsgate Films. The film was invited to film festivals worldwide,
including Official Selection in the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. In
The New York Times, A.O. Scott praised FEVER as “Pure Hitchcockian
panic. An arresting example of what a talented filmmaker can do with the
sparest of means.”

I’m currently developing my next documentary feature with producers the
Zipper Brothers, winners of the 2012 Academy Award for feature
documentary, UNDEFEATED.

In addition to my feature projects, I continue to work as an actor and
director of TV shows and commercials. Most recently I co-starred in the
Spanish produced thriller GRAND PIANO, alongside Elijah Wood and John
Cusack, directed by Eugenio Mira.

What else do you want audiences to know about your film?
I first wrote Downloaded in the early 2000’s, to direct as a narrative.
The script was bought by a major studio but went into turnaround after a
few years in development, and I moved on. Several years later I was
somewhat shocked and dismayed that there was still so much contention
and divisiveness between those who had created the new digital paradigm
and those from the pre-existing paradigm. It was then that I decided to
tell the story as a documentary, to give voice to all sides in this
debate, and hopefully provide some context for how we got here and where
we might be going. I also feel strongly that the story of Napster is a
unique and extraordinary moment in American cultural history, and that
the true account of this saga needed to be told.

What was your biggest challenge in developing this project? It was surprisingly easy to convert my narrative script to a documentary
structure. And all of the heavy lifting in research had been done years
before when I first developed the movie. The biggest challenge was to
keep my own opinion out of the way, so the film wouldn’t be reduced to a
didactic polemic on digital rights and copyright law! Thankfully I had
extraordinary collaborators in Jacob Craycroft, my editor, Anghel Decca,
my DP, producers Maggie Malina and the great Thom Zimny. They had so
much to contribute and helped in shaping something that I feel stands on
its own merit, and not on the back of my opinions.

What would you like SXSW audiences to come away with after seeing your film? Whether or not you agree with Napster and downloading, I would like
people to come away from the movie with a complete and resonant
understanding of this extraordinary company, and the brilliant minds who
created it. Beyond this, I sincerely hope that people are stirred to
participate in the conversation about internet rights and transparency.
These are vitally important issues, as we are now building the
architecture for future generations.

What do you have in the works? I am co-writing the pilot for a new series on AMC, an hour-long
drama about the modern militia movement. And developing my next feature
documentary with the Zipper Brothers, who won the Academy Award in 2012
for the documentary UNDEFEATED.

Indiewire invited SXSW directors to tell us about their films,
including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re
doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013

 Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on March 8 for the latest profiles.

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