EDIT: I have to go now, thanks so much for an awesome AMA! I had a blast!

Hi guys. I'm filmmaker Alex Winter. You might know me from my past acting roles (BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, THE LOST BOYS) or my past documentaries (DOWNLOADED, about Napster, and DEEP WEB about the SilK Road and Ross Ulbricht). Or, you might be here because you've heard about my Frank Zappa documentary [http://www.whoisfrankzappa.com].

We took a huge step with the Zappa movie this morning and launched a Kickstarter where fans can get on board to help me make the doc and save Frank's private archives.

Looking forward to your questions. AMA! Proof: [https://twitter.com/alxwinter/status/707289347234594816]

More Proof, cuz these guys love their proof: [https://twitter.com/alxwinter/status/707292056318644224]

Comments: 219 • Responses: 78  • Date: 

insolent_swine24 karma

Any plans on getting together with Keanu for another Bill and Ted?

alxwinter30 karma


ofthe57310 karma

Can Keanu get you a cameo appearance in John Wick 2 in the meantime?

alxwinter22 karma

I'm too much of a scrawny wuss to be in John Wick 2

sil3nt8o811 karma

What inspired you to make this documentary about Frank?

alxwinter28 karma

I love his music, i love his politics, I love his wit. And he's a singular American genius that's never had a proper movie made about his life. Way overdue!

JimmyTorpedo10 karma

Hey Alex, did you ever bang Missy...I mean Mom?
Be excellent dude! (Air Guitar)

Loved your interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast

alxwinter16 karma

I never did go full Oedipus.

Shermzilla10 karma

Hey Alex. Two Questions for you!

  1. Were there any difficulties you faced making the Zappa doc like music rights or anything like that?

  2. You mentioned on your latest appearance on nerdist that you found while making Deep Web that kids of the current generation are taking their privacy back online and that it was the older generations that were overwhelmed with the novelty of social networking. I found this very interesting and was wondering if you could go more in depth with this topic and if you see this continuing to be a trend as more and more kids are making their way online?


alxwinter15 karma

  1. I haven't started making the doc yet, we launched a Kickstarter today to save the vault so I can make the movie! [http://www.whoisfrankzappa.com]

  2. Yes I think adults are more naive and cavalier about their privacy than kids. I gave a Ted Talk about this recently which goes into great detail: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luvthTjC0OI]

Berlinized9 karma

Hi Alex, as you know there is a Frank-Zappa-Strasse in Berlin. Are you aware of other places in the world paying tribute to him in such a way?

alxwinter10 karma

Baltimore, Lithuania (of all places), maybe some more, need to think on that :)

zck7 karma


I was at Frank Zappa Day in Baltimore in 2010, where they unveiled a bust of Frank in front of the library. ZPZ also played.

I took some photos. I'm sure you have all you need, but if there are any that would be useful in the documentary, let me know.

alxwinter6 karma

These photos are great!!

suaveitguy8 karma

Have you been able to reach Tipper Gore for the film?

alxwinter6 karma

Haven't reached out yet, too early. But fully intend to :)

vintagesam7 karma

hi Alex!! I'm a huge fan, what was your favorite movie to work on :)? #TeamMarco 😊

alxwinter22 karma

Lost Boys for sure. I was young and didn't have to do much but ride motorcycles and take care of my hideous hair extensions. Was a ton of fun!

suaveitguy7 karma

Corey Feldman and Corey Haim were poster boys in the good and bad senses, did you have a front row to see the impact Hollywood success has on young people? How can it be avoided?

alxwinter11 karma

I did. That's a doc I hope to do at some point. Been working on it for years.

depleteduraniumftw3 karma

That seems risky considering the dark nature of that story. Finish the next Bill and Ted first.

alxwinter8 karma

Yeah no kidding!

Dano11387 karma

Hi Alex, What aspect of Frank do you want to explore that others have not? While I love Frank's politics, humor, and personality, there aren't many texts that properly explain what he did musically (combine genres all while following Varese-esque experimentation + 12-tone compositional techniques).

alxwinter10 karma

That's the beauty of a doc, I can really dig into his genius as a composer and his influence. I am really looking forward to shedding light on that aspect!

Berlinized6 karma

Will this documentary be also crowdfunded? I'd be happy to contribute.

alxwinter8 karma

This documentary IS being crowdfunded. We launched today! [http://www.whoisfrankzappa.com]

Berlinized7 karma

just pledged with pleasure :)

alxwinter8 karma

Thank you!!

justgentile6 karma

Hey Alex, I've always been a huge Bill and Ted fan. Bogus Journey has always been my favorite sequel because it seriously goes out there and is definitely not a retread of the first like so many sequels. I know you are working hard on the next Bill and Ted and I wouldn't want you to spoil too much about it as I hope it comes very soon but where do they go after the new movie? Is there a lifetime of stories, maybe videogame adaptions or something similar? A Bill and Ted game in the style of Sunset Overdrive would be incredible! Educational VR vids staring Bill and Ted going through history like that Simpsons episode where Lisa goes to Mongolia! Stuff like that?

alxwinter5 karma



tarpeggio6 karma

Looking forward to the Zappa documentary... still procrastinating watching Deep Web :) What was one of your most memorable moments during the filming of both B&T movies?

alxwinter16 karma

B&T one, working with Carlin for the first time. B&T two, playing my grandmother!

depleteduraniumftw5 karma

Thanks for being in two of the best movies of all time. When is the next one coming out?

alxwinter5 karma

we have to shoot it first!

nobafett5 karma

Obviously this is a movie about Frank, but how do you plan on involving the plethora of musicians that played for him? He discovered so much talent and those people were apart of the music just as much as Frank was.

I ask because there was well known animosity between certain members of the Zappa family and certain Zappa alumni. A film of this nature just wouldn't make sense without having some of these musicians apart of it.

alxwinter7 karma

I agree! I haven't encountered problems so far, in reaching out to all musicians and artists who worked with Frank. Maybe that's because this is project is a separate entity; it's being made by me, not by one camp or another within the Zappa fold. I'm Switzerland :)

YukonMyles5 karma

Hi Alex, I'm a big fan of Freaked as well as Bill & Ted. Is there a third B&T film in the works and is Keanu on board?

alxwinter8 karma

There is indeed!!

SAnthonyH6 karma

Hi Alex, Clarke Kent from the daily planet. Are there any plans for William Sadler to return as Death?

alxwinter6 karma


Robotpoop2 karma

Just throwing it out there, but Rufus should come back as a fat, bearded Jewish dude in B&T3, and I should play him. :D

alxwinter5 karma



kritchproductions5 karma

Hi Alex, how did you come up with the idea for the quantum chess skit? Paul Rudd was fantastic!

alxwinter5 karma

Haha thanks, it was super fun and Rudd, Hawking and Reeves killed it! I did not come up with the idea, the geniuses at Caltech did! [http://iqim.caltech.edu/]

kritchproductions3 karma

It was hilarious! I can't believe you got Hawking to work on that. He has a great sense of humor. Also glad you were able to work with Keanu again. Nice little touch, saying that he doesn't age. You guys make a good team.

alxwinter5 karma

Thanks a lot. Glad you enjoyed it!

kritchproductions2 karma

Btw, thanks for telling Zappa's story. He was magical. I'm glad that people will learn more about him. How did you get permission to access his personal vault?

alxwinter6 karma

I approached his wife Gail. And pitched a way in to the story. She liked it a lot and gave me her blessing, as did the rest of the family. It's an awesome family :)

kritchproductions5 karma

You are going to do a great job with that story. I watched a piece on Alice Cooper just recently and it talked about how Alice staying in Zappa's basement when he first moved to LA. He recorded Alice Cooper's first album. Nice!

alxwinter3 karma

Yep Alice Cooper was on FZ's label!

HaosPoyo5 karma

Alex, what is your draw to making documentaries? What are some of the challenges of benefits to focus on documentary work?

PS, remember when I asked Missy to the prom?

alxwinter7 karma

I love the challenge of telling a story with real elements, as opposed to when I write non-fiction narrative. There are benefits unique to both, but a documentary allows for more nuance, more paradox and more shades of gray in character. Which is closer to the real human experience. Very satisfying to work with those aspects.

excusemefucker4 karma

I heard your interview on Nerdist a bit ago and really enjoyed it.

Hardwick mentioned you having your cellphone camera covered. Do you really feel that people hacking your phone and activating your camera is really a big risk? Do you think it's a bigger risk for you given your celebrity?


alxwinter5 karma

Thanks. Your phone is a mobile surveillance device. Whether that's for the tech companies who collect your data (illegally I might add) for their own metric purposes, or hackers. I don't risk any of that. Life's too short :)

artlung4 karma

How has the recent death of Gail Zappa impacted the development of this documentary? Do you have buy in from all the Zappa children? Is there 1 piece of Zappa content (music/film/whatever) you know doesn't exist that you wish did exist - a Holy Grail nugget as it were?

alxwinter8 karma

Gail was sick for a while so I was prepared for what was coming, as was she of course, so while tragically sad to lose her, I was able to discuss my plans with her in detail. And she gave me her blessing to go make my movie. And that's the thing, this is my movie, not a ZFT movie. So most important for me was to have their blessing (which I have from her and 'all the children', as you put it) and access to the vault (which I need).

To your second question, honestly I don't yet know what lies in store as we unleash the vault. So I'm really not sure what concretely doesn't exist. I'll be able to answer that in a year! :)

The_Groove_Project4 karma

Alex! This is an awesome project to tackle, cant wait to donate and see the end result. Were you able to ever see Frank in concert? If so, where and what was it like for you?

alxwinter6 karma

Sadly I was not. Crushing but true.

mrlancegreen4 karma

Your performances and documentaries have been most triumphant. Thank you.

Dummy Question:
How can I be involved with the creation of Bill and Ted 3?

Real Question: If you could have a dinner party with 3 living and 3 dead guests(no short dead dudes), who would they be and what would you eat?

alxwinter3 karma

First question, maybe if we crowdfund it Second question: Dr. Hawking, Terry Gilliam, Dalai Lama, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Ghandi. Fondue.

pm_me_judge_reinhold4 karma

Hi Alex! Did you get to meet the Sax Player from Lost Boys? And do YOU STILL BELIEEEEEEVE?!

alxwinter7 karma

Funnily enough I saw him play with his first band at CBGB's several years before I turned up on the boardwalk to shoot and found him all oiled up with barely any clothes on, wailing away on that sax. True story. I was... shocked...

g-mads4 karma

Hi Alex! I'm a huge fan! I'm also VERY excited for the Frank Zappa film! I was just wondering, do you need any artists or illustrators to help work on the film? I'm cartoonist/illustrator and I'd love to take part. What's the best way to contact you/the crew to get involved?

alxwinter6 karma

Thanks for your interest! We aren't starting the movie for a while so not dealing with that kind of thing just yet. First order of business is saving this vault!

Starfyrewitch3 karma

Marco from The Lost boys, or Bill From Bill and Ted.... Who would win in an epic battle against each other? Fangs vs. Time Machine. Why?

alxwinter6 karma

Bill would kick Marco's ass. Actually he would just grab him by his hair extensions and... game over.

KatieWeasley3943 karma

What do you think would be the biggest difference/challenge in making Bill and Ted now vs. in the 80s? And would you and Keanu ever be open to singing for real in the third movie? (Cuz I'd love to hear Wyld Stallyns' real voices)

alxwinter6 karma

The best thing for the movie-going public, is that neither Keanu nor myself provide actual musical or vocal services in said future productions. I am willing to sign this and have it notarized.

SirJorn3 karma

Will the world premierie of this documentary feature a complimentary pancake breakfast?

alxwinter3 karma

haha. It better!

CookieDuster3 karma

Hi Alex. Can you tell us how you plan on tackling screening and listening to materials in the Vault? How important is the Vaultmeister, Joe Travers to your workflow? And do you need any help from a lifelong fan and editor (shameless self-for motion)?

alxwinter3 karma

Joe is our right arm! He is all important :)

CookieDuster1 karma

What is your system for logging and recalling the stuff you are seeing? There is so much isn't it all too much to remember? And Joe is a marvel! Thanks for doing the doc!

alxwinter2 karma

Not about recall, as much as about preserving, archiving, logging, viewing. Yes, it's mammoth!

ColaGoat3 karma

What's your favorite Zappa album and why?

alxwinter7 karma

Man that is tough. Hot Rats, if I had an absolute gun to my head. Yellow Shark tho.... ahhh so hard!!!

Dano11383 karma

What's your favorite interview with Zappa?

alxwinter6 karma

There are so many that I love. Especially the super early ones with the Mothers. But the vault contains many that have yet be seen or heard and that's what I'm looking forward to digging into!

HausKino3 karma

Hi Alex, looking forward to the Zappa documentary.

I always wondered if you and Keanu stayed in touch and if there is any likelihood of you working together on a new project, maybe with you directing him?

alxwinter4 karma

I work with Reeves all the time. He narrated my last doc Deep Web [http://www.deepwebthemovie.com] and we'll be working together again soon in front of the camera...

liamquane3 karma

Hi Mr. Winter, do you have any directorial advice?

alxwinter2 karma

I'm going to answer all three of your questions here:

Directing & Screenwriting advice is the same. Work hard as hell, study everything, never ever give up. That works. Promise.

Set control really seems to be about being willing and confident enough to delegate. A lot of directing is middle management. Doesn't sound very sexy but it's true :)

filmcricket693 karma

What song would you have had Bill & Ted play at the end of Bogus Journey instead of that Kiss song?

alxwinter5 karma

Well we didn't play the Kiss song, Kiss played the Kiss song for the end titles. We played our own song, well technically Steve Vai played it :)


What is your favorite cheese ?

alxwinter4 karma


KatieWeasley3943 karma

If you had a real time traveling phone booth, where would you want to go and why?

alxwinter10 karma

Back in time to every time someone asked me this question so I could give them a pudding cup.

oh_waa2 karma

Okay. What do you think about new type of supercomputers, which are completely different from silicon, quantum, nano, and biochem in the principle of the construction of?

alxwinter1 karma

There are huge advancements in computing at the moment. And quantum computing is on the cusp of becoming a reality. And that will be a game changer.

oh_waa2 karma

Your documentaries raised awareness about this advancement. Was it due because you loved computers as a technological phenomenon or you just decided to tell something trending?

alxwinter2 karma

Thanks! I've been heavily involved in emerging technologies and Internet communities since the 80's. So it's a very personal passion and interest of mine.

oh_waa1 karma

Laura Poitras while making her documentary experienced immense difficulties with her privacy. How about you?

alxwinter1 karma

I am not under the kind of scrutiny that Poitras is, but I take extreme precautions to avoid being surveilled.

KatieWeasley3942 karma

Hi Alex! I'm a big fan and aspiring writer, and you inspired me with your writing and directing (like with Freaked) so I was wondering, what do you do to combat writers block and stay focused?

alxwinter3 karma

I set a timer. Really! And just write through the desire to do absolutely anything else during that block of time. Works!

KatieWeasley3942 karma

That's a really good idea! Thanks so much dude!! Speaking of Freaked, how difficult was it to create and put on the costumes and makeup?

alxwinter3 karma

unbelievably hard and time consuming! The genius Bill Corso did my Freaked makeup and applied it everyday. Was a job to do while young :)

klamonic12 karma

Hi Mr. Winter, every year I love going to the Bill and Ted show at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. Have you ever had a chance to see any of the shows?

alxwinter4 karma

I have not. Heard good things tho.

tiamdi2 karma

What games would you play against Death to ensure you would win?

alxwinter4 karma

Death sucks at games. Poor death.

Petalsap2 karma

Hi, Alex! I'm such a huge fan, and I'm delighted you are so nice to your fans! My friend and I have a couple questions we've been meaning to ask you.

1.) What has been your favorite experience in directing, so far? I admire your ability to write and direct. Your movies are truly some of my favorites. Freaked was awesome, and I will watch Downloaded shortly.

2.) Is it tiring to be remembered as Bill? He seems to be one of your most popular and remembered characters, seemingly everyone's favorite. (Also, I have a complete cosplay for him, and my friend is Bill.)

3.) Do you think you'll play in many move TV shows/ movies? Grand Piano was badass and you did excellent in Bones as well. You are quite an interesting individual and I look forward to seeing you act. That is, if you truly enjoy acting. Thank you~

alxwinter3 karma

Thanks! Answers: 1. I really love directing so hard to pick a favorite. Maybe Fever, the small thriller I made in the late 90's. It was particularly fun and challenging to make. With a lot of in camera effects and moving sets, etc. Hard but fun. 2. Not at all. He was super great to play and I have huge fondness for and great memories of those flicks. 3. I love to act, always have. But prefer to write and direct and thankfully that's kept me really busy. We'll see what happens timewise after we make Bill & Ted 3.

MyExcellentAdventure2 karma

Looking back in your past and now, has anything changed in your life? It's alright if you don't want to answer.

alxwinter2 karma

Everything changes, all the time, thank goodness :)

Aububuh2 karma

If the house does sell, where are all the physical contents going to go? The vault, the studio equipment, et cetera.

alxwinter2 karma

Preserving the vault contents and archiving it will take the better part of a year, so that will hopefully get started asap! Where the rest of the contents go is up to the family and not my jurisdiction :)

MistaBizness2 karma

I loved Downloaded and Deep Web! Gave them both 10s on IMDB and highly recommend them. I believe government mandated monoplies for "intellectual property" are wrong. what are your thoughts on the future of open source and things like Open Bazaar?

alxwinter3 karma

Thanks much! Open Source continues to be our path into the future. For so many things that are good for the average citizen.

ChuckEye2 karma

I remember hearing legends of the Zappa vault, years ago. There were rumors that it contained stems and samples that could be used to make a hundred more albums. Do you believe there's any truth to those legends?

(And if that material does exist, is it only on Synclavier disks, and is there still a functioning synth that can read them???)

alxwinter3 karma

That is an excellent question! The answer is yes, and yes this rumor is mostly about Synclavier tracks and patches. And we are all over this, but it's a huge undertaking :)

nkleszcz2 karma

Hi Alex! Loved you in Lost Boys. Nice to see you're creating these films.

What Zappa songs/albums would you recommend for those who are new to Zappa? And what Zappa songs/albums would you recommend to those who are familiar with Zappa, but may be hidden treasures?

Thanks again!

alxwinter4 karma

Thanks! Ooh that's a tough one as you're talking about someone who is incredibly varied and prolific. Start with Apostrophe. A brilliant and accessible album. Then you can branch out from there.

Petalsap2 karma

Hi, Alex! I hope you have had a most excellent day! First off, would you mind telling me a widely unknown fact about Frank Zappa? He was a pretty interesting dude, and It's great to have a guy like you to make a movie about him.

Secondly, do you ever get nervous being in front of others? I personally get very embarrassed and have trouble talking to large crowds. And I loved your interview on Adult Swim. That was hilarious and I'm sorry you had to go through that.

Thirdly, what was the weirdest question you have been asked,? ( if there are any)

alxwinter2 karma

I am saving those gems for the movie! Agree FZ was super unique and interesting! Regarding your second question I started acting on stage when I was seven so I grew up in public in a way. You learn to get more comfortable with habit. And I couldn't tell you the weirdest question, but it probably had something to do with Freaked :)

KatieWeasley3942 karma

What was the craziest, most insane fan encounter you'd ever had? Also, thank you for taking time to answer my questions. You seem like a very genuine, fun, creative dude. Big hugs! <3

alxwinter3 karma

I have had many. One guy did an air guitar in a fancy restaurant, sliding across the entire floor of the restaurant and landing at my feet. That was special.

kritchproductions2 karma

Are you gonna shoot the Zappa doc in digital or on actual film stock (photochemical film)?

alxwinter2 karma

Digital. Docs, or should I say my docs don't have the kind of money to shoot on film. With the amount of shooting we do, that would be astronomically expensive.

kritchproductions3 karma

I thought so. Very true. We must have the same budget. :-) I'm thinking you should go 4K. Go big with this one.

alxwinter2 karma

Yes I'm shooting in max rez

RubyRedTootsies2 karma

I missed meeting Diane Keaton and buying a signed bottle of her wine for this. I hope you appreciate my priorities? :)

alxwinter1 karma

Always :)

RubyRedTootsies2 karma

Alex, do you know how to play Chess? Have you tried Quantum Chess yet? If so, do you win or lose more often? What is your favorite chess piece?

alxwinter3 karma

I suck at chess, but Reeves doesn't, he's really good actually.

swingawaymarell1 karma

Hey Alex,
Growing up in San Dimas as a little Jewish boy from Queens, I was always team Bill. Thanks for the awesome memories, and giving me an appreciation for my new home out west.
My question is:
Of all your works, what would you like to be remembered most for?
Thank you, and Party on Dude!

alxwinter2 karma

Thanks! I would have to say I love this quote of FZ's: It's not important to be remembered. Agree! It's important to live a good life and enjoy what you do :)

KatieWeasley3941 karma

If there was a zombie apocalypse, which five celebrities (living or dead) would you want on your survival team? Big hugs to you!!

alxwinter1 karma

I wouldn't be on a survival team. I'd be quivering in a basement somewhere waiting to be offed.

robinsky11 karma

How is the third Bill and Ted coming along?

alxwinter1 karma

Really well actually. Honestly.


Hi, Alex!

Thanks for doing this AMA and thanks for making a movie about Frank! I'll be contributing to the kickstarter today!

My question: How much time have you spent in the Zappa vault thus far, and what are some things that have struck you about what's down there, other than its sheer size?

Also, is there any inside info about Frank's personal life that you think will be newly uncovered in the making of this film? I guess I mean things about Frank that he probably never discussed publicly, so- things that won't be learned from interview footage. Are you planning on interviewing his kids and other people who knew him personally, as separate from the people he collaborated with musically? Info about Frank Zappa the musician is easier to come by than info about Frank Zappa the man.

alxwinter4 karma

Thanks! Question 1: I've been down there a lot. And what's struck me the most is the sheer size and variety to the contents. spools of 8mm movie film, shelves and shelves of reel-to-reel audio, video tapes, 35mm, art, drawings, etc etc etc. It's staggering in all honesty. Question 2: Yes I know that I am uncovering never before seen and heard information about FZ. Question 3: Yes I plan on interviewing everyone in the family and FZ's collaborator's.

MyExcellentAdventure1 karma

Hi Alex. How's your day?

alxwinter2 karma

Killer, how's yours?

MyExcellentAdventure2 karma

I'm doing fine. I'm just drawing while stuck in school. Thanks for asking.

alxwinter2 karma

Sound like my kid. I hear ya.

RubyRedTootsies1 karma

I heard the release date has been pushed back to 2018. What happened, Alex?

alxwinter2 karma

Hey Heather :) The date wasn't pushed back, as we haven't even started making the movie yet. The dates are all best guess estimates given wherever we are at the moment. The reason I changed the first date is because I was able to see the scope of the vault and knew it would be a year before I could even start the doc

RubyRedTootsies1 karma

I'm so happy & grateful all my cyber-friends maintain my cyber-anonymity. :D

alxwinter1 karma

So you don't want to post your GPS coordinates?

colin_creevey1 karma

After the projected digitization of the Vault's contents, are you aware of any plans to officially release archival material, outside of the context of the documentary?

alxwinter2 karma

Yes the FZT has plans to do that with some of the contents. It's their thing not mine so as much as I know.

RubyRedTootsies1 karma

So, barring Democrats AND Republicans . . . who is your candidate for POTUS 2016?

alxwinter3 karma

Jill Stein baby!!

7BriesFor7Brothers1 karma

I'm really interested in the stories behind how certain FZ albums got mixed and how the sound of the mixes changed over the years (eg Chunga's Revenge apparently not mixed from masters because of contractual wranglings?). Do you think you'll touch on that stuff in the film?

alxwinter2 karma

For sure!!

TahoeTweezer1 karma

What would Wyld Stallyns think of Zappa's music and vice versa?

alxwinter7 karma

They would love FZ, FZ would not love WS. Not enough compositional complexity :).

TahoeTweezer1 karma

On a more serious note, was it difficult to convince the Zappa family to allow you to make this doc?

Party on!

EDIT: "Allow" might not be the best word. How about "support"?

alxwinter3 karma

It wasn't difficult. It was just a matter of having a way into the story that the family also agreed with.

[deleted]1 karma


alxwinter2 karma

Thanks! So many stories. Every moment on set was a story. All crazy, all the time!


How did you first get turned on to the music of FZ?

alxwinter7 karma

I was a kid. A friend's older brother turned me onto Hot Rats. Mind blown. Then I loved him on SNL and realized there was a lot more to FZ than music. And the music is plenty!