Ok thanks everyone! That was fun! And remember, Music Is The Best!

Hi. I’m an actor and filmmaker. You may know me from The Lost Boys or Bill & Ted and today I’m here to chat about Zappa, the upcoming all-access documentary on the life of Frank Zappa. In making this film, we set out to tell a story that is not a music doc, or a conventional biopic, but the dramatic saga of a great American artist and thinker, a film that would set out to convey the scope of Zappa’s prodigious and varied creative output, and the breadth of his extraordinary personal and political life. First and foremost, I wanted to make a very human, universal cinematic experience about an extraordinary individual. Ask me anything!

Check out the trailer of ZAPPA, out everywhere now! https://youtu.be/U4F0rT0F6OQ

Proof: https://i.redd.it/jhe2i6oqef261.jpg

Comments: 327 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

faeblesmith245 karma

Howdy, how’s it going? Does it feel strange at all knowing you’re going to play a direct role in a bunch of young people (like 15-16 y/os) discovering Frank Zappa’s work for the first time?

alexwinter_zappa175 karma

One can only hope!!

najing_ftw102 karma

What do you think of the jam session between Pink Floyd and Frank in 1968?

alexwinter_zappa105 karma

I dig it. Love PF from that era.

alexwinter_zappa135 karma

(fyi it was 69)

najing_ftw44 karma

Dammit, you’re right!

gambiergump73 karma

You've made some really fun (and serious) documentaries; do you think you'll ever turn your focus back to narrative fiction filmmaking? And could there ever be a Bill & Ted 4?

alexwinter_zappa296 karma

I'm not here to talk about Rampart.


Yes i'm developing a couple of narrative projects I'm hoping to do in the coming year or so. TV and film. BT4? Who knows. We're happy with where this ended, the fans would have to make it happen i think.

CountDrewcula72 karma

Why does it hurt when I pee?

alexwinter_zappa121 karma

I'd check the toilet seat.

CountDrewcula33 karma

Ha! This was an expected/unexpected reply. Thanks for the years of entertainment and I look forward to viewing the doc.

alexwinter_zappa36 karma


OnlyLoveCanBreak63 karma

Hi Alex - happy to have been a Kickstarter backer for vault/doc.

What are your personal favorite top 5 Zappa tracks?

alexwinter_zappa79 karma

Thanks for backing! Great question, I dug into that here.

zsqxdw53 karma

How involved was the Zappa family in deciding what can or cannot go into the film?

Also, great to see Mike Keneally involved.

alexwinter_zappa97 karma

It was an independent film and I had final cut. Once Gail gave us right and vault access we were left alone.

zappafrank211240 karma

Are you able to say anything about the selection of Zappa alums to interview? For example, Terry Bozzio's insight into the Black Page would have been interesting, since it was written for him. (though of course Ruth's discussion was great!)

alexwinter_zappa107 karma

We built this film without any interview for the most part, and then looked at where there were gaps in the narrative and I sought people who could fill those gaps. That led to the decision to interview who we did. It wasn't that I thought they were the most important or expert, but that they could speak to the very specific issues we wanted to address. With someone like Zappa who was surrounded by so many incredible artists there would never have been a way to include them all.

RickRiffs36 karma

Why did you choose Watermelon in Easter Hay as the closing track? Movie was most excellent btw!

alexwinter_zappa69 karma

Because the guitar solo is so intimate and emotional and still epic and all FZ!

SadInvite632 karma

Do you think Frank Zappa is overlooked in the world of rock legends ??

alexwinter_zappa59 karma

Maybe somewhat, though he kind of designed his career that way. I do think he's very revered overall though and certainly the classical community considers him a titan in the world of 20th century composers.

CletusVanDamnit32 karma

Hey Alex - super cool to have you here! Can't say I knew that you were the one who directed Zappa, but I was already interested so I'll definitely check it out.

My question is...what's going on with Freaked? Any chance of an updated release? It's dreadfully expensive right now on the out of print versions. It would be a killer release to get from a niche company like Vinegar Syndrome or Arrow (4K UHD wouldn't hurt, either!)

alexwinter_zappa39 karma

We're trying to get it on streaming at least. With Fox being bought by Disney it's made everything more complicated but we're working on it!

Beaucabulary30 karma

Alex! Love your work, especially this doc. What is the most surprising fact you learned about Zappa through making this documentary?

alexwinter_zappa72 karma

I think the amount of time and effort he put into traveling the world in the late 80's and early 90's trying to figure out how he could help global issues was really surprising and impressive.

22128 karma

If Zappa suddenly appeared in your car and asked you to play him one song released since his death that you know he'd love, what would you play?

alexwinter_zappa64 karma

Philip Glass's opera The Civil Wars

Naidyloxim26 karma

Watching the progression of FZ get sick near the end is heart breaking. You obviously got to watch a lot of footage especially with Ensemble Modern. Do you feel he personally found satisfaction with those concerts? A lot is made of his disappointment with musicians up to that point.

alexwinter_zappa59 karma

Yes, despite the physical pain of the cancer, and the stress of knowing he was terminal, the archival of those rehearsals convey a Zappa who is very grateful and moved by the ability and passion of the ensemble. it's very emotional footage.

abcde_fz25 karma

I was a backer of the vault preservation effort, and absolutely loved the resultant film. One thing that troubled me during the backing was the fracture in the family. Did that ever get any better, and have you gotten feedback on the film from Moon or Dweezil? Did the situation with the siblings influence any filmmaking decisions?

Can't wait for the blu-ray and hope it is packed with extras!

alexwinter_zappa31 karma

Hi, I received the rights and vault access from Gail and the film itself was made by my production company as an independent film. So I wasn't involved, nor know inside information, about the family.

zappafrank211223 karma

Hi Alex!

Watched the doc this weekend, and loved it! I've been a Zappa fan for decades (obviously), and even I learned some new stuff. Tremendous use of all the video footage!

Couple questions about choice of what to include in depth vs not:

1) I was kind of surprised that the jazz era (Wazoo/Roxy in particular) was sort of glossed over. Was this a conscious decision, or just the result of keeping the doc from being too too long?

2) Was there any discussion of spending time on Franks' use of Xenochrony? I feel like that's very much a Frank thing, and was really instrumental in his later work.


alexwinter_zappa30 karma

Hi very glad you liked the movie! I was far more interested in telling a specific and relatively narrow story about Zappa's personal journey as an artist. We didn't set out to make an album to album movie or try to get in all of this biography or his theories. There's other docs for that. I don't tend to make informational films. Love those albums tho!

PopeGnomeyTheFirst21 karma

Hi Alex!

What advice would you give to someone who is completely inexperienced, but is looking into making a documentary for the first time?

alexwinter_zappa49 karma

Love the subject or the topic enough to fight to get it made and get it seen. It takes time and a lot of persistence. But it's a great form to work in. Good luck!

FarDamnOut18 karma

Hi Alex,

Like many others outside of the US, we're gasping to see this. How's negotiations going for viewing in UK, Europe and the rest of the world please?

alexwinter_zappa37 karma

I believe they're all about done. it's being worked out by the film's financiers and international sales so I get info from them as they have it. But it's my understanding most territories are now sold and I should have dates relatively soon. I wish it wasn't so fragmented releasing indie films, it's maddening frankly.

croninsiglos16 karma

Why Frank Zappa and will it be clear to the newer generation that’s never heard of him?

alexwinter_zappa46 karma

Because I love his music, his humor, his political activism and the many contradictions and dualities of his nature. All of those things make for a great doc subject. And because his life story had never been told in film!

EagerWombat16 karma

Hey Alex,

It has really been a pleasure to support this work through Kickstarter. Your campaign was easily the most informative and consistently rewarding project I've ever been a part of, so thank you. Can't wait to see the finished film.

Now on to the question...What's the future of the Zappa Vault contents? Is there a larger org (company, family trust, etc.,) that's going to catalogue and maintain Frank's work?

Thanks again.

alexwinter_zappa23 karma

From what i understand the ZT is negotiating for all of this preserved and digitized material to go to an institution for study and posterity. I'm not too inside so not sure the status.

jawa70915 karma

As a Zappa fan for over 30 years, I frequently get the same question from friends: Where should I start?

Alex, which Zappa records were your first? When was the first time you listened to Frank's music? Which of his albums would you first suggest to someone who's never listened to FZ?

PS: Love the movie, supported the kickstarter, and I also thought you were fantastic in Bill & Ted Face The Music. Bald leopard-print Bill and nursing home Bill are officially my 2 favourite movie characters of 2020. :)

alexwinter_zappa23 karma

Thanks appreciate it! I first listened to FZ after his first SNL appearance. And really got into him after college.

Here's a couple places I talk about favorites:



leah04-13 karma

Hello! I haven’t been able to watch the doc yet, but I’m very excited to see it. Do you have a favorite song, Zappa or other?

EmCount11 karma

Hello! I greatly enjoyed the documentary and am curious, what are some bits you were thinking of including but decided not to? And if there are a good deal of these would there be a possibility for such things to be included on the blu-ray? Also if u dont mind answering, what is your favorite Zappa album?

alexwinter_zappa14 karma

Hi there. Mike Nichols, the editor, and I really scoured the vault media and trawled the world for additional media to tell this story. We spent so much time cutting that honestly there wasn't anything that we felt would have made the story work better, although there's lots of of fun stuff we couldn't include. Personally i could watch two hours just on the Garrick theater! We are including some extras from the vault and interview outtakes on the dvd i believe.

dazedan_confused11 karma

What's the strangest thing you found out about Frank Zappa in your research?

alexwinter_zappa40 karma

Hmm. Nothing strange really that i didn't already know. But I wasn't aware of his trips to Moscow and how invested he was in trying to help with foreign relations. Inspiring.

zappafrank211217 karma

Well, we know he found "movies" that Frank made! ;)

alexwinter_zappa21 karma

.....uh yeah

sno_boarder9 karma

Wait, what?

alexwinter_zappa23 karma

don't ask :/

blackphillipbaby11 karma

As the filmmaker and a fan, what album would you recommend for someone whose never listened to Zappa?

alexwinter_zappa18 karma

Great question! I got into that here.

MacZappa10 karma

When and how did you first get into FZ? Did his music leave an impression immediately on you? Thanks for your great work by the way — being from the UK I'm yet to see Zappa, but if it is as well made as your earlier docs then I'm going to be a happy viewer 🙂

alexwinter_zappa13 karma

After his first appearance on SNL in the 70's, he was an immediate stand out, not only for being a great musician, but his humor and his activism.

Hope you dig the movie!

technicalityNDBO10 karma

Did you get to meet Tim Cappello when filming The Lost Boys?

alexwinter_zappa15 karma

I actually met Tim before Lost Boys, seeing his own band playing live at CBGB's in NYC. Great guy.

_opticks10 karma

Hi! I'm a teenager and I want to ask you, do you think that this documentary will help people of my age to appreciate his music? I discovered Frank' music on the internet, and after watching documentaries, I began to buy his records. I believe that this movie will introduce more people into to his work. (sorry for my English, I'm from Europe.)

alexwinter_zappa12 karma

I hope so. It was made for all people and all ages, whether FZ fans or not. His life story is incredible and his artistry is singular. My kids love him!

SuperWarning700510 karma

How was Gail to work with? I personally found her to be lovely.

alexwinter_zappa17 karma

I treasured my friendship with her. She didn't live long enough to see us get the film off the ground, but we had many great conversations.

Mreverything119 karma

Did you ever hear any full live shows while making the movie? And if so, which shows were your favorite ones!

Btw, fucking awesome movie can't wait to watch it so many times that it is forever imprinted on my brain.

alexwinter_zappa16 karma

Thanks glad you enjoyed it! I always listen to live Zappa, I love how he engages with his band and the audience. I'm a sucker for Broadway The Hard Way.

bacon-grilled-cheese8 karma

Hey Mr. Winter!

I've been a Zappa fan for these past 21 years of my life. I loved the doc and seeing all the archival footage of the man himself. Is there one shot or moment of his life that didn't make it into the film that you wish people could have seen?

Love from Brooklyn! And thanks so much!

alexwinter_zappa12 karma

Honestly not really. We were most focused on telling a good story so let a lot of things go. Made for a better movie I think.

No_Ad_66307 karma

Hi, do you know when we'll be able to see it in Canada?

alexwinter_zappa13 karma

You can see it there now. It's the number one doc in Canada! Go to Apple, Amazon, etc.

tioa07 karma

I'm a baker for the kickstarter campaign. And I'm glad that I participated.

Your movie is truly significant, literally, it carries a lot of significance. A very fine job! BRAVO!

Like many said, Ruth is a star.

One of the significant moments to me was the direct confrontation from a let's call them a "surface" and an "inner" view:

Alice Cooper / Ian Underwood (around 57 min)

he sabotaged his potential hit records ...

he was not interested in making hit records ...

Matter of the fact is that he used "hit-like" hooks as lures to attract as many as possible to his musical message that was different, but near or juxtaposed those hooks!

If I may, the only thing I did not appreciate was the use of out of context music. For my point of view, narrow as an hard-core fan can be, a questionable choice. If not FZ, "reference" music from doo-wop to Bartok could have been used.

I noticed that Frizzell is a producer, was it a request from him?

Thank You!

alexwinter_zappa12 karma

Hi thanks I agree re Ruth! And also love the Cooper/Ian back and forth. We tried scoring with only Zappa-referenced music and it didn't help the film. It was distracting and not supportive, which is what film music be overall. So I asked Frizzell to step in and love what he did very much. He's extremely talented.

yourmumisverynice7 karma

Hello Alex! If you were to sum up Frank Zappa by using just one of his songs, which song and why?

alexwinter_zappa18 karma


StrangeCaptain7 karma

Would you have bothered if the zappa estate had refused access a la Bowie?

Haven't seen the film yet, maybe that's obvious by my question.

I have a weird relationship with Zappas stuff. So much good stuff, so much pedantic humor.

Brilliant but weird and maybe it strikes me as kind of soulless?

alexwinter_zappa15 karma

I would have done it without vault access yes, but not without the rights. Gail gave me both which was enormously helpful. As for the other things, watch the movie! :)

jeffersonairmattress9 karma

Speaking of Bowie, I wonder how true the tale of Frank being pissed about the "theft" of Belew really is. I get that this must have felt like a huge loss for Zappa's band but Belew contributed so heavily to Bowie's catalogue that I'm glad he was "stolen."

alexwinter_zappa18 karma

All I know is the fantastic story that Belew himself tells regularly. "Fuck you Major Tom"

Classic FZ :)

StrangeCaptain12 karma


Zappa demoted him to Captain

alexwinter_zappa14 karma

That's right! Even funnier

GoldmanT6 karma

Was it a conscious choice not to have any interviews with Zappa's children in the film, or something that came organically while putting the film together?

The home footage of them as youngsters were some of the most human moments, and the Stravinsky playing behind baby Moon was a beautiful moment. :)

alexwinter_zappa14 karma

It wasn't about not including them specifically, I really wanted as few interviews in the film as possible and only from a small handful who worked closely with Zappa across his career.

ijoinedtosay6 karma

You're only allowed to listen to one Frank Zappa song for the rest of your life, what do you pick?

alexwinter_zappa16 karma

G Spot Tornado!

ZootMarimba6 karma

What in the vault did you get the biggest kick out of?

Favorite band of Frank’s?

Is there anybody you wish you could have talked to?

alexwinter_zappa10 karma

I love the Garrick theater era and was so happy to find that amazing footage down there. My favorite band is the Roxy era. Absolutely unbeatable.

I wish I could have talked to FZ!!

yourcolourispurple6 karma

Hi Alex! I know you've mentioned an interest in getting The Idiot Box back out there on DVD/digital. If this did happen, are there outtakes, bonus features, or any other material you would like to include as part of the release?

alexwinter_zappa7 karma

Would love it, have never gotten anywhere with MTV.

Kakawit6 karma

Your fundraiser promised access to vault rarities in exchange for support in preserving the vault contents. Do you feel you achieved this goal?

alexwinter_zappa10 karma

In spades, yes. Everything we preserved and shared was extremely rare. It's an embarrassment of riches really what he left us.

Pjotor6 karma

First off, thank you for doing the documentary and for saving the vault. As a backer, I've been hyped for the film since day one and the final result exceeded all my expectations. Even my wife, who's never been much of a fan, watched the whole thing with me.

  • It was really cool to watch those small snippets of saved footage in each project update, and I'd like to know if you found anything in the vault that was really outta left field (aside from the raunchy stuff you mentioned on Jimmy Kimmel).

  • Adding to this, can we expect any of the digitized material to appear on future releases from the ZFT and what would you personally want to see released?

  • Bonus question: What was Frank's house, studio and vault like? It must have been an awesome experience as a mega-fan to gain access to all that.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for undertaking this gargantuan task.

alexwinter_zappa14 karma

Thanks for being a backer! We found a lot of fun and crazy pieces of media. Some weird stuff that didn't make the movie is actually going on the backer dvd's if you got those. One of them involves FZ interviewing a pig.

Don't know what the ZT will do but assume so.

The house was magic. Just filled with his spirit and energy. I'm so glad I got to spend a lot of time there. Grateful.

Verringer6 karma

Any idea of a release date for the UK? Can’t wait to see the movie.

alexwinter_zappa8 karma

Working on it. Should have news soon! Will be first part of next year looks like.

Meme_Machine1016 karma

How do you feel about scenes like this looking back from the first two Bill and Teds?

alexwinter_zappa79 karma

We're not happy with those at all. No excuses, it shouldn't have happened.

GroovinWithAPict5 karma

Hey Alex, thanks for doing this. I started the doc last night, but need to finish after work. Do you cover the period where Frank and DC-area DJ Don Cerphe Colwell went before Senate testifying during the rock lyrics brouhaha?

alexwinter_zappa7 karma

Welllll, you're just gonna have to watch the rest of the movie and find out!

MisterPatrickJ5 karma

What inspired you to direct this Zappa documentary in the first place?

alexwinter_zappa9 karma

A love of his music and a great interest in his life story, which is epic and singular.

ChuckEye5 karma

Alex, I was a backer of both Deep Web and Save the Vault. It’s been a pleasure for me to be able to help support your projects in whatever capacity I can. In the “Long Tail / 1,000 True Fans” model, you are one of the artists I will continue support when given the opportunity.

How has crowdfunding changed not only the projects you’re able to take on, but your relationship with your fans in the making process? And any hints of what or when your next project might be?

alexwinter_zappa7 karma

Wow thanks! Crowdfunding is very very hard but also extremely rewarding. Not only for the results of the ask but because of the direct and ongoing relationship formed with fans and supporters. Making films can be very isolating, it's not theater and it's not being in a band in front of an audience. I really enjoy the direct fan engagement.

Eli_Seeley5 karma

Hi Alex! How was the Clapton Jam? I’ve been dying to hear it!!!

alexwinter_zappa8 karma

We released some on the kickstarter backer updates. It's pretty low key. Mostly them talking to each other and noodling a bit.

bullet_bobby3 karma

Hi Alex, really looking forward to watching the film! What’s your opinion on the claymation video for Zappa’s City of Tiny Lights?

alexwinter_zappa11 karma

claymation video for Zappa’s City of Tiny Lights

Amazing. Bickford was a true genius. I found a LOT of unseen Bickford work in the vault. Gold.

Proffunkenstein3 karma

Can you recommend any other artists who Frank felt was worthy of listening to like Edgard Varese?

alexwinter_zappa8 karma

Stockhausen, Stravinsky, John Cage, so many...

MtCarlmore3 karma

Hi Alex, first off hugely thrilled you guys got back together for Bill & Ted 3. I loved those guys and I still do!

Wanted to ask about Showbiz Kids. Living in the UK, I'm still looking forward to getting my hands on it, but wanted to ask - do you see parallels in the YouTube/TikTok/influencer famous kids of today with your young Hollywood experience? What can we do to make sure we're not feeding the beast as consumers?

Thanks - can't wait to catch Zappa when it's available too.

alexwinter_zappa7 karma

Hi the movie was out on Sky in the UK. Think streaming/DVD is coming soon. There are a lot of parallels with social media child stars. Even worse for many of them because there are less regulations. That's a whole other movie!

borisdidnothingwrong3 karma

With winter coming, what do you think of the advice to avoid the yellow snow?

alexwinter_zappa9 karma

The frozen wind's beginning to blow

zappafrank21122 karma

I can't recall if this was mentioned in the movie, but did you ever get to see Frank live?

alexwinter_zappa17 karma

I did not. I've seen Dweezil several times and at one of his shows at the Whisky in like '90, FZ was standing in front of me the entire time, beaming. Was pretty cool.