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Dude! Alex Winter From 'Bill & Ted's' Directing A Documentary About Napster

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist August 23, 2011 at 9:59AM

While we all know what happened to Keanu Reeves after the "Bill & Ted's" movies, what happened to Bill S. Preston, Esq (Alex Winter)? Well, he soldiered on behind the camera, helming a couple of features -- the thriller "Fever" and the comedy "Freaked" -- and since staked out a career mostly as a director of television shows and commercials. But as with nearly everyone in Hollywood, Winter has a had a long gestating project that's he been trying to get off the ground and it looks like it finally will, albeit in a different shape than he intended.
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While we all know what happened to Keanu Reeves after the "Bill & Ted's" movies, what happened to Bill S. Preston, Esq (Alex Winter)? Well, he soldiered on behind the camera, helming a couple of features -- the thriller "Fever" and the comedy "Freaked" -- and since staked out a career mostly as a director of television shows and commercials. But as with nearly everyone in Hollywood, Winter has a had a long gestating project that's he been trying to get off the ground and it looks like it finally will, albeit in a different shape than he intended.

Remember Napster? If you're too young, it was basically where everyone got their music for one brief moment, an internet portal of sorts that gave you access to music libraries of individuals around the world allowing everyone to swap and trade music at will. Anything and everything you could ever want was a click away, but of course, it was highly illegal and it wasn't long before the music industry swiftly intervened and shut it down. But arguably, without Napster, there would be no iTunes and records companies would have continued to have a ridiculous stranglehold on how music was consumed and shared. Say what you will about Napster and its founder Shawn Fanning, but he revolutionized (and yes, nearly destroyed) the music business but in the process forced it to adapt. The subject has long fascinated Winter and he has been trying to get a movie made about it for the last decade, and while he won't get to deliver his "The Social Network" of music, Winter is pairing with VH1 to bring the story to life in the shape of a documentary.

“The rise and fall of Napster and the birth of peer-to-peer file-sharing technology created by Shawn Fanning when he was a college student, changed music to movies, and made possible everything from Julian Assange, WikiLeaks to the iPod and Facebook,” Winter told Deadline. “It became an expression of youth revolt, and contributed to a complete shift in how information, media and governments work. And it is a fascinating human story, where this 18-year-old kid invents a peer-to-peer file-sharing system, and brings it to the world six months later.”

While Winter might be overplaying his hand a bit, and perhaps being too generous to Fanning who he says ultimately intended to create a pay digital download service like the iTunes store (yeah, right), he does promise to present a balanced portrayal of how Napster affected musicians and how Fanning was largely shunned as an innovator by an industry that saw him as a threat. “Nobody wanted to deal with this college kid and the music industry took a hard stance and focused on shutting him down,” Winter said. “It’s a gray area. I can understand Fanning’s side, but I can also empathize with the horror that Metallica’s Lars Ulrich felt when a single that wasn’t even finished ended up on the radio.”

The upcoming documentary finds Winter going back to the feature film script he had been trying to get going and instead using his sources as the interview subjects for the film. Both Fanning and Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake in David Fincher's film) will participate in addition to artists, label folks and others, but it sounds like it's still in its first stages so it may be a bit off yet. The big concern here is that Napster is already a footnote to the digital music revolution and it will be up to Winter get the context to make that story compelling because by now, Napster's rise, fall and impact have been examined and re-examined to death. As for "Bill & Ted's 3"? It's "early days" says Winter so yeah, not happening anytime soon. [Alex Winter image from ScreenRead]


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