I had the great pleasure of chatting with actor and filmmaker Alex Winter (known to many as the great Bill S. Preston, Esq.) about his new documentary, “Downloaded,” which chronicles the rise and fall of the file-sharing service that appeared on the scene in the late ’90s and changed everything about the internet and the way we use it: Napster.
Given that I was in college at exactly the right time to experience Napster’s surge to prominence, the film had a real nostalgic quality for me, and I had a lot of fun talking to Alex about the film (and of course, asking one or two questions about the “Bill & Ted’s” movies).
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
I was really struck by one of the later interviews with Sean Parker, in which he says they really did believe that the record labels would eventually work with them – that they’d have to work with them because of how big Napster had become. And then everything happened the way it did. The film does a nice job of showing how they were carried along in this wave, and battered against the rocks at times, but learned from it. Did it feel like they changed a lot over the 10 years you were making this film?
The important thing about a revolution is that it’s bigger than you. And while Fanning and Parker may look back on it and think, “Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten involved at all if I knew what a headache it was going to be,” the fact is that they were motivated and inspired enough to seize on a vision they had that was very revolutionary and disruptive, and they had the ability to actually code and implement that vision. That becomes a force of nature that, especially at that age, you don’t really argue with. To look back years later is almost irrelevant in terms of the revolution itself, because it did happen and they did do it. I don’t think they look back on it and think this messed up the world or “I wish we’d never done this.” Change doesn’t occur that way. It takes courage and a certain amount of madness and recklessness to enact change. It just does. That’s not to say every change is a good change, but what these guys brought about is something that consumers and a lot of people in various technology sectors and entertainment sectors and the government are implementing now in various ways. We’ve gotten into much wider uses of the internet now for transparency and the flow of information. This was a big movement that was hustling along at its own pace and these guys played a very big part in that.
You can read the rest of the interview at DigitalTrends.com. “Downloaded” is available to watch digitally now and will have a limited release in theaters this year. (Oh, and the questions about “Bill & Ted’s” are at the end of the article.)