Alex Winter is a director, writer and actor. He entered show business as a child actor with co-starring roles on Broadway in The King & I and Peter Pan, and came to prominence in movies such as Warner Bros' hit The Lost Boys and the wildly popular Bill and Ted franchise.
Lately, he's switched his attention to making documentary feature films. His latest,
Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, makes its New Zealand premiere at the Doc Edge International Film Festival in Auckland and Wellington.
He spoke to Weekend ahead of Thursday's festival opening.
Perhaps you could start by telling me a little about Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain. Why did you make it? What message are you trying to get across to viewers?
I was interested in documenting this very intense and singular moment in the early days of the information age.
My film Downloaded was an examination of the first boom and bust of the internet in the late-90s, by way of the company Napster. With this film I wanted to capture the first major boom and bust of the cryptocurrency/blockchain movement.
In terms of a message, I don't have an outward message. There are themes that interest me; about how modern society functions and how technology can be used to liberate and oppress/control, but there's no agenda with the film.
Blockchain, cryptocurrency ... These are already a part of our lives but the mechanics of them - their names even - are still so foreign to so many. Given that, how do you make a documentary on blockchain appealing to a broad audience? Why does this subject matter?
The characters in this space are extremely fascinating and diverse, the issues at play are universal.
My assumption when I embark on a project is that if the characters and the world are compelling, the audience will get on board.
I don't know if the subject "matters", per se, but I do think the dawn of the information age is worth examining closely and specifically, which I've done now with three films. Really four, if The Panama Papers is included, which I think it should be as it's a corruption saga that played out in the digital space.
You've had a varied career - child stage actor, star of teen cult movies, writer/director of pretty much everything - music videos, TV, film and, latterly, documentaries. That's a lot of different experiences. How has each stage of your career influenced you?
I've been an actor, writer and director since I was fairly young. I started acting professionally at 9, began making films in high school and then went to film school before acting in the films I'm known for. So I've always done all of those things.
The acting is its own thing and I've mostly been focused on my writing and directing for many years.
It all comes down to what kind of stories I want to tell and what is the best form to tell them in. I've always been drawn to similar themes, so there's a connectivity across the different formats for me.
Is there one part of your career that has had a particularly strong influence and, if so, what and why?
Making our MTV comedy series The Idiot Box back in 1991 had a big impact on me creatively.
It was the first time I was able to marry my acting, writing and directing and it was very liberating.
I don't need to always combine everything, but The Idiot Box was when I first decided to aim my career towards expressing my voice in a personal, authorial way. And I've kept to that path since then as much as possible.
Also, why so much transition? Is that the nature of a career in the performing arts? Or was it a conscious effort on your part?
I like to learn. And I would prefer to earn a living learning to perfect my craft than by doing something entirely unrelated.
All of the work is fertiliser and I'm grateful I've been able to work that way. I've learned a lot over the years by being open to multiple formats. I continue to learn.
Have you seen any work out of New Zealand or by Kiwis, that has particularly impressed/influenced you? Are there any Kiwis in the film and/or TV industry you'd like to work with?
Yes of course. There's a great range of cinema out of New Zealand.
Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles had a huge impact on me early on. As did Alison Maclean's Crush and Jane Campion's Sweetie. And I love Niki Caro and Taika Waititi.
* See Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, directed by Alex Winter, as part of Doc Edge International Film Festival in Auckland and Wellington May 30 – June 23 2019.