Features and Columns

Fund This Film: Alex Winter Goes Deeper Into the Internet For Bitcoin and Silk Road Documentary

By  · Published on November 30th, 2013

While I continue to dream that one day Alex Winter will hit up Kickstarter for support of a Freaked sequel, I guess I can settle for him making another documentary about the Internet. Winter, who we’ll always first and foremost think of as Bill S. Preston from the Bill & Ted movies (the third of which is currently dealing with budget issues), recently made his nonfiction feature directorial debut with the Napster history Downloaded. It’s a pretty good doc, sometimes superfluous and obvious and not quite as insightful about the digital and online revolution as something like We Live in Public or We Are Legion, but it’s plenty informative with its straightforward, orally chronicled telling of the who and the what. If you’d like to check it out for free, which is the appropriate way, you can stream it on AOL and not even have to illegally download it.

Winter’s next project will go further down the rabbit hole. The doc is titled Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and The Silk Road, and hopefully the “deep” in the title is promise that the subject matter will be a little deeper here as well. Not that I won’t settle for something just as efficiently and comprehensively informative as Downloaded. Honestly, I don’t even really understand what Bitcoin is (online currency, but I don’t get the details of it), and I hadn’t even ever heard of The Silk Road until seeing the title of this film (it’s an online black market dealing mostly in drugs, which was shut down by the FBI last month, only to pop up again a few weeks ago). The fact that it’s less famous than Napster might make this doc harder to sell to audiences, yet it also seems like something that’s more necessarily documented as a result.

Deep Web is so far moving steadily in its crowdfunding effort. After ten days, which is exactly a third of the way through the campaign period, the film has taken in exactly 33% of its $75k goal. The success can be attributed to a few things. One is that a film about a web community may be attractive to members of that community. Another is the smart way of now encouraging pledges be done where the reward is a holiday gift. The biggest, though, has to be the celebrity of Winter, whose personally attached incentive offerings include personal Skype calls, signed scripts of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (aka “Bill & Ted Go To Hell”) and, recently added, a private screening of Excellent Adventure with the actor-turned-director. He even jokes that another reward would be Bill & Ted 3 for a $25m pledge, but Kickstarter doesn’t allow anything so high.

It’s funny to see Winter doing multiple films about hackers, programmers and the deep recesses of the web in contrast to his Bill & Ted co-star’s work in the Matrix movies. It’s also really cool to see that both he and Keanu Reeves are not only getting into documentary filmmaking but doing a really impressive job of it, too (if you haven’t seen the Reeves-produced and led Side by Side, do so immediately, as it’s streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and more). But it’d also be cool if they could do these films well and successfully without having to depend so much on their fame and the Bill & Ted fans. And that might allow something of a campaign video that isn’t just Winter talking to the camera (see below).

I can say that for me as a doc fan, the additions this time around of producer Glen Zipper (Undefeated) and Marc Schiller (marketing strategist for Senna, Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Imposter) have me excited for an upgrade in storytelling quality. And they’re all just getting started so maybe we can just follow and offer critical concerns along the way (or at least I will). The expected time for Deep Web to be released is around January 2015, so maybe we’ll be seeing it at Sundance or at least SXSW (where Downloaded premiered) of that year.

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?
Header photo credit courtesy of Antana Coins via Flickr and Creative Commons

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.