Published on May 16th, 2014 | by Duke Of Havoc0
Interview: Alex Winter Talks “Deep Web”
Once in a while you get a chance to interview your idols. Alex Winter is very much one of mine. I was thrilled to speak to him about his upcoming documentary Deep Web and 2013’s Downloaded. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed speaking to Alex.
Duke Of Havoc: Firstly, I think most people aren’t going to have an understanding of what a Bitcoin is or what The Deep Web is. Would you give a very brief synopsis of both please, Alex?
Alex Winter: Yes, sure. The Deep Web really refers to all of the content that is on the web that is not indexable meaning its unseen, now a lot of that is just technical, meaning it’s like just code and, you know aspects of code that fly around that don’t need to be seen, but then the Deep Web is being used also to move content around that people don’t want to be seen and that refers to everything from the government using it to send documents around internally that they don’t want public; to Journalists, dissidents, people in countries that have authoritarian regimes. They are trying to get information stories out of this communicate without their government, you know been able to see it, the reason we had things like the Arab Spring and what’s called the Dark Net which is aspects of the network people are, you know selling drugs and engage in all kind of illegal activity that they don’t want seen. Most people just think of the Deep Web as the Dark Net because that’s what get the juicy new stories but really not true, it’s actually a small fraction of this little anonymous web activity is illicit activity, so that’s kinda why the movie ,what the movie is showing and diving into is sort of this whole new global culture that ,is the community that is growing, that is growing up and wants to remain anonymous and private ,and you know to have play by its own rules, not by rules that was imposed on it. Bitcoin is what is called a Crypto-currency; it’s not really a currency. But you can exchange it on instant crypto exchange platforms. I don’t want to confuse people it will take me longer than we have got, it’s basically a crypto-technology meaning it’s a cryptography technology that has created a ledger for transactions, visual transactions, so it can be used for currency, it can be used for you know moving money around and avoiding fees ,it could be used for buying things anonymously without having your name tied to it and it can be used by, you know hedge fund people and finance people to speculate and actually used for financial speculation , so it has the capability of really , really disrupting the world on a major level actually.
DoH: A lot of people have been quite pro Bitcoin I think, of all these crypto-currencies and how they think it can actually kind of free up people but I mean from watching your Kickstarter video and listening to you speak just now, is it something that you are quite anti or not?
AW: Not at all, quite the contrary I am extremely pro Bitcoin, in fact I think that, you know the only thing that I am anti is the enormous amount of misinformation and just sort of demonising of it, every time you see a magazine article with “Bitcoin: The Drug Dealer’s Choice Of Currency” it drives me crazy because it’s completely un-true and, you know, you can say the same about cash, you know I mean you use cash to buy drugs ,just like you use cash to buy a house. So you know it’s a huge misunderstanding and a demonising and I think a big theme of my film it was probably the same theme of Downloaded, my Napster movie, which is just that, you know new technology and innovation is largely been demonised and criminalised in our current culture and that’s a terrible mistake.
DoH: Yes, I mean I watched Downloaded and I thought it was fantastic. I was just nineteen or twenty when the whole Napster thing kicked off and you know that’s when suddenly you could find all those covers of songs that you may have heard once on the radio and suddenly, your library just grew and seeing all these college students in that footage you found, talking about thousands upon thousands of songs that are being shared. It was a fantastic documentary and I think that’s why I definitely wanted to contribute to this one and again, it’s a very interesting subject. So, do you have like plans for making like an Internet Trilogy at all? Is there a third one you’ve already got planned?
AW: I don’t really, you know, I mean it’s a good question, I actually didn’t expect to make this movie but in researching Downloaded, I got so immersed in emerging technologies and I do love them and I do think that there is a much greater implication to what’s going on culturally than, you know just downloading music or buying things with crypto-currency. I think what we are seeing is the rise of an entirely new movement and there’s going to be a lot of hostility towards that movement and we’ve actually seen some already and it’s going to be a battle for control over that movement. And I think that’s a thesis that I am really interested in and whether that has a way of expanding itself beyond, the birth of Peer-to-Peer which is what Napster was, to, the emergence of a crypto-era which is what Deep Web is about. If there’s a movie there to make to cap it off, I’ll be interested in it.
DoH: Looking at the three different sections, we’ve got crypto-currencies, you’ve got the Deep Web and then you’ve got the Silk Road incident. What was the real thing that ignited you to making your next documentary?
AW: What exactly about it was I most interested in?
DoH: Yes, was it the Silk Road thing which really pushed you on and made you say yes? Is that going to be the main focus of the film and what actually happened there?
AW: No, no absolutely not. In fact, it’s a fairly small part of it, the black markets, you know my point with getting into silk road is that there have been black markets on the internet as long as there’s an internet. I was very aware of them in the early nineties when I was on The BBS and News Groups back in those days before the web really kicked off and there were, you know Black Markets much like Silk Road, that were actually quite similar to Silk Road but they just didn’t have Bitcoin, so it didn’t have quite the same resonance with the press .It was actually very hard to find. I think what woke me up was the proliferation of Bitcoin. It was kind of confluence of events where you had Bitcoin and The Silk Road and The NSA/Ed Snowdon scandal and then, the net neutrality debates erupting. You have all of these things happening at once and, I look at them and went “all these events are completely connected” and no one is really talking about how much all of these events are actually completely connected. The guy who created the Silk Road and the whole ethos behind the black markets is very, very similar to the Satoshi white papers, the pseudonym for the guy who created Bitcoin, which are very similar to the philosophies of the guys that created Tor, the cryptology technology for the navy back about twelve to thirteen years ago. All these people have very similar world views and that’s not being spoken about. Everything is very compartmentalised and so I thought it would be interested to just give this stuff some context, you know?
DoH: So has there been anything during filming, you and your team, that you have uncovered, which perhaps the media or maybe the authorities aren’t aware of? Something that you’ve really been able to look into more than anyone outside I guess The FBI, or whoever has been involved in shutting down Silk Road? Has there been some revelations that you’ve found?
AW: Are you trying to get me arrested? (laughs)
DoH: No, Sir! Not at all! (laughs)
AW: I’m kidding! I’m kidding! You know what, I am not trying to make a “re-break the story” type documentary. My interest in this world is cultural and has much more far reaching implications than something that I think is a story that the public is actually is going to lose interest in fairly quickly, not that I don’t have empathy for all the people involved or either died or are going to go jail for life or whatever. It’s a very serious criminal case that is going on right now. But I don’t think that the Federal Government or The Governments I should say, I think, that they are pretty well entrenched in these technologies because the work has been done for them in a large degree. Tor has become very user friendly. My teenager can get on it. When my teenager can get on the Deep Web I am not thinking The Feds are not having an easy time finding who they need to find, you know what I mean? So, I don’t think it’s really me saying “here is what you guys don’t know”. I think they will probably know way more, well I hope they do, they are law enforcement, I think they know more than we think they do. But what I do know, the perspective that I do have and the connections that I do have and the people I am talking to, have a perspective on these issues from the inside that we are not hearing, including all the Black Markets. So, I’m talking to people who were chief architectures of Silk Road. Some of whom have been arrested already, some of whom are not involved in this world at all anymore, but had some participation with it and are willing to talk and they have very, very, very interesting things to say, about the world that we are living in and the community and what happened and that’s definitely not stuff you’ve heard.
DoH: Finally. What was your evolution like for you? From a young actor, to making films like Ben Ten, to now documentarian. How’s that been for you as a learning process? Going through from being given direction, to working on films and now real life events and I imagine piecing together hundreds of hours of footage and trawling through news. How’s that been for you as an individual?
AW: I love it. I have been directing for many decades and I love it. I write a lot and I have written a lot of stuff and making a documentary is very much like writing a movie script. There is about six or seven months of research and then you dive in and get to work and then you shape that work and then you turn it over. So I find that, directing documentaries is like writing a film. The editing process becomes your final draft and directing a documentary is basically cutting it. So, you know for me, it’s very much about researching, researching, researching, shooting interviews, wrapping my head around this stuff and then when I feel like I’m ready, diving in with my editor and fashioning it into the story that it wants to be. That process is very much like writing a screen play. For me, if I hadn’t written screenplays for so many decades where I really had to work out “what is your first act, what is you second act, what happen at the midpoint?” all that structural stuff, I would not have been able to make Downloaded. Downloaded was definitely constructed as if I was writing a narrative and I am kinda doing the same thing here.
DoH: I can imagine there was a hell of a lot of footage for you to go through.
AW: Oh my god! It was a hundred and fifty hours of interview footage. I think two hundred hours of archival that we went through, it’s crazy.
DoH: It was odd seeing the guys [Napster creators: Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker] age throughout your documentary; it was these fresh faced kids turning into who they are now.
AW: I know, I know. It’s a trip.
DoH: Alex ,I believe that I have taken enough of your time, Sir, and I don’t wish to take up even more. Thank you so much for answering my questions it’s much appreciated and I can’t wait to see the film when it comes out.
AW: Thanks Man, bye.