Frank Zappa is the perfect figure for the internet generation

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, director Alex Winter and Frank Zappa's son Ahmet discuss making the documentary Zappa.

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Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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Patrick Holland
2 min read
frank zappa

The new documentary Zappa is made up from hundreds of hours of never-before-seen footage, most of which Frank Zappa recorded himself.

Yoram Kahana/Magnolia Pictures

Alex Winter is probably best known for playing Bill S. Preston, Esquire opposite Keanu Reeves' Theodore Logan in the Bill and Ted trilogy. When he's not time traveling to save the world, Winter makes documentary films like Showbiz Kids, The Panama Papers and Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain. His latest film is the documentary Zappa, about the late singer, musician and icon Frank Zappa.

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, Winter, along with Ahmet Zappa, one of Frank Zappa's sons and an author and producer, explained why a film focused on Frank Zappa is perfect in 2021.

"I was really struck by who he [Frank Zappa] was and the extraordinary life that he led," Winter said. "He was not only a brilliant musician, and composer, but he was very engaged with the times in which he lived. He was very active politically and socially, in terms of social consciousness and civic engagement. Because of the internet and certain changes in culture, I also felt that we lived in a period where someone like Zappa may be even more understandable than he was in his own time."

What truly makes the film special is that it was made with approval from Ahmet's mother and Zappa's late wife Gail. This gave Winter access to hundreds of rare and intimate recordings his father made -- most of which have never been heard or seen before.

Once Winter got the rights to tell the story, it took him and his team a couple of years to go through Frank Zappa's vault and preserve it. Winter was driven and fueled by the recordings he was trying to salvage and save.

"It's a testament to him [Frank Zappa] more than anything that the archival material is just incredibly fascinating and deep. Once we went into the vault and began to identify what was down there, everyone got incredibly intrigued," Winter said. "It's inarguably rich territory. And, I wouldn't say it was an obsession, but it was extremely compelling material."

During our conversation, Ahmet Zappa discusses what it was like finding recordings of his father that he'd never seen before. Winter explains how he started a Kickstarter campaign to preserve the endangered material in Frank Zappa's vault. The campaign has nearly 10,000 backers and raised over $1.1 million. Winter also shares what it was like debuting Bill and Ted Face the Music during the pandemic.

Listen to my entire conversation with Winter and Ahmet Zappa on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can watch Zappa on video on demand. Also, you can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.