Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Alex Winter looks back with TV STORE ONLINE at his seminal cult classic FREAKED (1993)



Actor and Writer/Director Alex Winter talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his cult classic film, FREAKED.   Be sure to check out Winter's latest film: A documentary about Napster called DOWNLOADED the movie. Now available on Video-On-Demand HERE:

TV STORE ONLINE: What were you like as a kid? Coming from London to The United States...Did you experience any sort of culture shock or anything like that...

WINTER: [laughing] That's a good question, I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before. So yeah, I moved from England to St. Louis when I was really young. I think I was like five or six. It was a culture shock in the sense that I came speaking a English accent and I came to St. Louis saying words like Banana as "Banawna".

TV STORE ONLINE: So where do you think your warped sense of humor comes from in stuff you've done like FREAKED (1993) or The Idiot Box (1991)?

WINTER: What I think shaped my sense of humor is the fact that my family, not being English [but living in England for a really long time] had a very steady diet of that mad capped British oriented humor. Peter Cook, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan. All of these really great British comedy shows is what I grew up on. All this stuff that was already on television in re-runs or on the radio and we watched it and listened to it all the time Stuff that's pretty obscure now even, like Around The Horn and The Goon Show. Then of course, Monty Python...

So growing up in the Midwest I'd say I had a warped sense of humor compared to everyone else around me growing up. I have a different kind of sense of humor I think than some, and it's totally been an issue for me my entire life, cause my humor is more English by nature. I'm not the kind of guy that's gonna make a water cooler comedy like Judd Apatow. There's nothing wrong with that type of comedy certainly, it's just that I wouldn't know what to do with something like that. For me, you're making jokes about pizza, beer and your toy collection and my eyes kinda fog over.

TV STORE ONLINE: Can you remember the very first instance or film that you saw that made you say to yourself, "I wanna be involved in this business somehow or I wanna be an actor or filmmaker?"

WINTER: I was very passionate about movies from a very young age. I can remember my mom taking me to see YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968). I hate to say it, but I think it was right when it actually came out near the end of the sixties. I can remember going to see it at the 8th street playhouse in New York City. The vibe in the theater was really trippy I remember. Plus I can remember seeing Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932) when I was really young.

I was really captivated by movies and how they could transport you to another world, and show you sides of things that you might not normally be able to experience. Growing up I loved comedy, I really loved Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton. Plus when I was really young, I was really into Hitchcock. My mom was a college professor and I'd go to the college because they would play movies all the time. So when I was like 5 or 6 years old I would go to see these really great classic movies there.

So seeing stuff by director's like Fritz Lang and Orson Welles really had an impact on me just from seeing those at such an early age. As I got a little older I would go to the school's library and research stuff like Hitchcock's life. I was really obsessed, so it was earlier on, that I knew that I wanted to be involved in the film industry.

TV STORE ONLINE: So you went to film school at N.Y.U. in the early '80s and it's here where you meet your friend/roommate, and co-creator of FREAKED (1993) and The Idiot Box (1991), Tom Stern. Did you guys ever get time to go down to Times Square/42nd Street and check out any of these now ever so popular exploitation movies?

WINTER: Yeah man. Tom Stern and I met our freshman year of N.Y.U. film school in the register's office. We really became best friends like that day, and we were directing together by the end of that year, and that went on for nine years. Talk about another guy with a warped childhood.

Also, remember I had moved from St. Louis to New York City when I was young. So I really grew up in New York.  I was already very familiar with Times Square. As an actor I was already working on Broadway as an actor from like 1978 to 1982. Then I went on to film school at N.Y.U. after that. So I spent my entire teenage years in Times Square working.

I saw a lot of those movies on Times Square. I remember when Troma films was on 8th Avenue and 49th Street. So I saw a bunch of those. I think the two best experiences I had seeing films on Times Square other than seeing a revival or something was seeing the films, ANGEL (1984) at a midnight screening and then SCARFACE (1983). It was awesome, the dialogue in the theater was better than what was on the screen [laughing].

Plus, as a director I even shot there like a year before the place was mowed down and replaced by Mickey Mouse. I did a music video smack dab in the middle of Times Square with Jim Foetus.

TV STORE ONLINE: So how did you and Stern come up with the concept for SQUEAL OF DEATH (1985)?

WINTER: Tom and I both really loved Film Noir. We both really loved stuff like Tex Avery and Bugs Bunny. We both loved Mel Brooks. For some weird reason, while we both culturally came from very different backgrounds, we both had a very skewed perspective on things, and we really just connected. So we decided to do a mash-up, and make a movie that mashed up all these '30s, '40s even some of the '50s noir movies that we both liked, with a Tex Avery energy. That was our aim. To make something that had a very animated energy to it but make it live action. That was the idea. To take all these classics that we were digesting at film school and just fucking them up.

TV STORE ONLINE: So by the time you did SQUEAL were you aware of some of the "underground" film stuff that was going on in N.Y.C at the time like the "Cinema Of Trangression" or even earlier, the films of George Kuchar? Was there any of that influence on SQUEAL?

WINTER: Yeah totally... At the time there was the St. Mark's Cinema which was really close to N.Y.U. So Tom and I would go to all night Kenneth Anger festivals, John Water's festivals. Tom and I actually got to interview John Water's when he came to N.Y.U. when we were at the dorms. He and I were both very much into alternative cinema. We both looked at Tod Browning as one of the father's of avant-garde cinema, even though he was considered a main stream filmmaker. Browning's stuff is really subversive. I've always been very interested in subversive cinema as well as more of the straight forward avant-garde cinema like the films of Stan Brakhage.

The beauty of being a film student then was that you're like a vacuum. You just suck everything up, and this was a student product. So really, with SQUEAL we just puked out all of this film consumption from our entire lives.

TV STORE ONLINE: Out of curiosity...What was the total and final budget for SQUEAL OF DEATH (1985)?

Poster for Winter's latest film:
DOWNLOADED (2013)
WINTER: Well, it was a student movie. We were both very poor college students. One of the main reasons Tom and I first started directing together as a team was that we were both really ambitious, and we figured we could make bigger movies than we could if we were each working on our own. So SQUEAL was really an ambitious movie, and it was supposed to be made in our sophomore year class. Once we got into it, it was like a runaway train. It was originally supposed to be a 4 minute film. We just kept working jobs, and throwing money at it. It took us two years to complete, we shot it on 16mm, and we got a 'C' in the class cause it was an incomplete project. I can't be sure what the whole thing cost after all was said and done, but if I was to guess, I'd say around $5,000 dollars.

TV STORE ONLINE: Another of your shorts that I'm a huge admirer of is AISLES OF DOOM (1989). I was wondering why you guys decided to leave it off of the FREAKED (1993) DVD that came out a couple years ago?

WINTER: They didn't wanna go crazy with it. The other thing that's missing is THE IDIOT BOX (1991), but we couldn't get permission from MTV. The guys that put out the DVD were just so generous, there is so much stuff on that DVD. In the age of YouTube and Vimeo AISLES isn't difficult to see.

The film was another student project. We shot that in our junior year of film school. It's really not finished. It sort of peter's out. There really isn't an ending. We kinda just wrote around it. We were even more ambitious by then, and we just honestly ran out of money.

TV STORE ONLINE: So how did you get to the point where you were offered the opportunity to do The Idiot Box (1991) for MTV?

(L) Winter and Keanu Reeves (R) in:
BILL & TED's EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989)
WINTER: That's pretty basic really. By that time I had shot a bunch of music videos, and we had did ENTERING TEXAS (1988) with The Butthole Surfers. Plus, I had done a bunch of stuff as an actor prior to that. I had done THE LOST BOYS (1987) and then BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) and BILL & TED had become this giant hit out of nowhere. I was going from this sort of underground/indie filmmaker to a very well known film actor, which wasn't ever my intention, but was a pleasant surprise. So Tom and I, being the movie huckster's that we are were really looking to find a way to capitalize on that popularity. We also at this time had a script that we had done for Sam Raimi called, LAUGH OUT LOUD. It was a comedy anthology that we were pitching all over town, but no one was biting on it, cause no one was making anthology comedies anymore.

So we said, "Screw it." We decided to take the LAUGH OUT LOUD script and break it into bits and try to sell it as a television series to MTV. I had a pretty good relationship with MTV by that time, I was going on as a guest VJ. So we pitched it to MTV and they bought it.

TV STORE ONLINE: The Idiot Box (1991) seems like it was just so far ahead of it's time. I was wondering if you guys ever got any flax from MTV censors for some of the stuff that you were doing then? I'm thinking for example...That first episode where you're in the trunk of the car and you're getting stabbed to death.

Winter (Center) and cast of the 1993 film FREAKED
WINTER: [laughing] Right. Right. It's pretty violent. What was great about that time was that we had NO parents. There were no departments at MTV for live action in those days. They were basically a radio station on television. We heard nothing. Doing The Idiot Box (1991) at MTV, there was no money. MTV wasn't paying us much. In fact, we probably lost money doing the show. But on the upside, we had complete creative control, and we were able to get away with murder. What's interesting is that Tom Stern and I are about to launch The Idiot Box again for MTV, and we're both very curious to see what we're going to be able to get away with, cause what we are writing is just - violent.

TV STORE ONLINE: So, do you have a favorite character, sketch or bit that you did for the show?

WINTER: I don't know. There is so much that I loved doing. Maybe Willard Shrek. Eddie. I loved what Tom did with Lock Jaw. We shot it so quick, and in one chunk. The whole thing seems like a blur to me. Some of those characters were so much fun to play, and I'm pushing to bring those back.

TV STORE ONLINE: Are you surprised about how lauded The Idiot Box (1991) has become over time? I'm sure you know that there are bootlegs of the show going around. How does that sit with you?

WINTER: My honest and initial response to that question would be that I am glad and couldn't be happier that it's getting seen by people. I don't have a problem with the bootlegs. Now with that being said, the only concern that I would ever have with the bootlegs or the clips on YouTube would be that if that presence of the show on the internet makes it more difficult for it to come on DVD.

We've been trying really hard to get MTV to put out The Idiot Box (1991) on DVD. MTV isn't losing money on it, cause they haven't put it out on DVD. So how can they lose money on a product that they haven't released even. The upside of putting The Idiot Box (1991) out on DVD would be that they could put out a nice package of the old shows, and now these new shows that we're planning on doing.

TV STORE ONLINE: One of the coolest things you've done in your career was the IMPACT VIDEO MAGAZINE (1989). How did you get involved with that?

WINTER:  We were just roustabouts around L.A. We knew a lot of bands, a lot of artists. This guy Stuart Shapiro who did the MONDO NEW YORK (1988) movie, came to us. He also was the guy behind the television show Night Flight. He had seen our stuff cause it played on Night Flight. Stuart came to us with the project in the pre-DVD era. So we talked about doing a magazine that was distributed on VHS.

The very first one was just us pulling our friends together. Then pooling in stuff from Bill Hicks in New York, and Public Enemy, Robert Williams, Janes Addiction. Most of the stuff on the first one, was just Stern and I running around with a camera shooting the stuff on our own. It was really low-fi. It was like we were both guerrilla filmmakers shooting stuff 24/7 like this for years. Same thing with The Idiot Box really.

TV STORE ONLINE: What was it like interviewing Robert Williams for IMPACT?

WINTER: We knew Robert very well by then. He was a friend of yours. The Los Angeles art scene at that time was really thriving. It hadn't yet gotten so bloated, like how it is now. Coming out of Zap Comix, you had Robert Williams and Robert Crumb. Then you had other artists like Pizz and Joe Coleman. Crumb was sorta outta town by this point. Joe Coleman was bouncing between both coasts. We were really fans of all of these guys, and we were going to their shows and buying their art. So we befriended a lot of these guys. Robert was really great. After we were done we had like 400 hours of tape, so it was really hard to edit it down.

TV STORE ONLINE: Can you remember the very first instance that you guys conceived the idea for FREAKED (1993)?

WINTER: Yeah easily... I met The Butthole Surfers for the first time I think back in like 1983. It was at a show at Maxwell's in Hoboken, N.J. backstage. I used to go to a lot of shows there, cause all the best bands played there. I was really floored seeing these guys. There was a lot of good music back then. People always talk about how music was shit until Nirvana showed up. It always gets my goat as a old man when people say that, cause for me that was the end of really good music, in terms of independent released bands.

Prior to Nirvana there were all these great indie labels like SST Records putting out all this great music. It was a great indie scene and you could see all these great bands like early R.E.M, The Meatmen, and The Meat Puppets. But I remember when The Buttholes showed up, they just eviscerated everything. So we became friends with them, and we started shooting their shows. Tom Stern made a video with them. Then, we started talking about making a movie together.

Tom Stern and I put Gibby [Haynes] up in our apartment in Los Angeles for like two months and we wrote this movie about The Buttholes being these degenerate ranchers out in the middle of nowhere Texas. They had a cheap carnival side-show. So when tourists would come by, they would lure them into the side-show, and abduct them and eat them [laughing], and when they wouldn't eat them they would turn them into freaks. That was called, FREEKZ . We wanted to do it with Gibby as like a $200,000 dollar totally renegade pulp movie. It was gonna be a Buttholes movie that had their music layered all the way through it. We couldn't get it made, people told us we were outta our minds.

We made a little short that was supposed to help us raise the money and that was ENTERING TEXAS (1988) which was on IMPACT VIDEO MAGAZINE (1989), but we just couldn't get the damn thing made. We even asked Sam Raimi for help to get it made, but it was just too far out there.

TV STORE ONLINE: So didn't working on The Idiot Box sort of catapult you in the direction of getting FREAKED (1993) off the ground?

WINTER: Right. The Idiot Box was extremely successful for MTV. They wanted us to come back for a second season, but the money just wasn't there. So we decided let's take FREEKZ and cannibalize it. Let's try to re-write it as a PG-13 movie, and pitch it to a studio as an Idiot Box movie basically. Like, "From the same team that brought you The Idiot Box brings you this outrageous new comedy..." type of thing. We took it out to 20th Century Fox, we pitched it and they bought it, and we made it. It has to be the weirdest thing that's ever happened in Hollywood lore.

TV STORE ONLINE: I have to ask you if you ever took any "Psychedelic Adventures" with The Butthole Surfers?

WINTER: [laughing] No Comment. I can only ask you...Are there any other kind of adventures involving The Butthole Surfers? [laughing]

TV STORE ONLINE: In the commentary on the FREAKED DVD you and Tom mention that you guys were working on a comedy as a follow-up to FREAKED (1993) with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. What was that?

WINTER: You know, Tom Stern and I were throwing some ideas around about what we wanted to do next. I mean we were just given eleven and a half million dollars to go make exactly the movie we wanted to make, and we thought that we'd never be able to do this again. We started to build another movie, but I can't remember what we had in mind exactly at that point, cause it was a long time ago. But then we ran into so many problems with the studio and them not really releasing the movie, so we never really got a shot at FREAKED (1993) being a success or not being a success. So we never got to make whatever that next movie was, so we sorta just went our separate ways after that.

TV STORE ONLINE: So on the casting...Did you guys know who you wanted to be in the film once you wrote it?

Mad Geniuses At Work:  Directors Of FREAKED (1993)
(L)  Tom Stern  and Alex Winter  (R)
WINTER: No, No. The only person we knew we wanted from the start was to have Mr. T as the bearded lady, other than that, no idea.

TV STORE ONLINE: So how did you guys get Randy Quaid?

WINTER: We literally started going out to actors. We had a short list of actors that we thought would be really good. Randy was on the list, and he was one of the first to respond to us. He was someone we thought was perfect. Randy, while he's the villain he's really the protagonist. My character isn't really the protagonist. And that's sort of the joke. We knew we needed someone in that role that could really carry the movie, frankly.

TV STORE ONLINE: So how long did it take for you to get used to acting in the make-up and prosthetics?

WINTER: Not long. Really when you think about it I had been acting under prosthetics my whole career. I did THE LOST BOYS (1987) under a lot of prosthetics. I played by own grandmother in BILL & TED. So it was something I was very used to and I enjoyed it.

TV STORE ONLINE: One thing I think a lot of the fans would like to know about FREAKED (1993) is exactly when we'll all see the soundtrack released?

WINTER:  To be honest, I don't see how. FREAKED (1993) isn't a movie that Fox considers there's. They really don't know about it. It was made by an administration that went away. The new administration that came in wasn't interested in the film, cause they didn't see a movie there that fit into their template. Which is fair enough, it happens all the time. So I don't see any way it could happen, unless it was bootlegged. Anchor Bay has a deal with Fox so they were able to finagle everything for the DVD release, and god knows how difficult that was for them. I mean it took like 12 years [laughing].

I love the soundtrack, and I'd love to have that stuff see the light of day. That Blind Idiot God with Rollins track is amazing. There's some historical stuff there as well. The P-Funk track at the end is one of the only times that Bootsy [Collins] and George [Clinton] have played together in like 20 years. There is a lot of great stuff there. The Buttholes stuff is great. But I don't see it happening unfortunately.

TV STORE ONLINE: So what's with your obsession with Gumby? You've got comic Gumby references in FREAKED (1993) and SQUEAL OF DEATH (1985)?

WINTER: Ah...What's NOT to like about Gumby? [laughing] I mean, I don't know where to start. We don't have the time to go into that [laughing]. You can't handle the truth about Gumby [laughing].

TV STORE ONLINE: How gratifying is it for you that you've made a film that's so loved by so many people? Wouldn't you say that FREAKED (1993) was really ahead of it's time in a sense?

WINTER: Yes, it's very gratifying to know that people like and care about the movie, certainly that means a lot. But as for it being ahead of it's time. As a person that was on the team that made that movie, if I started thinking things like that I'd be down in a very dark place. The fact is, the movie didn't really get released. I'm not gonna sit here on sour grapes and say, "THE MOVIE DIDN'T GET RELEASED CAUSE IT WAS AHEAD OF IT'S TIME. OR WE"RE FREAKIN' GENIUSES AND NOBODY UNDERSTOOD." I don't think I could do down that road, and I'm not sure if I really buy that either.

The movie is very very idiosyncratic, and that's it strength. I wouldn't have changed a frame of it back then if I would've thought it would've made it more commercial. So I'm really happy that someone let us make it. I'm really happy that we were able to finish it before we had all the problems with the studio, so they couldn't kill it. I'm really happy that it's had the life it's had since we made it. It's an amazing fluke that at 25 years old, someone gave us the power to make that thing, and we were able to get it done, so that is pretty gratifying.

The Anchor Bay release I feel is the perfect form for the movie. So I'm really happy with that. The fact that it's gonna live in that form is pretty gratifying.

TV STORE ONLINE: So with the release of the film or lack there of how frustrating was that for you at that time?

(L) Winter in THE LOST BOYS (1987) and Winter Today
WINTER: It was devastating, and I'd be a complete liar if I told you we were happy that we weren't gonna get distribution. It was like three to four years of day to day labor for me and Tom Stern. I mean it was extremely difficult to make. The special effects were extremely ambitious. The script was difficult to write. Casting, shooting, cutting. Every step on that movie was incredibly hard. It was fun, don't get me wrong, but it was hard. It was heartbreaking for both Tom Stern and I, no doubt. I didn't really wanna be acting anymore at that point so it was kinda like a swan song for me. I mean, I'm not that dramatic, so it wasn't like I wouldn't ever act again, but it was a bittersweet way to go out. I really wanted to focus on my writing and shooting.

So when things didn't work out, I was thinking to myself, 'what do I do now, do I just hang around and wait for another hit?" We really believed in the movie, and had it been released it would've found it's audience. It was 20 years ago at this point, and with the benefit of time, it's found it's audience. Now I look back at it, and think about how fun it was, how insane it was, and how much I learned working on it. So I don't harbor a grudge about it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think that having all the problems with the studio at release time...Do you think it slowed your career progression?

WINTER: I think the opposite actually. Had FREAKED (1993) been a success Tom Stern and I may have continued spitting out more of the same. To be completely honest, and I can't speak for Tom Stern but I think we were both sort of done with telling stories that way. We made a bunch of different types of films while we were at film school, not just these wack-a-doodle off the wall comedies. Look at me, I'm directing television commercials, I'm writing narrative movies and television series that are drama. I'm working on a documentary. So I think we were both interested in exploring different types of stories.

I've always been fortunate enough to be able to leave a box before I was stuck in it. Being stuck in a box really kills your creativity. I've been fortunate that way. This industry tends to do that to you. Yes, Mr. Waters please make PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) again, again and again, you know? So I'm glad that I didn't go down that road.

TV STORE ONLINE: You've directed a bunch of great music videos. I was wondering how important music is to you in your life?

WINTER: It's extremely important to me. It plays a huge part in my life. I like all kinds of music, jazz, funk, rock. I'm working on a music based documentary right now that I'm hoping to start to shoot very soon. Shooting music videos is one of my favorite things to do, and it was really great to do them back in the day when you could make really good ones.

TV STORE ONLINE: That leads me to my next question...Which is how did you conceptualize the video for Helmet's Wilma's Rainbow? Because it has a very interesting feel/look to it, almost like you're channeling Stan Brakhage there, No?

WINTER: Oh thanks, but I'm not fit to shine the tombstone of Stan Brakhage. I did three or four videos for Helmet. The first one I did was for the soundtrack for the movie, THE CROW (1994). I met Helmet cause one of my best friends, Andy Hawkins [Blind Idiot God] knew Page Hamilton. So I met those guys through Andy. I had a lot of specific theories on music videos, so I starting talking to them about those. My complaint with music videos was how they felt that the visuals never grew out of the music. It felt like the visuals were just tacked on to the top. That always used to drive me bananas.

I felt that the visuals should be birthed from the music. So I came up with the idea, about breaking things down into abstract components based on the rhythm of the track. I told them it could either be really great or really horrible [laughing]. So Page said, "Awesome. Go for it!" [laughing]

It was before CGI, so the technology at the time was really crude for doing composites. We put the band in green screen suits, and I had them standing in front of a 400 ft. green screen. And I built everything in post in multiple layers. It was funny cause I had to send them an off-line cut of the video. They were on tour in Australia at the time. The video I sent them looked like a hazy piece of shit, but I had to send them something. They called me and said, "Either our career is over, or you're a genius." [laughing] I just told them that they had to trust me. It was a trip, we're talking 250 simultaneous cameras going at the same time. Cutting that video was a trip, it was miles and miles of footage. Working with Helmet was great, they're very visually daring.



TV STORE ONLINE: So what was the inspiration for FEVER (1999)?

WINTER: Well, I was living in New York City at time. I really felt like I knew so many people in the city that were disillusioned, disenfranchised, and just not functioning. They were all bright middle class people, but not doing anything. So I just thought that story wasn't being told. Then the idea of making a Noir, and not for the sake of just making a Noir, but going and making something that was true to the original ideas of Noir which is sort of that whole existential dis-location or something . I wasn't seeing anymore of that in film. So that was the idea.

I really wanted to make a movie like, STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940). One of these very honest, stripped down, kind of atmospheric movies about a guy in a city, in a building that's completely anonymous and tell one story from one very specific perspective. So it was kind of a cinematic experience to be honest with you. I was very clear going in. I told everyone how it was gonna be shot. We used very specific in camera effects in a theatrical style. There's scrim and dimmer effects. Everything was built as sets. We story boarded everything, I worked very close with Henry Thomas.

I was really happy with how it turned out. We got accepted into Cannes, and I was in the directors' fortnight, so I was in some pretty extraordinary company. It's a very unique and idiosyncratic film, and that's where it lives, and that's fine by me. It's not for everyone.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think your previous work like FREAKED (1993) overshadows FEVER (1999)?

WINTER: No I don't. Frankly, I think FEVER (1999) is just so weird that people don't know where to put it, period. I think the movie would live where it lived no matter who I was or what I had done previously. I think if I had never done anything before it people would look at it and say, "Huh? or That's interesting.'" They'd either like it or they wouldn't. It's a small movie and it was meant to be a small movie. It cost very little money. It wasn't made with any commercial expectations. So for it to get the reviews it did, like in the New York Times and then go to the Cannes Film Festival. I thought it would just be this fringe indie movie, which it essentially is, but I didn't expect any of that to happen to it.

TV STORE ONLINE: I read on the old FEVER (1999) website that you were really inspired by the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer while you were working on FEVER (1999). I was wondering what you took from his work that would've influenced or inspired you on a film like FEVER (1999)?

WINTER:  The two director's that I was the most immersed in when I was making that movie were Tarkovsky and Dreyer. I was really into exploring cinema that was made by people who had something to say, about spirituality, or had some form of a world view, and that were interested in trying to understand the human condition. They weren't talking about it, they were showing it. So for me, someone like Dreyer, he's unparalleled in cinema on that level, as he can convey all of these incredibly complex rich and deep human ideas, dilemmas and predicaments with just visuals. I was just interested in the purity of cinematic expression. I wasn't trying to reach their level by any means or anything like that, I was really interested at that time in just breaking down visuals to their essence.

TV STORE ONLINE: I've read some of those reviews that you got for FEVER (1999) and the film was compared by several critics to Polanski's REPULSION (1965). Are you comfortable with that type of comparison?

WINTER: Yeah... You know, I didn't say it [laughing]. I wasn't thinking about REPULSION (1965) or THE TENANT (1976) when I was making it. I think that comparison is flattering but blazingly obvious and unimaginative frankly. Because FEVER (1999) is about a guy in a building that goes crazy, I must have been thinking about REPULSION (1965)? I wasn't in that head-space [laughing].

They bared no impact on my influences when I made the movie at all. My influences on the movie were directors like, Dreyer, Murnau, Fritz Lang, early left-of-center Noir movies, the early Hitchcock movies like THE LODGER (1927). I wasn't really thinking about REPULSION (1965) or THE TENANT (1976) because those movies are very phantasmagoric, and to be honest I was trying to make a social commentary. With those Polanski movies... You have to wonder if he himself wasn't equally influenced by some of those early film Noir movies as well.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think there could ever be a FREAKED 2?

WINTER: I don't see how. I really don't. Fox owns it. I can't imagine the VOLUME of their laughter if I approached them and told them I wanted to make another one [laughing].

I think that us doing more of The Idiot Box right now is good enough. We're going to be making The Idiot Box again for MTV broadband, that's what we're focusing on. We're going through the processes. Which is great cause we don't have to really worry about the censors and we can make it really edgy and dangerous.

As for a FREAKED 2, while we certainly don't have that up our sleeves, it would take very little for Tom, Tim and I to come up with that other movie. Maybe one day we will. We'll see if we can get The Idiot Box going. If there's a good response, then maybe we'll take it further. Maybe we'll make a Eddie The Gimp movie [laughing].

TV STORE ONLINE: As you've gotten older...You've now had a couple kids. Do you think that your having kids has influenced the type of projects you chosen to work on now?

WINTER: No, I wouldn't say so. I did the Ben 10 movies for the Cartoon Network absolutely cause of my kids. I did those cause my kids... My boys were Ben 10 fanatics. They were really work for hire, and they were really fun. My oldest son, who is a really great artist, he got to be involved, and he helped us design one of the heroes, and working with my kid was a blast.

Winter directing on Ben 10 for Cartoon Network
My oldest son is old enough now to love FREAKED (1993) which makes me happy, but it really doesn't really influence me in terms of what I decide to create or to get involved with. But I do involve them in the process as much as they wanna be involved in terms of watching how things get made. So no, it doesn't tend to influence what I'm working on.

TV STORE ONLINE: Last question... What's one thing that no one knows about you?

WINTER: I don't know [laughing]. The problem with that is really that I've been in public life since I was 10 years old. So, there is probably very little that people don't actually know. I guess what people probably don't know about me, is that I am most happy when I'm in the middle of the creative process of film-making. Sitting in a edit bay once the work is done is the greatest place in the world. I almost became an editor, cause that was my focus back when I was at N.Y.U. In reality, I actually think of myself that way, more so than an actor, or anything else.

Check Alex Winter's new film DOWNLOADED: THE MOVIE available now on VOD and I-Tunes.