For decades, Gail Zappa, the widow of the iconoclastic rock musician Frank Zappa, was known as a fierce guardian of her husband’s business empire. But before she died last year at 70, Mrs. Zappa granted the filmmaker Alex Winter rare access to her husband’s “vault,” the enormous media archive kept in the basement of the Zappa family home in Los Angeles, as part of Mr. Winter’s latest project: a documentary about Zappa’s life and music.
“We’re private people, but we want the story to be told,” Ahmet Zappa, one of Frank’s four children and a trustee of the Zappa Family Trust, said in a statement about the film.
On Tuesday, Mr. Winter, who has made well-received documentaries like “Downloaded,” about the Napster phenomenon — but who may still be best known to a generation of moviegoers as Bill from the 1989 comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” — will introduce a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the Zappa movie and also preserve the archive. For $9 million, one generous supporter could own the Zappa house (minus its contents, including the vault).
Mr. Winter spoke this week about the film and the archive. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Q. How did this film and the archive project come about?
A. I was coming off my previous doc, “Deep Web,” and starting to put the next movie together. One thing that kept coming up was that there had never been a definitive Frank Zappa documentary. I was intent on not making a musical biopic, but making something that’s more like a novelistic examination of this man, something that would dig into the cultural aspects of him, the political aspects. That’s what we pitched to Gail, and she loved it.Gail granted us, for the first time, access to the Zappa family vault, which is literally a vault — it’s a giant, floor-to-ceiling space under their house in the Hollywood Hills that is filled with 40-odd years of unseen and unheard material. It’s stuff that he wrote, family stuff, art, music and film. Some of it had been preserved by the family, but it’s not been thoroughly archived.
Frank Zappa’s House Can Be Yours for $9 Million – The New York Times