Justin Maine: "So Right, So Smart"


Justin Maine, one of the directors of "So Right, So Smart."

Local filmmaker Justin Maine just got back from New Zealand where he collected the Best Feature Film prize at the Reel Earth Festival for his new documentary, "So Right So Smart."

Maine is one of the owners of MagicWig Productions in Schenectady. Usually they produce corporate video, but for the last three years his team (Guy Noerr, Leanne Robinson Maine and Michael Swantek) has been flying around the country documenting the efforts of businesses to "go green."

The resulting film, narrated by Daryl Hannah, covers a wide range of businesses -- from a farm to a brewery to a clothing company to Barenaked Ladies (yep, the band) to Wal-Mart.

So Right, So Smart makes its local debut on Saturday at Albany's Palace Theater.

Before he left for New Zealand, Justin hung out with us over bagels and told us how the worlds largest manufacturer of commercial carpeting taught him about the importance of going green, why Al Gore isn't in his movie and what he and his team have in common with folks like Kevin Smith and Peter Jackson.

Why did you want to make this movie?

I've wanted to make movies since I was 4 years old. I've always been trying to figure out how we can not only do corporate videos but try and make a movie. About ten years ago I met this guy Ray Anderson, the chairman and founder of Interface, the world's largest manufacturer of modular carpeting. He was one of our clients. His goal is to make his business 100 percent environmentally sustainable by the year 2020.

Ray Anderson CU.jpg

At the time I was sort of a little young Republican, pro-business and all that and I scoffed at my business partner who was this environmentalist, former hippie type. But when I heard Ray Anderson talk about his efforts to eliminate the carbon footprint of his company, he just made so much much sense -- in a way that nobody who ever tried to talk to me about recycling and the environment ever made sense before. And it was because he was talking about it not as just a good thing to do -- but as something that made sense. And over the years the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Ray Anderson.jpg

Ray is a very charismatic and interesting guy, and my business partner, Guy Noerr, kept saying, "We've got to make a movie about Ray Anderson before somebody else does."

We wanted to do a film that tells not only his story, but how he's inspired other people and what those people are doing to make their businesses greener. We went out and got a school, a beer company, coffee... music and entertainment... things people identify with.

And then we got the biggest company in the world: Wal-Mart. We figured if we could show a cross section of where green is happening all over the world it would make a lot more sense to people.

So Right, So Smart is basically a story of inspiration . And it's about why it's good for businesses to go green not only because it's good for the environment but because it's good for the bottom line.

So Right 1.jpg

Still, if you're going to do a film about the environment, why follow someone like Ray Anderson? Why not pick.... ohhhh.... Al Gore?

(Laughs) Well, Ray Anderson, to me, has more charisma than Al Gore could ever hope to have. And that's not saying I don't like Al Gore. We actually tried to get him in the movie and he turned us down because he "doesn't do other people's documentaries anymore."

Has making the movie changed you as a consumer?

Oh, I'm a such a changed person. If you knew me five years ago you would never in a million years think i would have been involved in this movie. A friend I hadn't seen in about five years came and saw a rough cut and laughed for like half an hour. He said I can't believe you made a movie about the environment.

These days every bulb in my house is compact florescent. We're always turning the lights off and trying to be move energy efficient at home. If I go somewhere and they don't recycle, I take the bottle with me -- things like that.

How does this area compare to other areas that you've traveled to in terms of being green?

We're definitely behind as an area. There are places I've been to where all the public garbage cans on the streets have garbage, plastic, paper and glass recycling bins. I saw that in San Francisco and in Toronto and a few other places.

You could do your work anywhere, so why did you choose to operate your production company out of Schenectady? Why live in the Capital Region?

I grew up in East Greenbush and I went to college at Sage. I went out to LA for a while and saw what things were like out there. There's so much that happens in LA -- but everyone out there wants to be a filmmaker. You know, it's not that I want to be like a big fish in a small pond or anything I'd rather just be where I can focus on doing what I want.

So Right 2.jpg

I'd like to just develop my own kind of thing here. Filmmakers like Kevin Smith have done that in New Jersey. He did eventually move to California but Robert Rodriguez who did the Spy Kids movies has his studios in Austin and Peter Jackson did that in New Zealand. George Lucas is not in LA -- he's in San Francisco.

I guess when you're making hundred million dollar movies it's hard to say you're not Hollywood, but they're using their own money and doing it their own way outside of the system and that' kind of how I've always been -- somebody who wanted to be on the outside of the system.

So Right So Smart Crew.jpg

So, what makes the Capital Region a good place to make films?

From a location standpoint it's so close to so many different different looks. When you see a movie shot in LA you can tell it's shot in LA and not New York City, but there are areas of downtown Albany that look exactly like NYC because of the architecture. You have the forests, mountains, plains and cities within the a small radius of the Albany area. You can create Anywhere, USA here so why go to Anywhere, USA .

Also from a cost perspective, if you go to LA and say you want to shoot a movie in a coffee shop they start figuring out how much money they're going to charge you. In Albany if you say I want to shoot a movie here it's, "OK we open at this time and you can shoot before then and how's 100 bucks." People here are excited to have you do it as opposed to inconvenienced and trying to make a buck off you.

You've done quite a bit of traveling -- so what have you seen other places that you'd like to see in the Capital Region?

I wish there was more of a sense of community. And I'll be honest, it may be that I think there isn't because I'm so busy these days that I'm more disjointed from it. Maybe it's there but I'm just not noticing. But I do wish more things than Tulip Fest would get a big local outpouring.

And better recycling. We need better recycling.

This interview has been edited and condensed
Photos: Steven Ross

* So Right, So Smart will be screened on Saturday night at 7 at The Palace Theater in Albany. Tickets are $10. The film will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and a performance by Sirsy.

Find It

The Palace Theater
19 Clinton Avenue
Albany, NY 12207


I cannot wait to see this movie - especially after reading this article and the article in last week's Times Union. Glad to see going green is becoming more than a passing fad...

Will there be other opportunities to see the movie in the area if we are unable to make it on Saturday?

I am so excite to see this movie at the Palace. From what I understand, the editing is amazing!

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