Global Green Room Interview: Chris Paine

chris_payne_photoWriter/director Chris Paine made a big impression with his 2006 documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" In addition to exploring the answer to the question in the film's title, Paine also addressed the bigger issues of renewable energy sources and sustainability. His follow-up, "Revenge of the Electric Car" was released this year at the Tribeca Film Festival and opens nationally the week of October 21. We caught up with Paine recently to ask him questions for the Global Green Room Interview. What would surprise us about your work?

Many of my film ideas start as comedies but end up somewhere else.  Or... you could say the reverse.

Who is your hero?

Keith Johnstone, for one. He's a great improvisor who teaches his students to keep storytelling in the YES mode. This trumps debate both on stage and in life. I doubt anyone will ever win the "big argument" over issues, because no matter how smart anyone is, no one wants to lose the other side of the argument. So ultimately, you need to build outcomes that let more people participate and simply build the better future. That's how I've interpreted my training with him. Other heroes: Mikhail Gorbachev, John Muir, Wangari Maathai, Jane Goodall, Lenny Roberts, Kurt Vonnegut, George Pearson, Paul MacCready, my Mom (co-founder of the Environmental Volunteers in the Bay Area) and my Dad (co-founder of the Peninsula Open Space Trust). I'm lucky to have a long list of heroes.

What has been your greatest success so far?

Professionally, I'm glad our electric car films have reached a lot of people and helped mainstream this advance in a creative way. I'm also proud of an internet business I helped run in the late 1990s, and our 1980s protests to stop atomic testing in Nevada. I have my greatest appreciation for my collection of friendships, and good health over the years.

What about a failure or challenge?

Lots of failures, if you consider the state of our ecosystems today versus when I was kid. Sadly, we are all a part of that decline (as I write this from an airplane). The silver lining is that some hardworking activists, storytellers, and groups have kept things from getting even worse. We've avoided nuclear war, we've at least slowed the rate of natural destruction, and more people are aware. I believe the glass is still half-full.

If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?

Transitioning to renewable energy sources.