Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Justin Andrews of Macon Film Festival Is Helping To Change Our World
Always remain humble. You never know what conversation or what person you meet could propel you in your job or your career. Just always be humble no matter what the situation may be .
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Andrews.
Justin Andrews, grandson of the legendary Otis Redding, is President of the Macon Film Festival’s Board of Director and Director of Special Projects and Outreach at the Otis Redding Foundation. Within the Foundation, he specializes in event planning, leads student activities and camps, and is the creative force behind Otis Redding branded merchandise, where proceeds support the organization’s educational programs and outreach efforts. He is active and involved in the Middle Georgia community, where he is a board member of the Macon Arts Alliance, the Boys and Girls Club, and Visit Macon. He is a graduate of Macon’s Mount de Sales Academy and participated in the 2017 class of Leadership Macon.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
I have really been a part of the film festival since I was 13 or14 years old — volunteering, MCing, so on and so forth, so it’s really become a part of my life just like everything else that I’ve been doing. It’s an honor to even be president. It’s come full circle from being a volunteer and seeing the festival at the beginning. Now, here we are 17 seasons later and I’m in my second year as president.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is the first time that I’ve ever been the president of a board, especially of a non-profit. I’m involved with many different nonprofits, but it was very funny how I became president. II missed a board meeting, but I got a call the next day and April, my treasurer, is just like, “Well, we voted you president for the film festival.” Of course, I happily accepted and here we are, two years later with last year being amazing for us coming out of the pandemic. We made some money and shed light on what we’re doing here in Macon. This year, we’re pushing the envelope with different guests and films, and what we want to do in the festival. We hope it’s going to be very, very successful again, especially moving forward in the future with whatever president will come after me. It’s an exciting time to be involved in all of this.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
For a young person to either get into music or film, the number one thing that I always like to push is just exposing yourself. You can’t be ashamed to walk into a room not knowing anyone. You have to be your own biggest cheerleader. You have to be the one that will go and say who you are, tell people what you do, be excited about who you are and then other people will become excited for you and hopefully jump on your bandwagon. Apply yourself to the best of your ability to show people you’re excited to be who you are and excited about the abilities that you have.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
It is tough to narrow it down to one person because I wouldn’t be in any position that I’m in without the help of my family. Of course, my parents, Tim Andrews and Karla Redding-Andrews, and, of course, my grandmother Zelma Redding, who taught me about this world that we live in, how to judge people, what to expect from people and to always put your best foot forward if you’re going to do anything, especially if your name is attached to it. Those three are my biggest inspirations. I can’t knock one of them out because then I’m going to get yelled at about one of them. (Laughs) So, it’s those three and, like I said, without them I wouldn’t be in any situation that I’m in right now.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
With the work I do at the Otis Redding Foundation, especially with kids in music and the arts, it is so, so important, especially to me, my family and the organization, that we continue to push music and the arts to kids and let them explore and learn at an early age. As we have seen, schools are pulling funding for music and the arts, so children don’t get to have any sort of expression in their day-to-day lives anymore. This translates to the Macon Film Festival by giving kids the opportunity to showcase films or giving them the opportunity to be involved in workshops.
With the festival itself being so diverse, from LGBTQ+ films to docs to Georgia shorts to music docs to anything around the gamut and in the world of film, we love to show it here at our festival. We have anything for anybody that wants to come to the festival and be supportive of the festival. We make sure that anyone is not left out. We just want everybody to have a good time here in Macon and enjoy some great films that they see in music.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
Since I’m so involved in music and the arts through my lineage and my everyday work here in the foundation, it only makes sense that I stay involved with something in the arts. Of course, Georgia has become an amazing film hub here in the Southeast, and some amazing feature presentations have been done right here in Macon. It’s a no-brainer for me to be involved with the Macon Film Festival because you can’t have film without music. It all runs out full circle.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
One young man that was involved in our Otis Music Camp that always resonates with me is on the Autism Spectrum. He really took to the camp and took to all of the instructors and other kids involved in the program. Seeing him being able to blossom and come out of his shell, releasing music on all the major streaming platforms, releasing albums, doing shows, and, now, he’s working and in college. He’s a sophomore at college and comes back every year to help us with Otis Music Camp. So, to see a kid like that that was probably picked on and ostracized, be treated by the other kids and other instructors just like he is any other person. To see the love that they have for him, and see him go on and do other amazing things in music, arts and school is one of the most heartfelt things I’ve ever seen. This is the reason that I do what I do.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
- Definitely come buy tickets and support the Macon Film Festival. Sponsorship opportunities are still available as well, but with Macon being a central hub for Hollywood blockbuster movies, it only makes sense that we invest more money in film, especially here in Macon. It’s a fun time. It’s a fun weekend. You get to see some movies that you may not get to see anywhere else and interact with some really amazing filmmakers, actors and actresses, and make some more connections with your film or whatever you’re trying to do in this industry.People can get involved by visiting maconfilmfestival.com.
- Support the Otis Redding foundation and support for the Otis Redding Center for the Arts. We do music and arts education programs for kids. We are in the process of building a 15,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center so kids will be able to explore music and the arts after school, during the weekends and all summer long. The two most important things you can invest in are children and their future.
- Support art in schools. It’s a simple solution and everyone knows what we need to do and the benefits it has on our society.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”
- Listen to others and listen to your team
- Treat everybody with a little ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T.’ No pun intended.
- Always remain humble. You never know what conversation or what person you meet could propel you in your job or your career. Just always be humble no matter what the situation may be .
- Hard work pays off. Don’t be afraid to miss out on some things because, at the end of the day, all of that hard work definitely pays off.
- Make sure you have the right people in your corner. When I say the right people, I mean those people that are supportive but will also check you on things you may not be doing right or things you are able to do better. Just make sure you have the right people in your corner that want to see you succeed and aren’t jealous of any of your successes.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think it would be a film and arts festival. Like I said, you can’t have film without the arts. You can’t have it without the music. So, why not be able to tie everything back together, especially here in the South where music is king and film is as popular as football now? So, you know, I just think that would be one of them. To integrate the two big areas of art into one amazing festival that can showcase all of that would be an amazing, amazing thing to do.
Specifically, the Macon Film Festival celebrates independent films while promoting filmmaking for entertainment, inspiration, education and economic development. The Otis Redding Foundation’s mission is to empower, enrich, and motivate all young people through programs involving music, writing and instrumentation.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
The quote from my grandmother that always gets me through- actually, there’s two. There’s one, is ‘If it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense.’ and the other one is ‘This is a ‘fund’-raiser not a ‘fun’- raiser’.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Definitely President Obama –what he does and how he cares. He and his wife care for music, film and art. It would be amazing to sit down with him and talk about everything that we’re doing here in Macon and how he could help us on this journey that we’re embarking on for education for kids, music and the arts. My granddad would be one too, of course. I eat lunch with my grandma almost every single day, so that’s always a blessing too. Those are the big three that I would definitely love to have coffee, lunch, drinks or a cigar.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Justin Andrews of Macon Film Festival Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.