Mitch Albom speaks about local advantages

David Riva
Daily Arts Writer
April 12, 2011

Yesterday morning, writer Mitch Albom was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” promoting the paperback release of his New York Times Best Seller “Have A Little Faith.” The week before, he appeared on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” talking about topics ranging from the NHL playoffs to the NFL lockout. Later this month, the Albom-penned play “Ernie” will premiere onstage. All this is sandwiched between his nationally syndicated radio show and Detroit Free Press column — it’s not hard to argue that Albom is one of the busiest people in the country.

Despite these obligations, Albom has found time in his chaotic schedule to deliver a guest lecture for the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures tonight.

The lecture, which is open to the public, was prompted by a request from SAC Prof. Jim Burnstein, who has worked closely with Albom in advocating the state of Michigan’s film tax incentives.

Albom’s support for the growth of the film industry in the area is partially justified by the opportunity it offers college students.

“I think (the incentives have) done a lot of good for young people in Michigan — particularly Michigan students and graduates — giving a lot of Michigan kids a reason to stick around here,” Albom said in an interview with The Michigan Daily.

According to Albom, the best way to reduce the so-called “brain drain” is to provide graduates with the option of working in an industry that people actually want to work in. This desire, he said, translates into an undeniable enthusiasm that has been seen on sets in Ann Arbor and across the state.

A seasoned participant and observer of the film industry, Albom has detected a noticeable difference in the energy and attitude of movie productions filmed in Michigan. He describes them as friendly and focused on teamwork, with little emphasis on competition.

“I’ve been on sets in L.A. where it’s just another day at the office,” Albom explained. “Most people are sort of aggravated that traffic is being stopped.

“But here, it’s like an event,” he continued. “All the neighbors come out and watch. I think that’s part of what people who come here to make movies enjoy. They like the fact that it’s still a big deal and it’s not jaded here in Michigan as it is in some other places.”

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts would greatly reduce the appeal for out-of-state filmmakers to move their casts and crews to Michigan, which lacks the resources and infrastructure of larger cities on the coasts.

However, film tax incentives or not, Albom will continue to argue that Michigan is a great place to live and that more students should stay in the state after graduation.

“I would suggest that you can do very good work from here and you can be proud of helping an area that really needs your help,” he said. “New York doesn’t need any young writers, young actors or young filmmakers, and L.A. doesn’t need them either.

“But Michigan does.”

A New Jersey native who has lived in Europe, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida and New York, Albom has continued to thrive while living in the Detroit area, specifically working in the entertainment and media industries. He explained how even though his career dictates substantial traveling and involvement in national and international endeavors, Detroit serves as a worthy home base.

“I consider it as good a place to live as any place in the world,” he said.

Aware of the example he’s setting for future generations of entertainment and media industry professionals both locally and nationally, Albom said he realizes just how important it is for him to keep living in the Detroit area even though most of his peers live elsewhere.

“If I (move), then everybody who comes after me is going to do the same thing too, and we won’t have other creative people living and working here,” he said.

Regardless of whether or not people are looking to him as a role model, Albom is pleased to remain a Michigan resident for life.

“I’m proud of living here and I’m happy to stay,” he said.

Read at www.michigandaily.com

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