What is your name, and where are you from?
My name is Michael Mitnick and I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
What are you working on at SPACE?
I am working on a new play, and I ….
Are you able to talk about it?
I’m scared to.
You’re scared to?
Yeah, because I don’t quite know what it is yet. I know it makes for a lousy interview.
No, that’s ok! Then we can talk about the artist’s beginning process-
-and that makes for quite an intriguing part of the interview!
I see. What else did I do? I finished outlining a new musical. I’ve been spending some terrific time with these great people.
When is the musical coming out?
It hasn’t been written yet. It’s a commission from the Manhattan Theatre Club. They’ve been very generous with their time. I hope to have a draft in a year or two.
So what else have you been doing at SPACE?
Well, we have been having great communal meals. I’ve enjoyed walking around and seeing nature. I saw Socks the dog (owned by SPACE chef Rebecca Wolf) eating a jar of peanut butter and he looked like he was having the time of his life, and he looked so happy, and I was vicariously happy because he was really going at. He wanted to get that peanut butter. He wanted to get all that peanut butter out of that jar. But his face was too big, so he had a struggle, but I was on his team.
Any other projects? Anything recreational you’ve been doing? Gone to the lake?
I just came back from the lake. I was sitting on the dock of the lake.
What else do you have coming up?
Well, I have a movie, wrote a movie, called The Giver. I have a play this fall.
It’s called Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman. It’s about a 16-year-old boy from Fort Collins, Colorado who writes a 400-page play called Spacebar. It’s not about the computer key on the keyboard, but a bar in outer space. He submits it to Broadway. He keeps writing cover letters to Broadway. Broadway won’t write back. And then, Broadway does write back and offers him a reading. So he goes to New York for the first time, and he has a bit of an adventure.
Where is that playing?
At the Wild Project.
Where is that?
The East Village.
If you were to be reincarnated as a farm animal what farm animal would you be, and why?
Is a dog a farm animal?
I’d like to be a dog.
I’d love to be Socks. He gets a jar of peanut butter. Obviously I wouldn’t pick something that would be slaughtered. Unless you can say, “I promise you won’t be murdered.” I’d think I’d rather be a dog than a horse. A dog’s life for me.
Why not a horse?
Why not a horse?
Yeah, why not a horse?
I wouldn’t want to be a horse because they seem to be constantly pestered with flies and people want to ride around on them, tie ropes to their faces, and pull them in different directions. I don’t want ropes tied to my face.
Is it different with different projects how much screenwriters are part of the editing process?
It’s all case-by-case, you know? I’ve never had a movie made before so I don’t have anything to compare it to. But the director Philip Noyce and I had a good relationship. So it wasn’t just, “Here’s the script, see you later.” We worked together directly from the book for months. I did 87 drafts with him in a year and a half. We were on set in South Africa shooting. And in editing, I was fortunate that he (Noyce) wanted my input because usually screenwriters don’t get a lot of input. It’s the director’s game, and then ultimately the producer has final cut. Rarely does the director have final cut, and certainly no screenwriter does. That’s one of the main differences between theatre and film: ownership over what shows up.
And you like theatre more?
So why did you decide to do a movie?
I screenwrite so I can pay my rent. But also I loved the book of The Giver. I thought to myself, “If someone is going to adapt it, I want to do it because I care about the book very much. I’ll do my best to honor it. I don’t want it done poorly.”
I can’t wrap my head around a year and half of three hours of sleep, and full on…
I did other things too. I went out to dinner with friends. I saw plays. I worked on a musical I co-wrote with a SPACE alum, Kim Rosenstock and the actor Will Connolly. There was a production of that at Playwrights Horizon. That was in the middle of everything.
What was that?
Fly by Night. I feel like there was some other stuff too, but I can’t remember.
Interviewed by Raquel Loving.