Interview with Table Read My Screenplay Winner Mark GrisarScreenwriter Mark Grisar scored a big 2016 contest win when his script Cleaning House was selected as the winner of the London edition of the Table Read My Screenplay Contest. The script has been optioned for production and is scheduled to shoot this spring with Nick Quested attached to direct.
MovieBytes: Congrats on the contest win. What's the script about?
Mark Grisar: CLEANING HOUSE is a twisty, contemporary noir about MAX, a victim of downsizing, stuck in a sexless marriage, who finds some passion in his life when he begins a relationship with ELENA the young woman who cleans his house. Unbeknownst to Max, Elena is casing the house for her boyfriend to rob. Elena eventually thwarts the robbery and ends up murdered for her betrayal. Now, Max's "loving" wife NAN goes to great lengths to frame him for the crime.
Mark Grisar at the London table read of Cleaning House.
American Beauty meets Gone Girl.
MovieBytes: What compelled you to enter the Table Read contest? Have you entered the script in other contests, too?
MG: Though not my day job, I consider myself a professional screenwriting contestant, having won, placed or showed in several contests over the years. I think I'm amongst the minority of writers who has won more than I've spent on contest entry fees (lol). Oddly enough, last year I entered only one script, CLEANING HOUSE, in one contest, Table Read My Screenplay - London, and the planets aligned. This was the first time I've entered this contest and I did so because the reward and philosophy were unique. I didn't need another copy of Final Draft, and oftentimes the "industry exposure" is overrated.
MovieBytes: What was your experience like with the contest?
MG: The International Screenwriters' Association and the TRMS folks are amazing. What they delivered was more than what was promised and way beyond my expectations.
I arrived in London on a Wednesday morning, was limo'd to a deluxe room in a five star hotel in a great location, and was wined and dined through Saturday. They allowed me to extend my stay (at my expense) and do some traveling (Paris & Amsterdam) and paid for my return fare from Amsterdam.
There were actually two readings of CLEANING HOUSE. On Thursday night there was a whole read-through at a lovely regional theater with an amazing cast and director. I sat in on one of the rehearsals right before the reading, but they'd obviously rehearsed before as the actors really nailed their roles. In that CLEANING HOUSE has a multi-racial, multi-socioeconomic cast, they cast the play by utilizing various British dialects and it really worked. So cool to hear your words read in non-American accents. This reading was really just for my benefit and the only ones invited were me, my wife, the director, and the organizers.
The second reading was on Friday night at Soho House, an elegant, prestigious private artists' club. This reading was open to artists and industry professionals. It was not a complete read-through, but a showcase of some select scenes from the script. I'd estimate about 30-40 people attended.
This was not the first time I've heard the script read aloud. A few years back, I won a table read as part of the Westchester Film Festival. Except in that reading, I was given a venue, but had to assemble a cast, rehearse and direct it myself with 2 1/2 weeks notice. I was way too nervous to gain much insight.
MovieBytes: How long have you been writing? How did you learn the craft?
MG: I've been writing since my college days; I'm pretty much self taught. As an exercise I used to watch a movie I loved, and constantly pause it to transcribe it. This really helped me learn pacing.
MovieBytes: Do you consider screenwriting contests a good way to launch a Hollywood screenwriting career?
MG: Screenwriting contests can be a good way to launch a career, in that it is easier to get your script read if you have a good track record. More importantly, a good placement is a major pat on the back, which gives you the much needed encouragement to persevere in what can be a very frustrating, solitary avocation. I have to confess that I had just about given up on screenwriting (transitioning to prose) then I struck gold.
To date, the TRMS experience has been the best experience of my screenwriting career. For the four days, I was treated as an A-list writer, I bonded with the cast, facilitators, London, and had the best vacation of my life. More importantly I'm back in the writing mode!