The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

Writing his own ending

Tuesday, 23 June 2020, 10:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

The local release of his internationally-acclaimed thriller novel, ‘Fall Out’, is just the latest chapter in a vast and colourful career for MARK GRENSIDE. He chats with Laura Bonnici about how his time as part of the Jim Henson and The Muppets© team taught him to take on the world of entertainment

With a career stretching from insurance to serial entrepreneurship, via a stint on the team of Jim Henson and The Muppets©, founding a music management company, producing numerous movies and mini-series and pioneering a major television channel buy-out, most people might now be looking to slow things down a bit. Not so, Mark Grenside.

The Malta-based media all-rounder has used his decades of experience at the heart of the entertainment industry as the raw material for his debut thriller novel, Fall Out. The exciting page-turner, which is now available in local bookshops, has already caught the eye of global literary critics who have called it "riveting... a real gem" (bestselling author Damien Lewis) and "somewhere between The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones" (award-winning producer Alan Moloney). This week it was even positively reviewed in a tweet by TV personality Piers Morgan.

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An entertainment career was not always on the cards for Grenside, however. "I always aspired to a media career and at school I participated in a lot of drama (with the famed author Anthony Horowitz among others) but I came from a generation where media was never considered 'a real job'," he explains.

His working life began, then, straight out of school at Lloyds of London, specialising in Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion Insurance - but a unique opportunity in the media industry soon arose that was too good to miss. "The brother-in-law of a friend I made at Lloyds (and still a close friend) was the late Peter Orton," Grenside recalls. "Peter eventually went on to found Henson International Television, with children's TV show Bob the Builder, among his properties, but at the time he was Jim Henson's key financier and distributor. Peter set up an interview with Jim Henson after much pestering from me. It went well - I just remember laughing a lot. The only stipulation for getting the job was that I was never to reveal while working for Jim what my previous job had entailed. Something I stuck to."

Dumping at last the suit and tie in favour of joining Jim Henson's team, the next five years would form the foundation for the rest of Grenside's incredible career. "Jim Henson was an extraordinary man who wanted to change attitudes, change lives and inspire laughter," he shares. "My time in his team changed my life, as well as those of all who worked for him, forever. The initial team Jim put together have all become lifelong friends and each of them extremely successful. Two ex-Henson alumni are godparents to my children."

Through working on the global distribution of Jim Henson's The Muppets©, Grenside also curated the contacts and skills through which he would go on to thrive in the entertainment world. "In that team I found a home I belonged in and loved. I made contacts in distribution and found out how to set up productions financed by more than one broadcaster. I learned about creative talent and met an amazing assortment of people, from famous actors and actresses right up to behind the camera genii like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. I loved being able to take an idea and turn it into a show."

This determined creativity, which has since become the signature of Grenside's career, also appears to have been influenced by his time with Jim Henson. "The Muppets© is a coming together of brilliant technique and ground-breaking special effects, alongside superb scripts that work on a number of levels both for adults and children. The show is still unlike anything ever seen before or since," smiles Grenside. "That wonderful time on the show taught me to never give up, to never stop learning, to hold true to your values and beliefs but try not to force them down other people's throats - and remember that it is just entertainment. To quote Jim Henson: Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending."


'Fall Out' by M. N. Grenside is published in paperback by Urbane Publications Limited and is distributed by Miller Distributors Ltd in Malta. It is available from Agenda Bookshops and other bookshops in Malta and Gozo.

 


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