Chicks Chat with…
Minnie Ayres, dancer, actress, producer and one third of the terrific trio that is Triforce Creative Network; along with Jimmy Akingbola and Fraser Ayres. Over the years she’s worked across the board but extensively in Theatre acting in most Theatres in the UK. She’s probably best known for her regular role in the TV show ‘Coming of Age’. We are over the moon Minnie has taken the time out of her extremely busy schedule to chat with us. She discusses all things Minnie and also the Triforce short film festival happening on the 3rd of December in London.
You started out as a dancer, how did you make the transition to actor and was it an easy one?
I was very much set on dancing as a career, and was lucky enough to get a place at the Northern Ballet School at 18, but a lack of grants made it impossible for me to go. I then decided to go to university instead, taking Drama at Birmingham. Fortunately dance was very much part of the curriculum so I continued to train. My theatre career has managed to combine the two, working with companies like Frantic Assembly and directors like Katie Mitchell, who combine dance and acting, which meant I got the best of both worlds. I think it was the best choice for me as in hindsight, dance can be a very short career but you can carry on acting into your dotage!
You’re now ‘flexing’ a whole set of other skills, juggling being an actress and being Company Director with Triforce. How did you get involved?
I met Jimmy Akingbola on a theatre job, we did Frantic Assembly’s Othello together in 2008. And you can’t meet Jimmy without also meeting Fraser Ayres! I got more and more involved with the company over the next couple of years, and then officially came on board in about 2010.
How would you describe Triforce?
We have a tagline that puts it quite succinctly – TriForce Creative Network; Helping People Happen. It’s an organization that was created to support people working in the creative industries, whether they’re actors, writers, directors, producers or crew. We have a number of initiatives that all focus on tangible outcomes for those involved – paid development commissions for writers, actors getting seen by casting directors of big TV shows, and directors getting to meet industry professionals who can move their careers forward. A lot of people see us as a diversity led company, but we prefer the word inclusion. We’re open to everyone and we try and level the playing field so that talent really does rise to the top.
“We were keen to show that you can have more than one funny woman in a room at any one time, so had 50% female panelists with two team leaders.”
The Triforce Short Film Festival is about to enter it’s 5th year. For those who’ve never attended, tell us what they can expect from the festival?
TFSFF is quite different to other short film festivals. We have a strong focus on career development for both our shortlisted film-makers but also those attending. So you can expect a packed day at BAFTA on 3rd December, with screenings, seminars and an industry expo. It’s a great event for networking and finding opportunities, with some great supporters including Directors UK, BFI, 4Talent and Creative Skillset.
Speaking of film, what are your top 3 films of all time?
It does depend what mood I’m in! My absolute favourite film is The Apartment by Billy Wilder. It’s just a beautiful film. But I also love a good animation, I just saw Kubo and The Two Strings which was fantastic! And I can’t resist a good horror, although I prefer one with a twist like Cabin in the Woods.
You’ve recently added another string to your bow by producing as part of Triforce, the fantastic panel show ‘Sorry I didn’t know” for ITV2, (which was brilliant). How did that come about?
We set up TriForce Productions last year, so we’ve be developing a few ideas since then and talking to various broadcasters. In one of our chats with ITV, they asked us to pitch an entertainment idea for the ITV2 Fresh Season. I think when we told people we were doing a comedy panel show about black history they were a bit taken aback – it’s not a topic you think has obvious jokes! But we wanted to go beyond the civil rights and slavery topics, there’s just as much ‘black’ history as there is ‘white’ history, it’s not just Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. After all, you don’t think of QI as a ‘white’ panel show!
It wasn’t just about the topic either – we wanted to reverse what you normally see on all the other panel shows, so we had a predominantly black panel but made sure we did have a white comedian there too. We were keen to show that you can have more than one funny woman in a room at any one time, so had 50% female panelists with two team leaders.
Are there any further plans for the show?
We’ll be talking to ITV about the possibility of a series, which would be great, but we’ve also had some interest (in fact quite a lot of interest), from the US. So it’s possible we may get an American version before the UK one!
I couldn’t have this chat without mentioning the fact that you have recently gotten married….to Fraser Ayres! Congratulations!! Share with us a bit about your unique and rather apt wedding day?
Ah, thank you! We got married at Theatre Royal Stratford East, which is kind of our shared church. We’ve been doing MonologueSlam at Stratford East for nearly 8 years, and when we got engaged, the Artistic Director Kerry Michael offered to host our wedding there. They don’t normally do weddings so it was very special! (I think the only other person to get married there was Philip Hedley). It was very much a TriForce affair as Jimmy was our officiant for the day!
How do you deal with living and working together?
We get asked this a lot! It works really well, and we’re building something together, which is about the best thing you can do with your best friend. I suppose the only difficulty can be switching off from work mode which we’re not amazing at, we quite often have work discussion in the evenings, but we do try and keep it separate! But we’re lucky in that we love our work and it’s pretty exciting, so that’s not too much of a problem.
I must say, there really is a welcoming, supportive and encouraging family feel to the Triforce Creative Network. Was that a conscious objective for the company?
Definitely. When Fraser and Jimmy set it up, Jimmy was known as ‘Mr Nice’ in the industry (still is!) And that welcoming, supportive atmosphere is very important to us. Even though the company is now much bigger, we still try and support people personally, we’ll respond to emails and give advice, talk to MonologueSlammers and keep in touch with people who’ve been through our programmes. It’s not just about us either, so many people who’ve taken part in our initiatives keep in touch with each other, make films together, write together, it really is a network. This industry can be soul destroying, so we want to be a place where people can find support.
“I’ve discovered I really enjoy producing so would definitely like to do more of that.”
Triforce is evolving at such an incredible rate, going from strength to strength. From the MonologueSlam, WriterSlam and of course the Short Film Festival. Natural evolution?
Everything comes from seeing a problem in the industry and trying to rectify that. MonologueSlam is about actors getting seen by big casting directors and getting good agents, WriterSlam gives writers that first step into the TV industry and the film festival can give directors and producers the contacts they need to develop their own projects or to step into bigger film and TV projects. We also created ‘Get A Grip’ this year, working with Creative Skillset, which helped people from around the UK (Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and London) get crew trainee placements on high end TV. And next year we have a BIG programme coming up for writers as well as expanding MonologueSlam into more cities.
I don’t think we’re finished yet, we have lots more ideas!
You never seem to stop! What do you do for “down time”?
We have so many events throughout the year that actually my favourite way to relax is in my pyjamas at home! I do like to go and see theatre (especially when friend’s are on stage), but when you get to do glamorous things like a film festival at BAFTA for work, then catching up on box sets at homes is the best way to relax. Having said that, there’s not been much time for that lately as we decided to renovate our house at the busiest time of year!
Finally, what’s next for you Minnie?
I’m really excited to see what happens with Sorry, I Didn’t Know. It would be amazing to produce the show in the States. I’ve discovered I really enjoy producing so would definitely like to do more of that. And the TCN will continue to grow next year which will keep me busy. In the short term I’m looking forward to our much delayed honeymoon in Jamaica!
Thank you so much Minnie xx
Interviewed by Karen Bryson
To Book Tickets to the Triforce Short Film Festival or to stay up to date on the Triforce Creative network visit:
www.tfsff.com – Film Festival
www.thetcn.com – Main Site
www.monologueslamuk.com – Monologueslam
@triforceevents – Main twitter
@TriForceFest – Film Festival
@thetcn – Instagram
Take a look at a taste of the Festival!