TriForce Promotions was founded in 2004 by actors Jimmy Akingbola and Fraser Ayres…
The company has gone from humble beginnings to becoming the leading networking organisation of the entertainment industry, based around a philosophy of inclusivity, NOT exclusivity. They are a unique company, creating opportunities for individuals and companies to develop and thrive within the industry. In 2014 their work was recognised when they became recipients of a grant from the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Breakthrough Fund.
With its Film Festival now open for submissions, I was lucky enough to talk to co-founder Fraser Ayres about the project.
What inspired you to establish TriForce Promotions?
10 years ago, myself and my best friend and Co-founder Jimmy Akingbola were both young actors and we had seen quite a few problems within our industry surrounding the issues of diversity and access. We felt it was essential to establish a supportive, creative network with a focus on individual empowerment, as well as attempting to change the way the industry works and accesses talent, so that we could hopefully change the habit of seeing the same work being made by the same people on our stages and screens.
What sets the Tri-Force Short Film Festival apart from the others?
As we are working professionals ourselves, it is a festival for film makers and creatives BY film makers and creative, and I think that gives it a very different focus that participants and audiences appreciate. We’re not interested in the current ‘hot thing’ or promoting films for the sake of it. We genuinely want to find ways for burgeoning filmmakers from a variety of backgrounds to have the same opportunities to develop as everyone else. It’s also why we chose the venue of BAFTA as we feel it’s vitally important that people who may never have dreamed of having their film at BAFTA or realistically finding a way into the industry, have that prestige and avenue for their development.
In a notoriously challenging industry to breakthrough, the company is based around a commendable philosophy of inclusivity. Why was this such an important feature? How does TriForce encourage inclusivity?
It’s what we felt was missing from our industry. We feel that there is a lot of talent that simply doesn’t get the opportunity to shine be it due to social, financial, whatever circumstances and we end up with the same work being made by the same people. We desperately wanted to address that and level the playing field. TriForce itself is led by three working-class actors from very differing backgrounds, and being on ‘the other side of the fence’ enables us to relate directly with artists needs and aspirations, as they are very much our own as well.
There is also a massive desire from the industry as a whole for more variety in its audiences as well as its practitioners, but unfortunately many of these organisations lack the language or real insight to address those concerns properly. This is where TriForce come in.
We actively opened a dialogue with the gate-keepers and high level practitioners of our industry such as the work we do with the BBC for writers, or with our event MonologueSlam UK which has become a regular hub for Casting Directors and Producers to find distinguished talent from across the UK and has seen innumerable outcomes from people getting agents to getting leads in major blockbusters.
We do have a very firm ethos of ‘inclusivity NOT Exclusivity’ and this means that we are always clear that we represent and support people from all demographics and circumstances. We firmly believe that unless we ALL move forward, then nobody does. It’s important to us that the pursuit of ‘diversity’ doesn’t just mean hitting quotas that don’t actually change attitudes or having more of one particular group on our screens. TriForce strive towards a diversity of experience being reflected in our media, not just a change in palette.
Since 2012 when the festival began, how has the quality of submissions changed?
We’ve been blessed over the years to have received some amazing films, right from the get-go. It’s incredibly inspiring to see the work that people can produce. What we have seen is that people’s scale and scope has grown massively over the years. Even with the #TFMicroshorts – the ingenuity and ambition is staggering. It makes you really think about the work that is produced ‘professionally’ with massive budgets when you see the level of quality story telling that can be achieved with much less resource, but the right people behind it.
What sort of work or projects do festival winners typically move on to?
All sorts! We’ve found that it wasn’t just the winners that achieved tangible outcomes. With the festival being aimed at film makers in all departments, we’ve found that there has been a lot of people connecting and collaborating; Directors met writers, teams met producers and financiers, technicians got gigs! That cross connection is very much what TriForce and the TFSFF is about which is why to encourage that this year, we’re having industry seminars and a large ‘expo’ for people to connect.
What are the most remarkable insights you have gained since establishing TriForce?
Oh my goodness! It’s a daily epiphany! One big thing for me was patience.
As an artist, time can move very slowly when you are waiting for something. As a Producer and Director there is never enough time!
I found that this also applies to the whole ‘Diversity and Access’ issue. I used to be like a Bull in a China shop, but you have to change the way people think and that can take time and energy in convincing them that the alternatives are actually better for them. You can’t bully. Patience is key! One of the most fundamental shifts for me was being on the ‘other side of the table’ so to speak and people auditioning for my own projects or pitching me ideas. You can instantly see what works and what doesn’t which is why it’s something that I teach in our workshops – how we think we’re coming across is often not what is actually happening in the room.
Why do you think TriForce has gone from strength to strength?
It took time, but by engaging directly with artists and organisation alike, over the past 10 years we’ve developed trust within the professional industry as a whole. Casting Directors and Producers have come to know that we develop, promote and support quality talent from a broad range of backgrounds, and participants have seen that the outcomes that we create are tangible and of an incredibly high quality
It was vital to us that TriForce never became just another “actors company” and that we actually provide real outcomes and career progression with a supportive core ethos. It’s what we want ourselves as creatives so we make sure that’s what we deliver. It’s this two-way trust that has enabled TriForce to continue to grow.
How has your background in the industry affected your approach to the company?
Massively. I’m originally from Leicester from a working-class background and when I was growing up acting wasn’t considered a real job then. Thankfully my mum supported what I wanted to do and from there I joined the Haymarket Youth Theatre. Unfortunately many of these outreach or community programs got cut and what happened was that people who weren’t financially stable or were located outside of London found it increasingly difficult to access the industry. A lot of the work we do is an attempt to address that problem, which is why we are expanding our MonologueSlam UK across the UK, to put back some of the opportunities that I had that no longer exist. Filling and bridging the gaps is very much at the heart of the way we operate.
Often people use short films as a stepping stone to feature productions. Why do you feel that short films in themselves are so important to the industry?
We have found like with our other events and programs that it is that initial entry point where the freshest and most diverse talent can be found. They haven’t developed cynicism or finalised their thought processes, so it means the projects are always heart felt and with a remarkable, personal drive behind them. For us this is the most exciting people to be working with, and rather than simply tell them how the current system works, we try and empower those individuals so they can forge their own path through the industry.
Finally, what advice do you have for potential entrants?
Two things: Know yourself and what you want to say and don’t be swayed. You and your ideas are unique and that is what will always be your prime commodity, but in the same breath don’t be afraid of outside input. It can only give you fresh ideas or put you more in tune with what you already think. And finally, Remember- we’re story tellers first and foremost. Engage! Tell a good story! Sometimes we can get caught up in other aspects, but at its core – that is what any artist, actor, director should be striving towards; tell a fantastic story that people NEED to see.
Fraser Ayres is Managing Director and Co-Founder of TriForce Promotions as well as being an Actor/Writer/Director. Fraser’s acting career highlights include being named as one of The Guardian’s “Top Performers of 2013”, several The Stage Best actor nominations and starring in projects such as The Smoking Room and the international hit Son of God. Alongside his creative pursuits, Fraser has turned his diverse talents to producing and managing events and projects on a variety of scales. The mind behind TriForce Promotions, Fraser drives the ideas and makes them a practical reality.
#RaiseThatBar #DiversityInAction #TFSFF