Talking Head: Mini Productions are anything but... meet April Kelley and Sara Huxley
Mini Productions, headed up by April Kelley and Sara Huxley, is a production company that, despite the name, has actually grown hugely since starting in 2012. Mini have produced theatre, short films, TV teasers and are currently developing feature projects.
‘What does a producer actually do?’
A question we’re faced with on a regular basis, which we answer differently depending on the current intake of wine:
‘It’s like having a child, from the moment of conception through pregnancy, birth and all the way to when they’re still borrowing money off you in their mid-twenties.’
‘Everything. At least people think we should know everything, plus know everyone’s departments inside out.’
‘We’re problem solvers and team builders. We discover a great idea and make it happen.’
All of the above are true to some degree, but essentially the last is what we do and is most certainly how we’ve built and how we run Mini Productions. We believe that a good producer is someone who has the skills to bring people together and then motivate them to deliver the project at hand – to the best of their ability. Our goal is to inspire passion in the people around us for the work we want to create, and to make them feel like they are a key part of that journey, which indeed they are.
Instead of making this article a shiny look at how magical this industry is and how wonderful we’re finding it breaking into this career choice, we’re going to share with you how we ended up where we are, why we keep doing it and why we love it. Don’t get us wrong, the industry can be shiny and magical, but when one of us ends up knee deep in mud trying to get a port-a-loo on top of a boggy moor whilst the other gets shat on by a seagull at Cannes Film Festival, it can be hard to maintain such a glossy image.
We both fell into producing quite naturally, after being instinctively highly organised and having a compulsion for hard work/slight OCD... We trained as actresses at London drama schools and whilst in training turned our hands to producing for theatre and short films as a way of learning about the industry we were going in to, and having an awareness for all the other parts that make up a successful production. A hobby turned into real opportunities and before long we had our first professional credits as producers for screen and fringe theatre, which we grabbed with both hands.
We had the privilege of working with some wonderful filmmakers and learning a huge amount along the way. Michael Beddoes and Kristina Heaney, on the short film FLOTSAM (2015); James Webber and Poppaea Bicknell on short films SOROR (2014) and THE PREY (2015); Mark Brennan and Carl Austin on short film TEA FOR TWO (2015) and of course all of the other amazing crew and friends we have had the privilege to work with. These people have played a massive part in where we are now and we have learnt so much from them and for that we are eternally grateful.
What we have also learnt is that with low budget filmmaking it is so important to treat everyone equally, feed them wonderfully and thank them profusely. Too often in this industry people are swept up in the hierarchy of a film set and aren’t respectful to their team; we’ve learnt to take note of those who give their all to a project and care for (fatten up) every person on our set. These are the people you want around you moving forward and they’re the ones who will have your back to the bitter end.
The slate of shorts we’ve built over the past two years is our calling card for features and TV; “if short films made money we’d be rich…” we often laugh to ourselves. So, in favour of paying our rents and feeding our tummies we have ploughed on with bigger projects and taken a serious look at what we can feasibly manage between just the two of us (that being said, the Mini’s have recently multiplied as we welcome Sorcha and Emily to the family).
We completed our last short film EDITH (2016) earlier this year and safe to say we wanted to exit the short film world with a bang. ‘Edith’ was the directorial debut for actor Christian Cooke and starred BAFTA winner Peter Mullan and Game of Thrones Michelle Fairley, executive produced by Fiona Neilson of Mint Pictures. We learnt so much from this film and it was a huge game changer; never before have we been so tested, exhausted, excited and inspired in one go. It gave us the necessary skills to embark on our first feature and the power to say ‘no’, which believe us, is a lot harder than it sounds!
We still have a real passion for acting and that will never leave us. We run our own theatre company, which allows us to act and work with new writers. We are also drawn to TV (we told you we take on a lot!) and this year shot two teasers, ANNIE WAITS and BRUNETTE BABY, to accompany our TV scripts. This allowed us to act and work with some wonderful people: Abner Pastoll, Mark Heywood, Chris Anatasi, to name but a few….
We’re true believers in giving people a chance, particularly under-confident women. When we worked with the extremely modest Marnie Paxton on ‘Edith’ we (naturally) got chatting and found out that not only was she an exceptional script supervisor but also wanted to direct. She barely had to utter the words to us and we had pushed her onto our TV set and made her direct our first TV project ‘Annie Waits’. She nailed it, of course, and that’s it now… she’s a director in our eyes.
We live by many mottos: Sara likes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and April preaches ‘work hard in silence, let success make the noise’. Most importantly we remind ourselves of Acting On A Dream’s core belief that ‘anything is possible…’
It’s important to take the time to celebrate your achievements, because otherwise you’ll never stop and appreciate how far you’ve come.
We would like to thank wine for this newfound discovery and encouragement.
For more information about Mini Productions and their projects please visit their website.