Ayanna Maharry is an accomplished actor, director, writer, and producer with extensive production experience spanning film, television and theater. Her company, Shimmershine Entertainment, is currently in production on the web series Adventures Of A Tennis Star, which she wrote.
Ayanna was tapped by director Ted Demme to perform opposite Lisa Nicole Carson in the feature film LIFE, directed by Ted Demme and starring Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and Bernie Mac. In addition, her credits include indie films, among them THE WHY and HE’S THE ONE. She has also worked on many theatrical productions and commercials, including a spot for the athletic apparel brand MENTOH. Ayanna has trained with Tom Todoroff, A.J. Johnson, Sy Richardson, Caleen Sinette Jennings, Phillip Lineback, and Judith Welker.
Ayanna has written several feature screenplays including NOW and the award-winning TOUGH LIKE WEARING DREADLOCKS.
Ayanna’s production credits include the acclaimed PBS documentary, ACROSS THE RIVER and CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. Ayanna has also worked as production manager and production coordinator with renowned producers Suzanne de Passe, Hamilton Cloud, and Don Cornelius on such nationally recognized shows as the NAACP Image Awards, the Soul Train Music Awards, and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. In her role as production manager, she was responsible for managing million-dollar budgets. Ayanna was hired by media conglomerate BET (Black Entertainment Television) to produce and direct a commercial advertisement for their A Healthy BET: Fitness Challengecampaign. The spot featured Jeanette Jenkins, celebrity fitness trainer, who has trained Queen Latifah and Terrell Owens (of the Philadelphia Eagles), among others. The spot was broadcast nationally on the BET cable channel.
A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Ms. Maharry attended The American University, in Washington, DC, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in film production and direction. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and an avid tennis competitor.
Michele Rashida Turner is an accomplished Actor, Director, Stage Manager, Production Manager and Producer with over 25 years of experience honing her craft on stage. She worked in regional theater and most notably with The Afrikan Women’s Repertory (AWR) Theater Off Broadway Company in over 30 plays. Michele also appeared in the Off-Broadway in the New Negro Ensemble Company’s production of Boy X Man which lead to her nomination for an Audelco Award as Best Actress. She also appeared in Soaps (U5 and Day Player), principle roles in over 50 Industrial Films, as well as Episodic TV and Film. After surviving cancer, Michele then moved to Los Angeles to produce and direct six plays from AWR to rave critical reviews from every newspaper in the Los Angeles area from The Los Angeles Times to Backstage West. Michele was then asked to direct a regional play “Tell Hell I’m Not Coming,” a musical, after the director quit three weeks before curtains up. It was a success even though most of the dancers and singers had never acted. After so much success on stage, Michele was approached to produce, first music then film.
Michele partnered with Al Johnson to produce the Miami Jazz Festival. The first year starred David Sanborn and Poncho Sanchez, the second year’s headliner was The Neville Brothers featuring Aaron Neville and Earl Kluge. Michele also was the Mistress of Ceremonies for both years. Michele used this experience to assist in production of the Hip Hop 4 Life Culture Festival in Boston, Mass on July 25, 2010. Michele was the Production Manager supervising the logistics and set up of the vendors, staging and sound as well as acting as Stage Manager for the concert.
Michele began her film career with short films, A Taste of Us, Familiar Strangers (SAG), and six others before turning her hand to Feature films. Her first feature film project as a Producer was the inspirational romantic comedy film SAG feature, Lord Help Us released on DVD May 8, 2007 at Blockbuster, Target, and Wal-Mart Stores and on line at Amazon.com. She also cast the film with such notables as Margaret Avery (Academy Award nominated actress – Color Purple), Debra Wilson (Mad TV, Scary Movie 4), Nadia Turner (American Idol), Joe Clair (BET), Johnny Brown (Good Times), Marion Ramsey (Police Academy) with cameos by Al Jarreau (Grammy Award Winner), and Tico Wells (Five Heart Beats). The featured song was sung by Melba Moore. Her next feature was a documentary Voices about the first Bahamian settlement in Coconut Grove which is an upscale community in Miami. She was invited to participate in this project by filmmaker and Executive Producer, Jeffrey Poitier. The film premiered at AMC Theater Cocowalk and also was invited to premiere in the Bahamas by the Bahamian Government. The next project to wrap was What Goes Around, directed by Angela Gibbs, Executive produced by Vivian Reed (Bubblin’ Brown Sugar) who also starred in it with Marla Gibbs (227).
Michele’s next venture was to co-produce the South Florida Film Festival. She used her contacts in Hollywood and her producing acumen honed in doing films and the jazz festival to assist Tony Brooks, founder of The South Florida Film Festival to produce the festival in 2009/10. 2010 was a stellar year and included a trip to five cities in China to advance the theaters for the production of East Meets West: A Musical Anthology. She was the Production Manager on this project.
Michele had a busy year in 2012. She traveled to Cannes, France to the International Cannes Film Festival – Short Film Corner with filmmaker Brook Bello and the Documentary Film Survivor: Living Above the Noise. For the next couple of years, Michele worked on budgets and Executive Summaries for films, Directors on Directing, Milos, Surviving the Hood, Cleveland Story and Hard Knocks. In 2014 Michele continued to pursue documentary filmmaking with a film, about Special Olympians and their road to the USA Games. Special Indeed is a labor of love and is now being edited. The winter of 2018 is the goal to have the editing completed and the film on the festival circuit. (See www.specialindeed.org)
In the summer of 2015, Michele took over the reins as Line Producer on the film in development – The Burning Sands to be directed by Anthony Hemingway after the death of her production partner Alphonso Slater, who was Line Producer on the project, in the summer of 2015. She completed the budget and business plan as well as getting locations and the completion bond for the film.
The new chapter in her eclectic career began in March 2017 with the Bahamiams Arts Ministry’s invite to participate as an industry professional in the Celebrity Masterclass Intensive Workshop – The Dream Project as a result of her relationship with Jeffrey Poitier. The conference was developed to teach BAM students in all areas in entertainment including the acting class that she taught in characterization. Danny Glover was one of the celebrities that attended. The energy generated catapulted her into a new film project with an invitation to join the producing team for the Sidney Poitier Documentary: Goodness is Revolutionary. The year ended with her partnering with the Writer/Producer Ayana Maharry to produce NOW, a story of a 40 year old amateur tennis player being catapulted into the professional ranks by a wily coach.