PARK CITY, Utah — People who think their lives are no fairy tale should take it from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. In “Dysenchanted,” the eight-minute short film that’s wowing audiences at the Sundance Film Festival this week, a therapist listens to a gaggle of storybook heroines commiserate over bad childhoods and the resulting obsessive-compulsive woes.
“They’re laughing at jokes even I didn’t think were funny,” marvels writer and director Terri Edda Miller, while grabbing a cup of coffee and heading into her umpteenth screening.
Miller, who won 5,000 feet of 35-mm. film in a previous short film festival, was struck by inspiration one day while gazing upon a fairy-tale princess hat on her bookshelf, a gift from one of the women in her all-girls poker group. “I remembered us sitting around the table wearing those hats, talking about all the shit in our lives, and suddenly I had a concept of what fairy-tale and storybook heroines must go through. Who needs therapy more than women whose stepmothers tried to kill them?”
She knocked out the seven-page screenplay in one day and brought it to her friend, producer Jennifer Klein, who cast Sarah Wynter as Sleeping Beauty, Shiva Rose McDermott as Snow White, Alexis Bledel as Goldilocks and Jim Belushi as the shrink. The short was shot on a Culver City soundstage over two days last March.
Klein, whose Apartment 3B Productions has a first-look deal with MGM, also hopes to get the film made into a feature. For now, “Dysenchanted” is up for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize as well as the U.S. shorts competition, both of which will be awarded Saturday. But Miller says, “It’s the most competitive environment I’ve ever been in. You also have to compete to eat, to get into parties and to get into movies. But Little Red Riding Hood seeing her grandmother swallowed by a wolf — that’s gotta be traumatic.”