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Short film by Terri Miller

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By Carl Kozlowski
Terri Miller is a writer/director with a knack for turning legendary stories on their heads. In her debut short film, My Femme Lady, she re-imagined the time-honored musical My Fair Lady as a 22-minute, 16mm action-film parody of La Femme Nikita. Yet instead of making her heroine an upwardly mobile lady or an assassin, she made her something far more ruthless: a Hollywood agent.
Complete with songs like “You Were Next Up On My Phone Sheet, Jack,” the short hit the festival circuit and eventually won the grand prize at the Back East Picture Show festival in Hoboken, N.J.: 5,000 feet of 35mm Fuji film.
There was one condition: the film had to be used within a year. And since 5,000 feet only provided, according to Miller, “a start and an impetus,” of a half-hour of footage and could risk leaving her holding the bag on a vastly expensive project if a shoot was too complicated, she realized she had to think of something at once clever and simple.
The result was Dysenchanted, an eight-minute comedic short that brings together an impressive cast including Jim Belushi as a psychotherapist who leads a weekly support group for dysfunctional fairy tale characters. The group includes Alexis Bledel of the WB’s Gilmore Girls as Goldilocks, 24’s Sarah Wynter as Sleeping Beauty and comic actress/Will & Grace writer Laura Kightlinger as Cinderella.
More importantly to below-the-line interests, Miller landed music-video cinematographer Jonathan Sena for the shoot, which took two 10-hour days and culminated in a successful world premiere at Sundance in January.
“We shot in a warehouse in Culver City, in the offices of our production designer Tony Schubert, who had been a party planner and knew how to decorate enormous facilities. Everyone worked for free, from the actors down, because they were stretching and trying something new,” explains Miller. “David Crowther edited and did the postproduction supervision, all using his own Avid system, and Brad Siegel composed great music using his own studio. All these people donated their time, talent and energy.”
Miller enlisted Sena having been moved by the video he shot for rock group Puddle of Mudd’s song She’s Fuckin’ Crazy. Sena, an Israeli native who moved to the U.S. six years ago and graduated from the American Film Institute, opted to use two Panavision Platinum cameras for Dysenchanted.
“We shot it all in the production designer’s office, and he had a lot of resources for furniture to build our set, but the challenges were it was a very small space and the hardest thing was working different groups of people in different chunks of time within that small space,” remembers Sena. “Each character had their own time to shoot, especially in a case like this because it’s such a cast-driven film.”
Sena and Miller also utilized a technique called flashing—shooting light onto the film while it’s running—which, according to Sena, “adds a desaturated, old-fashioned look and more details in shadow.” They then used a CC5 process by Deluxe to make the print for the short in order to increase the film’s silver retention and by extension increase the soft lighting.
“The combination of processes between flashing and soft lighting came out very interesting—different than you’d expect for a fairy tale, which helps the story because it’s an unusual sort of fairy tale,” says Sena. “A lot of the credit goes to Terri for taking a chance on something like this. It’s different, and she wanted to make it different and she pushed it that far.”

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