Maybe Lilli Birdsell watches too many crime dramas. Maybe she's tired of the myth that Prince Charming will save the damsel in distress — in this case, Snow White.
Whatever the motivation, the Colorado Springs native has created Once Upon a Crime, a fairy tale/courtroom comedy that will be among the 34 works screened during the 24th annual Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival.
Birdsell, a TV actress also known for playing a zombie in the web series The Walking Dead, wrote, directed and produced the 10-minute film. She plays two roles: Ms. White, and the prosecutor grilling her about the fishy story she's told for 152 years. Birdsell even designed the sets when she couldn't find anyone who shared her vision of a courtroom drawn in charcoal.
"I knew from the start that I was going to be in it," Birdsell says from her home in Los Angeles. "And as the idea solidified, I knew I was going to direct it, just because the vision of what I wanted it to look like was really clear."
She'll attend the Sunday screening of Once Upon a Crime; the audience may hear about Birdsell's stint as an actual Disneyland princess.
"I've always been a fan," she says, "but if you break down the story of any fairy tale, they're all warped."
Or the audience may hear about the years Birdsell worked on her film, from conceiving the idea to getting it on the festival circuit. That's what the RMWFF highlights: women's determination to tell their stories.
Executive director Linda Broker oversees the process, which involves volunteers screening approximately 300 films, starting each March.
"We want to present a balanced program, where people feel like they've gotten a little smattering of everything," Broker says. "But the bigger balance is between finding a really good variety of films and keeping them all really high-quality."
At 24 years old, the RMWFF is North America's longest continuously running women's film festival, so they're doing something right.