Dorothy Bennett’s Short Film Fairies Explores Childhood Imagination and Growing Up
The film was shot in Austin and stars sisters Meira and Natalie Arbuckle
The joy of sisterhood. The wonder of nature. The melancholy inspired when a summer day fades or when a youngster begins to understand that childhood itself is fleeting.
In less than 90 seconds, Dorothy Bennett’s poignant short film “Fairies” achieves more than many half-hour TV episodes or even full-length features. Shot in South Austin’s Mary Moore Searight Park, “Fairies” is a peek inside the imagination of two sisters who recall what it was like to be a magical creature, to control the wind, to listen to the river’s secrets. Or maybe it’s a memory. Or perhaps it’s a dream.
“My sister and I were really into fairytales and princess stories and the Grimm Brothers so that was a very natural outpouring of all of those things was two girls remembering when they used to be fairies,” Bennett says. “We were extremely willing to believe anything magical.”
The film is not autobiographical but Bennett says the moments captured in it could have happened between her sister and her on a hot summer day. Bennett and her husband, “Fairies” director of photography Andrew Bennett, run a commercial video production company in Austin and are branching out to explore creative narratives and fictional filmmaking.
The little girls in their movie are played by real-life sisters Meira and Natalie Arbuckle, whose parents are good friends and neighbors of the Bennetts. “They’re interested in different things but they’re also just extremely close and they dote on each other in a sweet sisterly way,” Bennett says of the Arbuckle girls who were an inspiration for “Fairies.”
“I was hanging out at their house for dinner one night and just chatting with the kids and they reminded me a lot of my sister and I,” she says. “The next day I was just being bored and daydreaming and came up with this script really fast. I just jotted down a lot of notes within five minutes and then contacted their mom and asked if she’d be willing to let me film with them.”
Another inspiration was the park itself and the wildflowers that give it – and the film – so much lush organic color. “My husband and I were walking around the park and I had the thought that I wanted to do something there with the flowers,” Bennett says. “That snippet of her explaining about being a fairy and dreaming in the flowers, that came first. I ordered a flower crown for her but then I kind of augmented it with the flowers in the park so it looked more like it came from what was beside her.”
Other elements – a lost shoe, a seashell, bubbles and giggles, Charlie Rich singing “Whirlwind” – came together to make the film rich, like a decadent and decorated dessert prepared for a deserving young princess.
“It felt very playful” Bennet says of shooting the film in a day. “I felt like I just got to play around and remember what it was like to have that childish imagination so I really loved it.”
The Arbuckle Sisters have seen the finished product. “They really liked it,” Bennett says. “They were very impressed that actors have to go through lines so many times when filming. I’m not sure if I’ve convinced them that acting is a great lifelong pursuit but I think they did an amazing job. If they ever come around to it, they’ll be stars.”
Bennett’s sister is also a fan. “I sent it to her and she thought it was darling. She just loved it,” she says. “She recently moved abroad so I emailed it over and then like six hours later got a response because that’s when she woke up.”
Viewing “Fairies” like that must have been like waking up into a dream.