Each smile can have a multitude of meanings, which looks like happiness but not so. As a result, understanding the pricking of each side of an upturned lip can only be done through interpreting the bigger picture. Are the eyes smiling? Are the teeth-baring? Is the voice shaking?

Translating body language and context is probably the most challenging part of human communication, for it is routinely misunderstood and unidentified. Unsurprisingly so, because on our stage, the limelight can blind us to the actions and emotions of the others that we share it with.

Understanding communicational cues can also be complicated when they are used to distract and cover up the user's genuine emotions. Therefore, uncovering the secrets behind a smile, or one that strikes us as ingenuine, can never be fully understood without a closer inspection of the wearers perspective.

Smudged Smile – a smile can paint a thousand stories

Exploring the life of a teenage girl caught up in emotions that means that she cannot maintain an honest face, Candid Broads Productions is producing the short movie Smudged Smile, which examines how depression also entails a further struggle to maintain the outside image that everything is okay and that we are still the joyful, fun-loving person that we were previously.

The movie follows Zoe, a 15-year-old going on 16, who usually comes across as upbeat and full of life, but she starts to struggle with her mental health and with people's expectations of how she should act.

Director Ella Greenwood described the movie's central concept as being that depression doesn’t always suggest that your life isn't fulfilling or isn't going well. Still, depression can move in, and walloped us, without a conscious reason.

Additionally, Ella said that another motivation behind showcasing this story was to simulate a discussion about the normalisation of depression, which is particularly salient because of the pandemic but is not restricted to it.

The number of young people experiencing depression has been rising considerably over the last decade. However, these emotions are sometimes dismissed and misunderstood by parents and friends as a mere phase or can be hidden by silence and social taboo.

Ella explained that the movie “follows [Zoe] being in these situations where people expect you to be happy. But obviously, she can't be because she has started struggling with her mental health.”

“Even if things are going fantastically around you, you can still be sad. Even if things go badly around you; you can be happy. It's not always depending on external circumstances, and that's something we really want to show with this film.”

Ella added: “There's a scene where she smudges her lipstick quite a lot. But she's able to just laugh it off because her mental health is good. And then there's a scene where she's struggling, and she smudges it ever so slightly, and it just causes her to absolutely break down because it's the smallest things that can really get to you. And so, we just wanted to show those slight moments, the difference between when you're in a good place, and you're in a bad place.”

Crowdfunding movie representation of mental health

Candid Broads Productions is focused on bringing together fresh, original female-led stories with many in production discussing mental health through a human perspective, encouraging audiences to break down their misconceptions and examine the realities of living with these conditions.

Currently, Smudged Smile is in production, and Candid Broads is calling on like-minded people and independent film lover to help them showcase this story through crowdfunding. Backers of the project can receive a range of exciting rewards for pledging, such as signed posters and scripts to premiere and screening tickets.

Although the film has finished filming with actress Mia Mckenna-Bruce (who recently appeared in Netflix’s The Witcher) playing the role of Zoe, the production of the movie is not over. And funds are necessary to cover shooting parts of the film, post-production, and cover the considerable extra costs of safely filming the movie during the pandemic.

Producer Oriane Pick said that she aims to bring the story and the movie to festivals and independent film lovers everywhere, and as a result, raise awareness of teen depression:

“We're going to send it to festivals, for sure. And we've got a few ideas already. But we've been talking to someone [and] potentially; we're going to have a screening as well in the cinema, which would be absolutely fantastic. So, if that's possible, I’d love, to potentially have a panel, or maybe making a bigger mental health event out of it as well, to raise awareness of teen depression and see what we can do.”

Oriane added: “I'll say that if there's anything that anyone can give to help the campaign, that would be amazing because it's obvious we do need that money to make sure that the film can be completed. And there are lovely rewards as well. And we're working with an amazing charity on this. So, we do believe in this project so much, and we know it can go so far. And hopefully, spark the conversation that we're after.”