“Smile” is a short film about a patient who visits the dentist to have a cavity filled. The appointment takes a surreal turn when her suppressed emotions express themselves in an unexpected way. The story examines the often uncomfortable and comedic dynamics of a situation that is both intimate and clinical and combines realism and absurdity with a mix of stop-motion animation and live action performances.
Smile combines a naturalistic approach with surreal events for comedic effect. The visual style was inspired by documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker, with particular emphasis on the 1993 film, “The War Room.” The cinematography of this film contrasts bold composition with off the cuff movement to emphasize both the absurdity and gravity of the filmed events. This mood felt like an ideal setting for “Smile,” so we adopted a pseudo-documentary approach to filming this short. This included rehearsing and filming long uninterrupted takes with few or no edit points, and improvising story beats as the actors interacted with the setting, tools, and each other. These creative choices were designed to represent a realistic scenario that eventually takes a very unrealistic turn.