Lemon Meringue Pie

by Esme Pembury Smith in Poole, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 12th December 2019 we successfully raised £5,602 with 114 supporters in 28 days

Eight months pregnant, and watching her identity shift around her, a woman becomes convinced that a group of men are breaking into her home.

by Esme Pembury Smith in Poole, England, United Kingdom

Lemon Meringue Pie is a suspense thriller about Beatrice, a heavily pregnant woman, who becomes convinced, over the course of one night, that there is someone trying to break into her house. We watch her grapple with her fear of becoming a parent, watching old home movies to look for guidance and phoning her own mother for comfort. However, what she seeks security in, only fuels her paranoia and self doubt. 

She begins to notice strange goings on outside on her home security system and is thrown in to a deep paranoia that someone is watching her. Faced with the pain of a dismissive parent, and surrounded by young rowdy neighbours that remind her of a world she is now seen as separate from, Beatrice becomes afraid that she will not be able to love her child.  Beatrice must come to terms with this fear before she can truly understand the threat to her home. 

My mother equates being a parent to being a pebble dropped from a great height. The things you say seem small to you, but they fall so far to reach your child, they gather momentum that leaves a permanent impact. No parent understands what they are supposed to do because every parent is also a child, affected by the fears left behind by their parents. 

So many women, faced with the fear of being a mother, look outside themselves for guidance and comfort only to be met with the relentless imagery of the ‘perfect mother’. She is never angry. She is entirely selfless. And she will love her child no matter what. This is a comforting notion for those of us watching the film in need of reassurance that our mothers love us, but for the mother it creates a terrifying expectation, facing them with the option of a total loss of identity, or letting down the thing they love most. 

Children will expect too much of their parents because their parents shape their reality. And parents will be pushed into a position of being the villain of a story because the 'good parent' leaves no fingerprint and is forgotten. This is a film that gives the parent permission to leave a mark. Expecting a person to be entirely selfless is unnatural and fabricated. No one would ask that of someone they love, so why do we expect it of our mothers. We need to make this film to stand in the face of cinema that does not permit mothers to be human; to be a representation of motherhood that expresses the painful complexity of the role, and to allow it to exist in a grey area, rather than a black and white 'good' or 'evil'. 

With the film’s main themes pertaining to generational trauma and voyeuristic infatuation, the predominantly suspense laden works of the 1970s were take the form of primary inspiration for the project. Even with the film’s time period being set in the early 2000s, it was felt apt for both the film’s narrative and visual sensibility to try and capture a timeless aesthetic and atmosphere. This was especially due to some of our key influences offering distinct cinematic experiences individual to the period yet are also quintessential portrayals of the periods of time they inhabit. Certain key influential works, such as ‘Klute’, evoke an almost paralysing depiction of the psychological implications in bearing witness to voyeuristic violation. The film’s emphasis on maintaining a semi-realistic, slow-burn and steady construction of tension aided greatly in crafting the more thriller-orientated suspense philosophy for our film. 

‘Autumn Sonata’, in contrast to ‘Klute’, illicites a different but equally seismic inspiration in its devastating dissection of the burgeoning suspicions and repressions inherit with a domineering and ageing mother and daughter dynamic. Bergman’s sombre exploration in the film of familial trauma and guilt within the confines of a warmly lit and inviting family environment offered both immense visual and narrative direction for the film. Inspirations of a more contemporary standing include ‘Loveless’ and ‘The Babadook’, as both provide for equally gruelling examinations of parental misfortune and the subsequent generational impacts.  - Sam Lewis, Director.

A ghost of her own past, surrounded by memories of a life that no longer belongs to her. The visual language of Lemon Meringue Pie hopes to communicate the vulnerability of a heavily pregnant woman internalising her grief and nostalgia for the past, that manifests into the irrational apprehension of being watched and an unbearable fear that she won’t be able to love her new born child. Set in an era of immense technological transitions from VHS to DVD, the world is simultaneously advancing around her, while her own is seemingly spiralling out of control. We the audience enter the aftermath of a terminated marriage, not to dissimilar from Derek Cianfrance’s, “Blue Valentine”. 

Influenced particularly by the films use of desaturated texture, giving a nod to nostalgia. Lemon Meringue Pie will incorporate the slight drainage of colour, to present the exhaustive nature of the woman’s mental state and represent her desire to cling to the past. Moreover the works of Sergey Urusevsky “I am Cuba” and Gordon Willis “Klute” have been of particular interest when observing how the use of the long take can provide an omnipresenct, voyerustic position. Observing the action in this fashion is something that the director of photography of Lemon Meringue Pie, aspires to achieve. The audience will be encouraged to take on more of an active role, being immersed into the glacial motions that the character takes within her home. Intensifying the suspense through this pacing and by utilising wider frames, witnessed in films such as “The Babadook”. This in turn leaves room for the eyes to wonder and speculate what will follow next. - Megan Earl, Director of Photography

Writer/Producer

Esme Pembury Smith has never been drawn to any other career than one in the film industry. Leaving the cinema as a child in silence, not wanting the universe it created to be broken by reality around her, she has never lost her awe for the sheer spectacle and power it has to define and shape our understanding of the world. Esme is an aspiring writer and producer from London, adamant and eager to develop a narrative that normalises mental health issues rather than glorifying or sensationalising them. She briefly worked on several large budget productions before commencing study at the Arts University Bournemouth where she hopes to develop a career as an assistant director and script supervisor.  She hopes to be a part of a new generation of filmmakers that hold meaning above saleability, championing filmmaking that comes from a place of necessity; to enable stories to be told that need to be told.

Director

Film has been a central foundation within Sam Lewis' life ever since his young eyes pried upon a dusty vhs copy of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. The notion of creating worlds and experiences individual and related to his own, still continues to hold the immense grip it did all the years back when the mass possibilities of cinema first revealed itself. What proved to be a prominent and initial attraction to this project was the script’s thematic bridging of the suspense mystery with the strained and factional nature of maternal relations. This story distills an opportunity to subvert the audience expectations of the domineering mother and daughter dynamic. This is primarily through an emphasis on building upon the burgeoning duality exhibited by the two over the course of the film. Sam’s previous work adheres to a more horror-esque sensibilite, in contrast, a major aim of this film is to employ a greater sense of restraint, evoking a more subdued tension in highlighting what lies just beyond the boundaries of our perceived familial environment and reality.  

Director of Photography

Hopeful to establish a career in the Camera and Lighting department. Megan Earl is an aspiring Cinematographer, who finds engagement with stories that strive tackle societal ignorance on important and arguably disregarded topics, such as mental health. She is also attracted to narratives that provide thoughtful female representation and stylistically is fascinated with ambitious composition and the art of the long take. She admires the versatility of the technique and the unique quality it possesses for various styles of visual storytelling. In light of this, Megan has recently attended a Steadicam course, curated by women for women, which she found to be an incredibly liberating environment to explore the craft and learn a new skill. Proactive in her interests and determined to pave a career in filmmaking, Megan had, prior to her studies at Arts University Bournemouth, worked as an additional Camera Trainee on feature films. Gaining valuable set experience and an understanding of professional practice, which she endeavours to keep developing through each project.

Gaffer

Khan Scott-Mason is the Gaffer, meaning he is in charge of light and shadow. After working on a number of projects in various lighting roles Khan has developed an understanding and appreciation for the importance of light, to a point where it's many qualities can be manipulated in a way that suits both theme and story. Working on Lemon Meringue Pie is an exciting prospect for our Gaffer because, asides from being an emotionally potent story, it offers many exciting avenues for great visual storytelling, storytelling where light will surely play a defining role.

Production Designer

Freya Millen-Bamford is an aspiring production designer who enjoys being hand on in her work and coming up with creative ways to achieve what she wants. She grew up in the South Yorkshire city of Sheffield, and is incredibly proud of where she comes from. She is a true northern soul.  She is interested in the ability to take a space and change it, transforming it into something else. She is especially keen to play on the themes of nostalgia in Lemon Meringue Pie, bringing them into the set to create a space with a lot of character and personality.

Make Up Artist

Charlotte Whelan grew up in Stockport, just South of Manchester. She is a makeup artist specialising in all aspects of media makeup. She has experience in a range of different genres and is confident in her abilities to effectively help bring characters to life through the use of makeup.

Costume Designer

Sesselja Fanneyjardóttir is a costume design student in her third year at the Arts University Bournemouth and the costume designer for the film. She has always had an eye for beautiful things and especially the story they tell. She has a previous degree in Fashion, Textiles and Tailoring having briefly been an assistant to a small fashion brand but after being an assistant on a period theatre production in Iceland she became fascinated with character creation through costumes. She recently collaborated with Nykur Media Productions as a costume designer for a short film set in a utopian world focusing on universal connection, humanity and culture. She hopes to bring her knowledge of semiotics and various time periods throughout the 20th century to the film to give a deeper understanding of its characters. She was drawn to the narrative of the film because of the mental health issues it addresses in a compassionate normalised way and hopes it will break down the stigma around mental illnesses.

Sound Mixer

Jay has always been a keen listener, is what I wish I could say but his ears truly opened up after his exposure to sound specialism. That was a step vital for his growth as a film maker. His favourite exercise is closing his eyes in a busy place and isolating each layer of sound in order to trace it’s source and do some sound bending (It’s like air/water bending but using sounds). Passionate in wanting to tell stories that are meaningful and impactful , this story will provide him the perfect challenge to explore and experiment a subject that deserves  much light, and respect: parenthood. No language can do justice to the beauty, power, the heroism and hardships of being a parent. Jay’s parents have worked hard for him to be where he is. He finds strength in that and is grateful. Ready to learn how he can best elevate such meaning through sound, he hopes this production will be a great teacher within the aspects of filmmaking and beyond

Sound Designer

Zak Ferguson is our post production sound designer.  He’s always enjoyed exploring how sound can create tension and paranoia, and how sometimes the quietest moments can say the most to an audience.

Editor

Christina Solly is a third year editing student at AUB. Having studied film for the last five years, she has developed a keen interest in editing music videos due to the emotional impact they can provoke. She believes that emotion and timing are the two most essential qualities to perfect in any given narrative, and post production is where these elements come to life. Christina hopes to create an edit whereby the audience can really empathise with the protagonist in order to shine light on the subject of perinatal depression.

Casting Director

Rebekah is excited to fulfil her role as Casting Director for Lemon Meringue Pie by scouting and negotiating with actresses in order to bring the characters to life in this dynamic story.


The vast majority of the budget will go towards cast and locations to ensure that this film feels as real as possible. Ensuring that the cast is well cared for and feels they can perform to their best ability is also paramount, as well as making the set feel as though it has grown with the character.

We really appreciate that not everybody has the means to give monetary aid, but every like and share not only spreads our film to a wider audience, but also raises awareness about the mental health of mothers. 

If you are able to donate however, your money is going to an extremely passionate team with the goal of spreading a vital message. Every penny we need will be spent ensuring the crew can convey this story as honestly and accurately as possible. If we make it over our target, we will also donate the rest of our funds (after pre, post and the festival circuit) to 'Mothers for Mothers', a charity that gives aid to mothers struggling with mental health issues who are in need of support. 

Send a message to your own mother by helping us raise the voices of those who have struggled with parenthood. Help us normalise and sympathise with parental mental health so damaging stereotypes as stamped out of popular media. 

Photograph above by Monika Tėja Pašukonytė. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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