"NO MAN’S LAND"

by

Peter Shillingford

                                    ufindshill@btinternet.com

An treatment for a romantic comedy thriller involving

  a young couple and the unique people and wild animals

they rescue on their road trip across rural America.

Two versions, one set in the USA and the other in Africa.


 

SYNOPSIS 

BEN DAVIS, a young New York college tutor, is emptying his locker prior to the Summer Break. All the students talk of trips to Europe, Hawaii or the Orient.

Ben's task for the summer is to paint the dilapidated family home that he shares with his mother Audrey. She is packing for a two month design and landscape job at a private zoo in California.

As Audrey leaves for the airport a photographer tells Ben that the house is perfect for "before and after" paint advertisement he has been commissioned to do. 

The next day Ben awakes to find the house taken over by the photographer, his beautiful models, electricians, make-up people, gardeners and a squad of painters ready and eager to transform the dowdy house and garden.

The "before" photographs are taken with the models drably dressed against the unpainted house. The house is then rapidly transformed by the squad of painters and gardeners and the same photograph is repeated, except that the models are beautifully clothed and the house is immaculate.

Ben strikes up a friendship with JANE, a young model who quickly confesses that this is her first photographic job and that she has another job in the evening. They arrange to meet in New York's  Central Park the following day.

Ben finds Jane walking furiously away from an Arab Sheik who is attempting to pick her up. His chauffeured limousine follows from which he retrieves and offers a selection of expensive gifts, jewelry, fur coats, even bundles of cash. 

Ben watches Jane reject every offer until a beautiful leopard cub is produced.

Jane, her heart taken, stops, and Ben moves quickly in. The Arab panics, his body-guards appear with guns and Jane screams that Ben is her fiancee and that they are about to be married.

The Arab storms off in his limo leaving the feisty little leopard cub in the arms of Jane. Ben is delighted with the creature. Jane is not so sure.

At her hotel they find that the Arab Sheik has left a goodbye present of an immaculate white Jeep. Taking the keys from the doorman they smuggle the cub into the hotel under Ben's jacket but soon lose it in a panic as the elevator door clatters open.

Enticed back into Jane's room with a stolen raw steak, the animal promptly goes to sleep. Ben has fallen in love with the animal and when Jane is in the bathroom, he rips up the room and blames it on the leopard.

Jane believes him. Furious, she says she's had it with New York, the leopard, and the beautiful Jeep that the Arab has given her. She can't park it, she can't drive it, and the Arab lives on the West Coast. Why doesn't Ben take the jeep and the leopard cub and find a good home for them both. She has to go to work.

Ben goes to collect her from the nightclub where she is working and instead of finding her as a waitress or a hat check girl, she is up on stage brilliantly singing her own personal blues. 

When a drunk starts heckling Ben gets drawn into the fight. The club is wrecked and when Jane joins in they both find themselves on the pavement and Jane without a job. 

Jane wants to go to California but she has no money. Ben suggests that they drive the Jeep back to the Arab. Jane doubtfully agrees. 

The leopard is shipped to Ben's mother in California and we see a montage of them purchasing equipment for the cross-country drive: separate sleeping bags, a tent, cooking gear, rope, etc., all piled high into the rear of the jeep. 

Jane however can't drive, can't cook and has never been outside New York, except for Coney Island ... once. 

We now begin an adventure where our couple, cross the country, fall in love and rescue a dozen or so exotic animals from fates worse than death. Their adventures could include the following animals and situations: The script has yet to be written.

Alongside the Hudson River, Jane spots and old tugboat on fire. Helping out they find themselves with the captain's pet, a six foot alligator that he is quite happy to get rid of. Taken on a leash through the city streets to the Central Park Zoo, a startled keeper is delighted to take the reptile in. He promises to send it on to California.

At a county fair in New York State an old Russian animal trainer falls off the stage where he is performing with his black bear. Before being taken to hospital, he makes Jane and Ben promise to take care of the bear. 

Ben teaches it to fish, climb trees, and slide down mud banks into a river. Jane is won over when the bear brings a flower for her. At a local airport the bear is sent via Federal Express to Ben's mother in California. 

High in the Blue Mountains of Kentucky, Ben and Jane find a group of hillbillies who have cornered a mountain lion. It has a trap on its leg that it has torn free and they are now prepared to hunt it down and kill it. 

Ben bets them that he can catch the mountain lion alive, remove the trap and release it high in the hills, miles away. The hillbillies hoot and holler but Jane charms them by singing around the camp fire.

Ben prepares his catching net and they steal off into the hills at dawn and snare the lion before the hillbillies are awake. The lion is permanently damaged and cannot be released. At the nearest railroad it is crated up for Ben's mother Audrey on the West coast. 

Amongst the wheat fields south of Kansas, Ben and Jane comeupon a broken down circus. They are present for the final performance where they befriend an old clown and his orangutan. out of a job, he hitches his caravan to the jeep and tags along with Jane and Ben until a heart attack takes him. 

At the grave, with the tearful orangutan, they realize they have another animal for California. A feisty old couple in their mobile home hook up the caravan and promise to deliver the animal to California. 

Camping out under the stars in Oklahoma, Ben and Jane are joined by a group of cowboys moving cattle down from the high ranges. A lone wolf, a rare albino, has got the taste for the calves and they are ready to shoot it. 

The cowboys help them prepare a trap, a canyon with steep walls is baited and the wolf is chased into a cage. At a local truck stop the driver of an empty trailer rig agrees to transport the wolf to California. 

Camping out under the stars in Texas they are disturbed by the muffled roar of an African lion. At dawn they follow a small convoy of trucks and cages into a forest, they watch as hunters prepare guns and ammunition. 

An old and feeble lion is released from the back of a pick up truck, other animals are caged in trailers. The lion wanders dazed between the line of vehicles, too ill to run. 

A hunter shoots him point blank but misses. The animal crawls under the trailer. Jane and Ben can't believe their eyes. Ben puts an audio tape into the cassette deck, the tape is of police sirens.

With the stereo up loud Jane drives the vehicle around the panic stricken hunters, they can't see her but fire shots off in all directions. 

Ben unhitches the trailer full of animals as the hunters scatter down the track away from the screaming sirens. One last bullet passes through Ben's shoulder, he falls beside the injured lion.

Jane backs her vehicle up and hitches up the trailer, the lion quietly dies. Ben, streaming blood, gets them back onto the highway and they pull into a railway siding. 

A friendly railway driver preparing his locomotive hears their story and offers to take the animals to the West Coast. The trailer is emptied into the train cars and it steams off across the prairie. 

An old Indian, seeing Ben's wound, takes them to his village - a series of teepees and wooden shacks high in the mountains. The wound is treated in the Indian manner and Jane nurses Ben through the long night. His fever is intense and he almost dies. At dawn the danger is passed and they are on their way again. 

Almost at the end of their journey and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge Ben proposes marriage to Jane and she says maybe, but the smile on her face tells another story. 

At the private estate where Ben's mother Audrey is working they are re-acquainted with the animals they saved en route but the cages they are in are far too small. The animals need more space. Audrey explains the owner is a difficult man and won't listen to her. 

The owner arrives and he turns out to be the Arab Sheik who gave Jane the baby leopard in New York. Ben and he have an angry confrontation about the cages and in their comedy fist fight they total the fancy furniture in the Sheik's mansion. 

After both have been covered in mud from head to foot, Jane hoses them down to find them both hysterical with laughter. They end up the best of friends, the animals are given larger enclosures and Ben and Jane are left to run the zoo as they wish.

CONTACT 

                                             Peter Shillingford

2 Creefleet House

280 Kew Road

Richmond

TW9 3EE

0208 940 4507

0778 66 421 71

ufindshill@btinternet.com