"NO MANS LAND"

by 

Peter Shillingford

                                  ufindshill@btinternet.com 

A treatment for a romantic comedy thriller involving a young couple and the unique people they meet and wild animals they rescue on their road trip across South Africa.

Seeking producer and director.

 

   "NO MAN'S LAND"

BEN DAVIS, a young American college tutor in Cape Town, is emptying his locker prior to the Annual Break. All the students talk of trips to Europe, Hawaii or the Orient.

Ben's thankless 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 "Swala Lodge, a private safari park two hours north of Johannesburg.

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

The next day at dawn 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 squad of painters and gardeners rapidly transforms the house and garden 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 the city 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, jewellery, fur coats, even bundles of cash. 

Ben watches Jane reject every offer until a beautiful leopard cub is thrust into her arms.  

Jane, her heart taken, stops, and Ben moves quickly in. The Arab panics, his bodyguards appear with guns and Jane screams that Ben is her fiancé 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 door attendant, 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 has had it with Cape Town, the leopard, and the beautiful Jeep that the Arab has given her. She cannot park it, she cannot drive it, and the Arab lives way up north. 

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 decides to send the baby leopard to his mother at Swala Lodge.

Ben goes to collect Jane 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 is drawn into a 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 back to Johannesburg but she has no money. Ben suggests that they drive the Jeep back to the Arab. Jane doubtfully agrees.

Once the leopard cub is shipped to Ben's mother at the Swala Lodge we see a montage of the couple 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 cannot drive, cannot cook and has never been away from home before without her mother.

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 Cape Town docks, Jane spots an 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 local aquarium, a startled keeper is delighted to take the reptile. He promises to send it on to Swala Lodge.

At a county fair in Constantia, an old Russian animal trainer falls off the rickity 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 up north. He sits up front with the driver.

Amongst the wheat fields near Worcester, Ben and Jane come upon a broken down circus. They are present for the final performance where they befriend an old clown and his orang-utan. 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 orang-utan, they realize they have another animal for Ben's mother. A feisty old couple in their mobile home hook up the caravan and promise to deliver the animal to Swala Lodge.

Camping out under the stars in Bloemfontein, Ben and Jane are joined by a group of tribesman moving their cattle down from the high ranges. 

A renegade wild dog, a rare albino, has the taste for the calves and they are ready to hunt it down.

The tribesmen help them prepare a trap, a canyon with steep walls is baited and the wild dog is chased into a cage. At a local truck stop, the driver of an empty trailer rig agrees to transport the creature away from the populated area and release it into the wilds.

High in the hills near Lichtenburg on the border with Botswana, Ben and Jane find a group of roughnecks who have cornered a 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 lion alive, remove the trap and release it high in the hills, miles away. The roughnecks hoot and holler but Jane charms them by singing around their camp-fire.

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

Moving out of small hotel at dawn in the bush north of Durban, the muffled roar of an African lion disturbs them. 

They follow a small convoy of trucks towing trailers carrying cages into a forest, they watch as hunters prepare guns and ammunition.

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

A hunter shoots him point blank. The animal crawls under the trailer.  Jane and Ben cannot 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 cannot 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 laden with caged animals. The lion quietly dies in Jane's arms. 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 Swala Lodge. The trailer is emptied into the train cars and it steams off across the veldt.

A local sangoma, seeing Ben's wound, takes them to his village, a group of wattle huts high in the mountains near Drakensburg. The wound is treated 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 in sight of Swala Lodge, Ben proposes marriage to Jane and she says maybe, but the smile on her face tells another story.

At the lodge, the private estate where Ben's mother Audrey has completed her work, 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 will not listen to her.

The owner arrives and he turns out to be the Arab Sheik who gave Jane the baby leopard in Cape Town. 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 lodge.

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

                      © PETER SHILLINGFORD                          

                         2 CREEFLEET HOUSE
                                     280 KEW ROAD

                                         RICHMOND
                                            TW9 3E

                                                 208 940 4507             

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                 ufindshill@btopenworld.com