Putting Up Preserves

INT. PAGE - DAY

Extreme close-up: an eye? No. PENCIL. Camera shoots from within the paper. Pencil plunges and swerves across the frame. The lead leaves no mark but Pencil moves so fast its path looks like a curving line—an L, maybe a nose.

Camera follows Pencil. Tracks right and zooms in until the lead obscures the frame.

Black.

EVA (V.O.)

The One-I’m-Looking-For isn’t here.

EXT. LEICESTER SQUARE - SUNDAY MORNING

Establishing shot. Leicester Square: Times Square with Georgian architecture and a small central Garden (four dead-grass triangles crossed by two diagonal paths).

EVA (V.O.)

(con’t)

  And this is not the real London.

Traveling long shot. Camera dollies back the Garden’s northwest path. Shakespeare statue stands above a large fountain. Around it, a concrete-tile circle, a few benches and a few homeless men.

EVA (V.O.)

But Leicester Square tries its best to make you believe otherwise.

Path lined with benches. Pan right: dirt with patches of grass, Reynolds’s bust, a wrought-iron fence.

EVA (V.O.)

This is the city we, the visitors, see.  

Iron bars slice the background into slats. A wide pedestrian street stretches before House of Gifts (50% OFF), CINEMA EMPIRE CASINO (TOY STORY 3), and Mermaid’s Tail Cafe (FISH CHICKEN RIBS STEAK).

Three British flags and four red telephone booths mark the street’s end. Camera racks focus to the Garden side of the iron fence. Rests on a bust—sharp nose and jaunty cap. Plaque reads: “HOGARTH, William. Satirical Artist and Illustrator.”

EXT. GARDEN BENCH - SUNDAY MORNING

EVA, a tired American student, stress-eats a muffin and holds a large cup of coffee. She shares the bench with a Pret-A-Manger bag, a backpack, two Moleskines, and a pencil.

EVA

(to the camera, between bites)

I’ve wanted to profile street caricaturists for a while now. Since Hogarth invented the art of caricature, and since I’m studying here for a few weeks, I thought this as fitting a place as any to do so.

Camera swings down. Tilts past coffee stain, yellow shoes, path, rolling pencil, path, bench, iron fence, empty pedestrian street. Rests on CINEMA EMPIRE CASINO.

EXT. LEICESTER SQUARE - SATURDAY AFTERNOON

SUBTITLE: THE DAY BEFORE

Low-level close-up: comfortable walking shoes. Keds, Adidas, loafers.

Yellow shoes enter frame right. Camera tracks them as they move through the crowd.

EVA (V.O.)

(con’t)

Caricature is the art of exaggerated reduction.

CUT TO: CARICATURE ROW (HOGARTH GATE)

From the wrought-iron fence hang Mick Jagger and Austin Powers—turgid lips and teeth like broken plates. Tourists come and go; caricaturists, eight men, compete to flatter them.

 

CARICATURIST I

(to an American couple)

The Lady, she’s very beautiful.

No sale.

CARICATURIST II

(to an Italian stag party)

Guys! All together! Yeah boys all together! A very funny one.

The caricaturists target groups. (More sitters means more money.) Some tourists pause to watch the few who sit.

EVA (V.O.)

 (con’t)

Your eyes have five minutes to learn a face well enough to satirize the person behind it.

CUT TO: PEDESTRIAN STREET

Yellow shoes enter a group of static feet and stop. Camera tilts up. Eva stands among a small crowd of ONLOOKERS.

EVA (V.O.)

(con’t)

So caricaturists go for prominent traits.

Shot of Onlookers—a German family, a Japanese tour group. The low angle enlarges and distorts Onlookers. Nostrils the size of fists. Cameras where their eyes should be.

EVA (V.O.)

You see what’s strange and you exploit it.

CUT TO: ONLOOKERS’ POV

CARICATURIST III sketches a young GIRL. He, a goatee and gel-stiff black hair. She, a chinny face with high cheekbones—like a turnip. Caricaturist III never stops sketching, even when he stares at Girl. Pencil always moves.

EVA (V.O.)

 (con’t)

Before I watched him work, I had this idea that street caricature satirized some contemporary truth. I thought it mocked our impulse to romanticize our own images.

Sketched caricature and Girl both wear fake grins. GIRL’S MOTHER is tickled. She documents the process with her iPhone.

Close-up: Girl doesn’t know where to look. Girl’s Mother? Caricaturist III?  Onlookers? Girl looks terrified.

EVA (V.O.)

But their work isn’t cultural commentary. It’s work.

The sketch is done. Final product resembles Girl the way “Leicester Square” evokes a city, or “Girl looks terrified” a person. Caricaturist III quickly inks Big Ben in the bottom corner, signs his name and sprays plastic film over the sketch. 

EVA (V.O.)

Street caricature, like any other site of tourism, draws a character to be consumed.

Girl leaps off the chair. She looks at her image, she looks bewildered, she looks up at Girl’s Mother, who looks her in the eye and smiles. Girl relaxes. Girl’s Mother hands Caricaturist III a 10 pound note and then takes her daughter’s hand. The two walk away.

Night. A sequence of POV freeze-frames: Tourists on path. Tourists around Shakespeare Fountain. Ten thousand tourists in Trafalgar Square. Tourist buses by Embankment. London Eye and Big Ben—clouded by water within the lens. Blurred sun. Warm red interior of an eyelid. Black.

EXT. GARDEN BENCH – SUNDAY AFTERNOON

New bench neighbor: an un-eaten sandwich. Eva fidgets with her pencil.

EVA

(quiet)

Truth is, Leicester Square really got to me.

Pause. She scratches her neck.

EVA

I saw so much so fast the sights started to cheapen and it started me thinking. Maybe it’s tedious, maybe it’s a cliché. But I study movies, I watch movies, I travel, I read, I write and I, well, I—

A face before breaking.

 EVA

I’m not sure if eye-work has much use.

Silence. An iris-out starts to obscure the edges of the frame.

EVA

Something drew me back to Leicester Square. Don’t know what. But I’m glad I returned.

EXT. CARICATURE ROW - SATURDAY AFTERNOON

SUBTITLE: THE DAY BEFORE

Camera tracks across the row of men, sitters, tourists, celebrities. End by Reynolds Gate. Two women, PORTRAIT ARTIST and THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR.

EVA (V.O.)

(con’t)

Who knows why I didn’t notice them before. I probably just assumed they were caricaturists.

REYNOLDS GATE

Portrait Artist sits with a MAN in front of her. Eva stands, watching. No pencil movement. Portrait Artist measures his face, really stares at him. The Man looks uncomfortable. She starts with his eyes. Her pencil begins to travel his face, shaping gray shadows.

The Man looks at the camera. We are obviously voyeurs. Eva walks away.

Camera happens upon new face: 40 to 50 years old. Eastern-European. Thin nylon jacket and weary eyes. She sits at her stool. Her easel displays a portrait of a girl and a portrait of Cameron Diaz circa The Mask. Eva hesitates, then approaches.

SPLIT SCREEN

Left shot./Right shot.

The-One-I’m-Looking-For’s POV/Eva’s POV.

Eva paces back and forth amid the tourists./Backpacks and cameras and faces in every direction.

Eva looks at camera and the camera rises to eye-level./The-One-I’m-Looking-For stands.

EVA

(doesn’t know how to begin)

Excuse me. Uh, how much?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

Thirty-five.

Eva winces./The-One-I’m-Looking-For needs a sitter. Badly.

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

(con’t)

Twenty-five. I can do twenty-five pounds.

EVA

No, it’s okay—

Eva looks like she’s trying to switch conversational gears./ The-One-I’m-Looking-For grows desperate.

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

Fifteen?

EVA

No, thank you though.

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

Certain?

EVA

Yeah. Sorry.

Camera lowers its gaze./The-One-I’m-Looking-For looks down and sits.

EVA

(con’t)

The thing is I’m writing an article about caricaturists. Do you mind if—

Camera looks up quickly, then drifts to the right./The-One-I’m-Looking-For hardens.

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

 (points right)

I don’t do caricatures. You should talk to them.

Pan right to see Caricaturist I schmoozing with customer./Pan left to see Caricaturist I schmoozing with customer.

EVA

Portrait artists too though.

Silence.

EVA

If you’re too busy I can go. I don’t want to interrupt your business.

Eva looks down./Yellow shoes.

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

I don’t know what you want to know, it’s not that interesting. But sure.

EVA

Really?

Eva, excited./The-One-I’m-Looking-For shrugs.

Eva opens her notebook./A set of who-when-what-why questions, numbered, with space to record the answers.

EVA

So. How long have you been out here?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

I came out here in, ah, ninety-six. Twelve, no, fourteen years.

Eva writes in her notebook./”12—cross out—14 years 1996.”

Pan crowd./The-One-I’m-Looking-For looks around.

EVA

Have you always been an artist?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

I’m qualified.

EVA

I mean, did you have any other jobs before this?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

I used to be a professional. Used to paint.

EVA

Great, great. Uh let’s see, could you describe a typical customer?

Tourists./The-One-I’m-Looking-For surveys the crowd.

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

What? Explain.

EVA

Is there a certain gender, age, country of origin? Women, men, foreigners, old, young?

Eva looks expectant./The-One-I’m-Looking-For looks confused.

Silence.

Eva grows tense. Then, putting her pencil between the pages and folding her notebook closed, laughs./The-One-I’m Looking-For relaxes.

EVA

(con’t)

My bad. That was a messy question. Is there a certain type of person who tends to want to get their portrait drawn?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

All types. I guess young, mostly women and children. Couples, too.

EVA

 (sincere)

Really. Huh. How many portraits would you say do in a day?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

Two, three, depends. Five on a good day. Today, nothing.

Eva chews her lip./A math equation runs across the screen. 3 x 25 (if she always slashes prices) = not for profit.

EVA

Do you enjoy it?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

 (surprised)

Of course.

EVA

Why?

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

(hesitates—then, softly)

I like drawing, I like drawing people. There’s this... thing behind the eyes. I like looking for it.

Eva looks into camera./The-One-I’m-Looking-For doesn’t look away.

Then Eva begins scribbling feverishly./Pencil writes, “drawing people, there’s this thing behind the eyes…”

THE-ONE-I’M-LOOKING-FOR

It’s hard to explain.

Eva glances up. Ecstasy thins./Cold, defensive eyes.

Eva, confused, retreats./Camera quickly tilts down to pencil which pauses, then scratches hard short lines like jabs.

EVA

Thanks so much for your time.

Yellow shoes move in and out as she exists, other shoes occasionally passing through the frame.

EXT. LEICESTER SQUARE BENCH – SUNDAY NIGHT

Eva sits beneath a street lamp. Behind her the cinemas blaze neon names.

EVA

Last night at the hostel I almost decided to give her a name. So my piece would have more credibility. Magda. Maybe Suzanne. No, I thought, that’s not fair. I have to go back. There’s just so much more to talk about. And I could get The-One-I’m-Looking-For to draw my portrait; it would be the perfect reversal in my piece. An atonement. So I came back today. But she’s gone, the caricaturists are gone. I don’t know where. Maybe they’re hungover, maybe they’re religious. I wait. I look at the tourists, I look at Hogarth, I look at three movie theatres and four hundred portraits. I take forty photos of the golden celebrity handprints that circle the Square, I fill one and a half notebooks with things like “why do we travel? to take the same damn photo everyone else takes” and “caricature v. portrait, tourism v. travel: possessing v. being possessed” but it’s eight o’clock and The-One-I’m-Looking-For still isn’t here—

Suddenly Eva startles. Her hand squeezes quick into her pocket and fingers out a phone. 20:23.

EVA

Fuck!

She rummages through her backpack. Grabs a crumpled piece of paper: NATIONAL EXPRESS COACH FUNFARE, VICTORIA STATION -CAMBRIDGE (CAMBRIDGESHIRE), 20:35.

EVA

Fuck fuck fuck what’s the fastest? Piccadilly? No. Victoria?

Eva scans the horizon for a Tube sign as she swings her backpack around her shoulders but, before she hurries away, a final close-up.

EVA

(looks into the camera)

At least this is honest. I’m always already late and I’ve never been good at exits.

THE END