Actress Vs. Accountant
By David Lightfoot
Jessica Pembroke is changing into a shimmering red dress, in preparation for her final climatic scene for the movie La Isla Bonita. She pats her long chocolate-coloured hair, equally shimmering and shiny, then admires the makeup job that was previously done for her. She adjusts the top of her dress so that her bustline is showing without exposing so much bust. It's a scene where her character has truly found love forever, and spends one more night with her lover before she leaves Europe. She needs to look classy, not trashy.
She hears a knock at the door of her trailer, then the door opens. Michael Wolever, the movie's director, steps into the trailer smiling at her look, trying not to show his impatience. "Jessica, darling," he says, "you couldn't look any more beautiful. Really, you shouldn't be fussing so much. Now come away from that mirror. We shoot in five."
"I'll be right there," Jessica replies and shoos Mr. Wolever away.
Several minutes later, she dramatically emerges from her trailer. The cast and crew on the set make "ooh" and "ahh" sounds as she struts to the large gazebo all decked out for her and her co-star, to look like a romantic dinner haven. They are in Spain now, filming on location on the island of Menorca in the Balearics. Her eyes are locked on her co-star, Manuel Comallaro, looking gorgeous as she admires his black shirt, white jacket and pants. In this movie, Jessica plays a travel writer and photographer named Susan Sutherland, while Manuel plays Javier de Lorica, the lovelorn son from a wealthy family, their characters are lovers. She walks up and kisses him romantically, then stares at his outfit up and down.
"You look so beautiful, Jessica," Manuel tells her.
"Thank you, Manuel," Jessica replies, and kisses him again.
Mr. Wolever goes up and gently takes Jessica to her starting point, away from any cameras. As they walk, she assures him that she's memorized her lines and remembers her cue for when she goes on.
Seconds later, he calls for lights, camera and action, and the cameras start filming. Jessica waits and listens for her cues, listening as Manuel speaks his lines, memorizing her lines.
Javier is presenting a bottle of Spanish wine, which he pours in two glasses. The dinner is a "dirty rice" dish, with meat and rice and vegetables, red peppers and potatoes on the side, all lightly spiced. He looks up at the sky as the sun is setting.
I'm just in time. The sky is still a beautiful blue and the evening is set. I pray that Susan arrives before the sky changes colour.
Full shot of Javier and the dinner table. He sits down in the chair closest to him where dinner is set. He looks up.
Full shot of Susan. Camera pans right as it moves along with her to the gazebo. Cut back to Javier sitting at the table. Susan enters and looks around, first lovingly at Javier, then at the dinner he's prepared. She looks very impressed at the dinner.
Oh, this dinner looks lovely. And the setting is just perfect. You sure know how to set the mood for a woman.
They kiss, then Javier brings Susan's chair out for her. They settle and have their dinner. Medium shot of Susan eating and looking amazed.
Wow! Well, you sure know how to make a meal look and taste good. Tell me, Javier, have you ever thought of owning your own restaurant? With this kind of culinary, you could be Spain's own Wolfgang Puck.
Yes, Mother has always told me I should. But you know how it is with family businesses. Father and all my brothers say I have to keep with them, and that everything else is out of the question.
Delicious. Don't tell me you especially thought of this for my last night in Spain.
A meal this beautiful is perfect for a send-off.
She tilts her head a bit and gazes lovingly at him. Focus on their arms as Susan's touches Javier's, gently in a romantic manner, then a close up on Susan's face as she looks forlorn.
Oh, Javier, what I am going to do without you when I have to leave for the United States? I have this feeling that I'll never see you again. (She eats some meat with rice.) Oh, sure, we have e-mail and instant messaging, but I've got this feeling that I'll only have pictures of you.
Cut to Javier as he eats his dinner and listens sympathetically.
Unless your family business opens some franchises in America – which is highly unlikely – or you finally rebel, move away from here and seek a new career.
Cut to Susan as she sighs and looks away.
Oh, what am I thinking? Your heart belongs in the Spanish islands.
Cut to Javier as he reaches for Susan's arm and touches, smiling.
We'll always have the San Juan Festival.
He brings her hand close to her face and kisses it. Full shot of both Susan and Javier as they smile at each other.
"And cut!" Mr. Wolever calls. He goes over to Manuel and Jessica. "Perfect, you two. You guys have me convinced all the time that you are in love. It would not surprise me if you hook up after this. Now all we have to do is one more lovemaking scene by the sunset and that will be it. Finish dinner, and we'll wait for the sky to be more colourful." They finish dinner and wait two more hours. Then, Mr. Wolever calls for lights, camera and action again.
Full shot of the gazebo. Javier and Susan take each other's hands and step out on the beach. Close-up on Javier and Susan, and the camera pans along with them as they walk. The camera pans away from the lovers to focus on the beach at sunset as they take in the view. The water looks sapphire in colour, and the sky is of many colours – pink, orange, purple and yellow. The sun looks like a red ball as it sinks halfway in the sea.
Medium shot of Javier and Susan as they embrace and make love. They kiss without a pause for two minutes then Susan looks admiringly at Javier. She unbuttons his shirt and takes it and his jacket off at the same time, letting it fall on the sand. Their arms around each other, they continue to make love. They go down out of camera view.
Cut to a shot of the sand as they lie down, Susan on top of Javier. The camera focuses on their faces, cutting off at their upper bodies. They continue making love on the sand. Fade to a high shot of the beach, the lovers looking as small as dollhouse dolls, as they keeping making love on the sand, just feet from the lapping water, as the camera fades out.
"And cut!" Mr. Wolever calls. "That's scene. Okay, people, that's it for this evening. We'll start wrapping this up tomorrow morning." He goes over to Jessica and Manuel.
"Great work, you two," he says to them. "You had me falling in love with you." This inspires Jessica and Manuel, and they stand up to kiss each other like their characters did.
Jessica and Manuel are staying in a modest, yet fancy looking hotel in Ciutadella. They are filmed making love for the last time, then when the scene is over, Manuel goes to an unoccupied room down the hall. At daybreak the next morning, Jessica is filmed by herself. Mr. Wolever calls for lights, camera and action.
FADE IN – INT. SUSAN'S HOTEL ROOM – MORNING
Bird's eye view of Susan sleeping in a king bed, clad in a lace bra. It's just her sleeping; there is a rumpled empty space where it is perceived Javier was sleeping, with a note on the pillow.
Medium side shot of Susan as she feels the other side of the bed. She doesn't feel Javier, but the note paper. She awakens and takes the note to read. Back and forth shots between Susan and the note as we hear Javier's voice over dictating the note.
My darling Susan: If you are reading this, I have already gone. It was so wonderful to have known you over the days of the San Juan Festival, and to have looked at your beautiful face over the sights and the colours of this glorious event. I know that my heart is already lost to you.
Cut to the exterior of the hotel. A black limousine is waiting for Susan outside the entrance doors. The LIMO DRIVER opens the back door for Susan and puts her luggage in the trunk. Medium shot of the back of the limousine as Susan looks out the window observing the last sights of Spain. Brief shots of Susan are captured in between the long shots of the Balearic Islands en route to the airport. We hear Javier continuing to dictate the note in all this.
JAVIER (V.O.) (cont.)
Unfortunately, my heart also belongs here in the Balearic Islands. I would have loved to accompany you back to America if I could, but my loyalty to my family and my business dictates that I can't. I only wish that the circumstances could be different. I don't know when we will meet again, hopefully very soon, but I know that I will never forget the way you walked into my life and changed it. Anytime I look at another woman, I will only see your face; there will never be another you. Perhaps if I can convince my family of my undying love for you, as well as an opportunity to open a Paloma Blanca Hotel where you are, we shall meet again.
Cut to a large port in Ciutadella. Long shot of a medium-sized ferry ready to take hundreds of boarding people to Barcelona. The limo stops at the marina and the driver opens to let Susan out and hand her bags. As she prepares to board, we hear Javier conclude his note.
JAVIER (V.O.) (cont.)
Promise me you will keep me in your heart always, and that you'll wait for me. I know I will wait for you. I love you always. Javier.
FADE TO: BARCELONA CRUISE PORT – PORT VELL TERMINAL
The boat has already docked at this terminal. Susan is among the first to arrive among a crowd of passengers, laptop bag over her. Medium shot of Susan and the camera pans with her as she walks through the port to another waiting limousine. Full back shot of Susan as she steps inside, then this driver gets into the limo and drives her to the train station.
Cut to the interior of a train. High angle shot of Susan focusing to a medium angle shot as she is writing on her laptop. Cut back and forth between Susan and the laptop as she writes. Cut to the interior of the airplane flying back to the United States. Medium shot of Susan as she still writes. When she is finished the first draft the article, extreme close-up of her laptop, focused on the very final sentence of the piece. Medium low shot of Susan as she saves her work, exits the word processing software and closes her laptop.
"And cut," Mr. Wolever calls, and goes over to Jessica. "Jessica, that was great. I saw so much emotional stuff from you. You looked like Susan was really going to miss and promise to wait up for Javier. I've never seen a journalist so out of focus. Maybe when we get off this train, I can show you some the best shots of you."
"I'd like to see them," Jessica agrees.
"We'll get some shots of you continuing to write the article on the plane back to America, then we'll wrap it up tomorrow afternoon," Mr. Wolever says.
Back in California, Jessica is preparing for her very last scene, filmed in the Los Angeles Times offices. She sees that Manuel has shown up, and is grateful for his support. They kiss and he says, "Jessica, darling, you look so beautiful in that outfit. Just as beautiful as those dresses you wore in Spain."
"Thank you, Manuel," she replies, and kisses him again.
Jessica struts into the travel editor's office, and sits across from Rhonda Overton, who plays Susan's editor. Manuel watches from outside. Jessica does some breathing exercises to psyche herself up, as the makeup people do both actresses' faces. Rhonda takes her hand and says, "Don't worry, Jess, you'll do great."
For the last time, Mr. Wolever calls for lights, camera and action.
FADE TO – INT. MS. PRAGUE'S OFFICE – DAY
Bird's eye view of Ms. Prague's desk as Susan hands her the completed article and collection of photographs. The camera twists out to a medium side shot of both Susan and Ms. Prague as Ms. Prague reviews the contents.
Full shot of Ms. Prague reading the article with a look of approval.
Excellent, Susan. I love these exotic descriptions of the Menorca Island that you wrote. "In between its golden white beaches at Cala Galdana and its majestic country side, the city of Ciutadella is the one that truly stands out as for three days in the middle of summer, it is alive with siesta at the San Juan Festival, or the Festes de Sant Joan."
Medium shot of Susan, smiling triumphantly.
Thanks, Ms. Prague.
Close up on Ms. Prague's face, as she reacts with surprise and favouritism. Medium shot when she puts down Susan's manuscript to respond.
Well, looks like somebody enjoyed herself at the San Juan Festival, by all the descriptions of activities; the parades, the bonfires, the horse show. I even love your claim that, "if there's ever a time where people will fall in love and be most passionate, it's the closing fireworks display."
She looks at the photographs.
And you have all the shots of each event, just like I wanted, as well as pictures of the countryside, too. But you seem to have few too many photographs of the beaches and the male locals. Don't worry, we'll run these to the editors and have them pick out their favourites.
She returns to the article. Back and forth shots between Susan and Ms. Prague as Ms. Prague keeps reading the article to the end.
You did a very good job of promoting the Paloma Blanco Hotel during the festival. If I were to publish this article and show it to them, they'll be quick to promote the festival next year, and all of Los Angeles will be flocking to Menorca. One thing, though, this Javier de Lorica that keeps popping up, was he your tour guide or something?
I did spend quite a bit of time with him while in Menorca.
I'll bet. Unfortunately, there are so many mentionings of him that we're going to have to cut from the article. I sincerely hope you understand.
Susan stays silent, smiles as she is thinking of Javier again. Cut to Ms. Prague as she smiles suspiciously.
Susan, judging by the way you wrote about the island and the festival as a place to fall in love, um, did a certain someone have a little short fling while on assignment? I'm not one to gossip, but… do tell.
Medium straight shot at Susan as she smiles at her editor.
Believe me, Ms. Prague, I have stories.
The camera slowly moves in to a close up on Susan's face as she loses herself in thoughts and memories of Javier.
"And cut! Print it!" Mr. Wolever calls. "We'll attach flashback love scenes in editing." He addresses the entire cast and crew. "Ladies and gentlemen, that is a wrap on La Isla Bonita." Everyone applauds and cheers, and Jessica immediately struts over to hug and kiss Manuel.
"Darling, you were exquisite," Manuel says in his unmistakable Spanish accent.
"Thank you, love," she replies, then they kiss again.
Jessica spends the next week up until the wrap-up party thinking. During the three months she worked with Manuel on La Isla Bonita, they developed an off-screen romance, one she knows is legitimate. They have been talking all that time about when to make it official. Jessica can't wait until they interview her about the movie and her co-stars. "It's the perfect opportunity to announce it," she tells him.
At the party, Jessica and Manuel stay together the whole time. She enjoys dancing with him, him getting food for her, and especially when they dance slow. It is during the slow dances that Jessica and Manuel fall deeper in love than they ever did on the movie set. People around them notice this and start gossiping, but they don't care, especially not Manuel.
"Let them talk," he says. "They'll come to realize that what they're telling each other is the truth."
She especially thinks about her twin sister, Dottie. At twenty-six years old, it's been over a decade since they last spoke, since they hit adolescence. She couldn't even get her to talk when they celebrated their twenty-fifth birthday. She's always known Dottie to be a lot more conservative and businesslike, much too uppity to match Jessica's classy diva standards. She's been working in television and movies since her childhood years, influenced by her father, Jack Pembroke, a screenwriter, producer and director who divided his time between Los Angeles and Winnipeg when he was married to her and Dottie's mother. The mother who has never liked her career ambitions, who never cared for her husband's career, or influencing her or her younger brother. The mother whom Dottie always supported. She wishes Dottie could see her now – surviving child stardom, always avoiding the traps and vices that envelope many other child stars. This is how she's gained so many fans and admirers, and movie projects she's starred in. Being in more than twenty projects to date, she's gained something else – the reputation as Hollywood's busiest young stars. Why, up until she met Manuel, she's never even had a true love, never made time for a boyfriend.
Manuel interrupts Jessica's thoughts. "Are you all right, darling?" he asks. "You seem quite lost."
"I'm just thinking about my sister, that's all," she answers. "I've told you about Dottie, right? She works as an accounting clerk back in Winnipeg, where I was born. I'm thinking it's time I tried to reconcile with her. I'll bet she's never even seen any of my movies. Maybe if I can bring her here to Hollywood when La Isla Bonita premieres, and if she likes my performance, I can get her to finally lighten up about my work, and make her accept it. Especially if you're going to be part of my family in the future, I'd love for you to meet her."
"I'd love that, too," he replies.
Early the next morning, Jessica and Manuel fly out to Pittsburgh to attend another wrap-up party – the one for Jessica's younger brother, Kevin, twenty-two years old. He's been shooting a movie there at the same time as La Isla Bonita. At the airport arrivals, she sees a young man with the same chocolate-coloured hair he has, dressed in a green polo shirt and blue dress pants, carrying a sign with her name on it. Jessica spots him and smiles.
"Kevin!" she calls.
Kevin steps from the crowd and walks up to embrace his sister. "Welcome back to America," he says, then gets a look at her co-star. "And this must be the Manuel Comallaro that you're always talking about in your e-mails. So, tell me, is it as serious off-camera as it was on?"
"Kevin, if I could tell you how romantic and charming he was to me off the set, you'd definitely bless our marriage," Jessica replies. "Maybe if you can see him dance with me at your wrap-up party tonight, and how intimate he can be if he gets me into one of those private rooms. Thanks for the invitation, though."
As they leave the airport and climb into the waiting limousine, Jessica's look develops into something of a glare. "I can't believe that was the only e-mail you ever gave me in four months. I was always e-mailing you every other week, and I was just as much a lead in my movie as you were in yours."
"Sorry, Jessica," Kevin says. "But the director I had, while he was a class act and tolerable to be around, he was also something of a slave driver. Richard Purvis believes in these twelve-hour days, and with this movie, I was up until two in the morning filming. I'm surprised that he never fed me those energy drinks I suspect he's always been downing. Sometimes I would get so exhausted, I would sleep during days I didn't have to work."
"You never even told me what your movie was all about. You only said it was an action-comedy called Detective Jonesborough."
Kevin looks a little embarrassed about that. "Right. Well, I play a talented writer and newspaper columnist who used to work in Toronto. Then after writing a piece that gets continent-wide attention, he takes an offer in Pittsburgh, and plans to live with a relative until he can find a home. Well, on the train there, he meets a recent graduate of some police academy whose heading to Pittsburgh to work alongside his family, as this guy's a fifth-generation Pittsburgh cop. Then there's a train accident, and my character, through mistaken identity, ends up with the rookie cop's family. Of course, my character then has to defend his writing ambitions when the extended family sees their 'nephew' and 'cousin' has changed."
Jessica smiles. "Okay, normally I don't go for police-themed action stuff, but yours seems like a departure from all that violent 'bang-em-up' humdrum. I'll definitely check it out."
"From the looks of things, we might have a clashing if our movies open the same night."
But Jessica doesn't have very much fun at the party that night. She seems to be distracted by her thoughts, by memories of her twin sister, playing dress-up with her as children, playacting school with one sister and their dolls as students, helping each other with their homework. And when they were younger – and didn't really decide what they wanted to be when they grew up – they huddled and protected Kevin together during their parents' loud fights in Winnipeg.
On the other hand, Jessica has always known how Dottie was different from her, how she was more talented in Math and Science than Jessica, how she always geared herself towards such a career. How she suddenly decided that acting was beneath Jessica, despite her talent and desire.
Still, her desire to talk to Dottie again overrides her conflicting feelings. She decides she must go back to Winnipeg for some time. She is soon distracted by Manuel and Kevin shaking her."
"Are you okay, Jessica?" Kevin asks. "You've been staring into space most of the evening."
"Kevin, I can't fight this feeling anymore," Jessica replies. "I think it's time I reconnected with Dottie?"
Kevin winces at her. "Dottie? Our sister, Dottie?"
"Who else?" Jessica replies.
"Dottie, the one who kissed our mother's butt with her 'talent' in Math?" Kevin asks. "Dottie, the one who teamed up with Mom in the years before the divorce? Dottie, whom we thought turned on us when she started persuading us to listen to 'the tiger mom of the business world,' and fought with us when she couldn't? The one who accused us of causing our parents' divorce? That Dottie?"
Jessica rolls her eyes. "Kevin, it's been at least thirteen years since we last talked. Show me another pair of twins who's gone this long without talking. Do you really think that's fair?"
"You do know you may be facing off against our mother again, don't you?"
"If she's read the entertainment news, and seen my résumé , she'll understand what a success I've been."
"Mom is a business-minded freak who thinks she's always right when it comes to us choosing careers. Do you really think we would've had the lives we have if we became doctors, lawyers, business executives, office technicians or whatever else she wanted? She was a loving soul to Dottie, but a tyrant to us both. Dad will tell you this. I've never loved Mom nearly as much as Dottie did, and frankly, I don't care if I ever see her again."
Jessica gives him a serious look, but Kevin means what he says. "Look, if you want to go back to Winnipeg to make peace with Dottie, then I'll support you. But don't ask me to come with you, because I don't want to go back to what we left behind. If you want me to make peace with Dottie, feel free to bring her here."
He takes her hand and looks solemnly in her eyes. "Jessica, as far as I'm concerned, our mother is dead."
"Fine," she says. "I'll bring Dottie back here and show her Hollywood. If I can't change Mom's mind, then I can at least change Dottie. Dottie's more important. I feel that in order for her to be our sister, she'll have to step out of Mom's shadow."
Jessica takes a breath and starts to loosen up, feeling confident about her goal. All three of them go the bar, where Jessica orders an apple martini. The drink loosens her up more, and she takes Manuel to the dance floor.
"Go back to Winnipeg to see Dottie?" Jack Pembroke asks, rather astonished.
It is the Wednesday following Kevin's wrap-up party, and Jessica is back in Hollywood, along with Manuel and Kevin. She is standing in the office of her uncle, Robert Pembroke, president of Pembroke Pictures movie studio and Jack's older brother. Robert, Jack, and their other two brothers; the studio's vice-president Lawrence Pembroke, and producer and director Dennis Pembroke; all stare at Jessica with hints of disbelief and mild disapproval. But Jessica and Kevin's agent, Stephen Tussell, is also with them, and he looks very thoughtful.
Jessica sighs and rolls her eyes at her father. "Daddy, she's as much your daughter as I am."
"Jessica, honey, I can still remember when you were eight or nine, and she'd stubbornly refuse to go with you and Kevin on weekends and school breaks to visit me on movie sets because, 'Mom wouldn't like it.'" Jack says. "I always wanted all three of my kids involved in show business, but Dottie was never interested. Just because she's not nearly as talented as you, but I always wondered if that was true, or she was just sucking up to her mother."
"Jessica, do you remember when you and Kevin would always fly here with your father, and when the rest of us met you, he'd complain about your mother?" Lawrence asks. "And he'd do the same when he called from Winnipeg, too, before he finally divorced." He points at Robert and Dennis. "You know what we'd always call your mother? Helen the Hun."
"Helen the Hen, if I remember correctly," Jack corrects with a laugh. "But yes, Jessica, damn her and her rules! What do you think motivated us all to found the Pembroke Arts Academy for high school students? To fuel kids' dreams to pursue careers in movies, television and music, and to make parents understand and accept those dreams! If you go back to Winnipeg… and your mother… you'll be forced to abandon all you've accomplished for business school, law college, medical school, or something else that's not so Pembroke."
"Speaking of which," Robert says, "the academy's annual celebrity dinner and talent gala is next weekend. With yours and Kevin's movies done for now, you two will be expected to show up, before you go on to your next signed projects. Your next movie is with us, Karma Chameleon, and filming starts in just two months."
"Actually, I think this is a good idea," Tussell says. "Jessica made an impromptu appearance in my office on Monday morning just to discuss this issue, and she mentioned that her sister, although not an actress, is just as much her family as Kevin and all of you. After a long conversation, I told her she has my support. They haven't shown themselves as being selfish, but if they can be successful in fixing their relationship with Dottie, it can be great publicity for them once they can introduce her to the public eye." He looks at Jessica now. "But yes, you must be back here before the end of July, so you can start work on your next picture."
Jessica grins. "Then my mission is clear, and I now have a time goal," she says. "I'll give myself a week to prepare, spend six weeks in Winnipeg, and bring Dottie back to Hollywood to show her the business side of things. Maybe it'll help her be a little more appreciative of the movies."
"Doubtful," Dennis says, then looks at his brothers. "How much you want to bet that not only does Dottie have a business degree, she's still living with her mother out of love and respect for her?" The Pembroke brothers all laugh.
But Jessica doesn't even look discouraged. "Well, as much as I'd love to attend the gala, my family mission is much more important. I'm leaving now to make a few important calls."
When she gets back to her apartment, she heads straight for the living room phone. She calls the airport and asks about some next available flights to Winnipeg. There are three options, but Jessica goes for the most inexpensive one, a Southwest Airlines flight, non-stop, leaving Sunday morning, June 9th, that's around two hundred fifty dollars. She then turns on her computer and activates her e-mail. She doesn't bother checking her fan e-mail; she just clicks the "New Message" button, and clicks on Dottie's name and e-mail address.
Jessica had e-mailed Dottie just as she did Kevin about her latest movie and budding romance with Manuel, and was upset that she would never reply. However, she puts those feelings aside, and decides to send her something nice. She types, I know you don't support my career, success and fame much. But it's been too long since we last spoke. I'm flying into Winnipeg on Sunday because I want to see my twin sister, and resolve all differences that we have had. My next movie is "Karma Chameleon," a comedy, and I have to be back here in L.A. in six weeks to start filming, before we head to England, according to Uncle Dennis, who's producing. I really want you to see what Kevin's and my lives are really like in Hollywood. Not to be critical, but perhaps if you could see the business side of Hollywood, (I'll talk to Daddy and Uncle Robert about getting you a job on the movie) you'll have more of an appreciation for it. Please give it some thought.
Jessica waits all night, and when she gets no response from Dottie, she goes to bed looking depressed. It seems as if this trip will start off with serious drama and infighting, or Jessica trying to find Dottie's home address. But the next morning, she finds an unread message in her e-mail, with Dottie Pembroke's name in the From line, and the subject reading, "Re: Coming to See My Sister." She clicks on the message and is happy when she reads. Dottie has accepted her proposal. She has even written, And you'll get to see what my apartment looks like as well.
She goes to the phone to call her father and give the good news. She says, "Tell the media that I won't be able to make the gala. And also tell Uncle Dennis that Dottie is not living with Mom."