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Lady Eva by Steven Clark - Short, Drama - An aspiring journalist recruits the help of an aging prostitute for a story, but what he gets is an all too real glimpse into the life of Lady Eva. 31 pages - pdf, format
Lucid story you have here, a tale that probably wouldn't spark any particular emotion from me on any other given day, however, what you scribe(d) here begged for me to carry a burden of empathy for Eva. Somehow, I felt as if I was picking up stones along the way, each time she spoke was another handful of misfortune I was unconsciously hanging onto, more and more, only letting it fall away when the music box was laid to rest beside her.
Eva is a complex, richly layered character that's truly believable on many levels, and you easily pulled me into her sordid world of broken dreams and enchanted life of aspirations lost to circumstance. I do wonder, however, if she could have walked a more complex path towards her current state of affairs.
I inadvertently embellished on Eva's character as I read the script, and I want to offer up one particular (alternative) avenue of approach because this story can go so many ways and still come out as one of the better stories I've read in awhile. These are only suggestions that played out in my head based on Eva's back-story, you may or may not find them interesting...
Eva spoke of being a 19 year old high priced call girl. A curious little snippet that really stoked my imagination here was the date she spoke of, 1993. Curiously, I was living in Vancouver at that time and recall a strange phenomenon that transpired that year surrounding a certain global event. Here's a 'New York Times' article for April 4th of that year:
Now, what that article won't tell you, however, is that it was estimated somewhere in the vicinity of five thousand (don't quote me on that figure) high priced call girls from all over North America made their way to the summit... because that's where the real money was at that time. Imagine, thousands of high ranking officials from all over the globe being at that summit and looking for action. Agents of change, politicians, secret service, etc.
And after it was all over, and the agents of change went home... most of the call girls stayed. If you drove in and around the downtown area of Vancouver at that time, It was literally a freaking gong show of prostitutes. All drop dead beautiful women vying for your business, standing shoulder to shoulder on the side of the road. Problem is, now they're no longer 'High Price'... they're just a person trying to make their way in a sea of lost souls. It was actually a sad sight to see.
That's just one particular alternative path that could really paint Eva as a 3D character. Maybe she had no real intention of going that way. Perhaps she found herself within close vicinity of that road (Vancouver) when tragedy struck the first leg of her non-chosen journey. Eva was a dancer, a Ballerina to be exact. Perhaps she was actually enrolled at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 1993, but was terminated for drug use, or broke her ankle, etc. I'm going way out on a tangent here, but that would be another way to tie it all together with the music box at the end.
Talking about being a dancer and not living the dream is inherently different than being on the road to your dream, veering off, and never getting back on. Life is like that unfortunately, It will deliver a dump truck full of shit when you're not paying attention. Another morbid thought that might stoke your imagination is the fact someone who asphyxiates while trying to hang themselves is called... you guessed it, a 'Dancer'.
All merely suggestions of course, just me thinking out loud. I love stories that get the imagination going and this one is so full of potential. Best of luck...
Thanks for the read and notes. Certainly much appreciated because I know most peeps would be unwilling to crack open a script this length. I'm glad you did.
I can see your point on the many directions this can go in regarding back story. And I read the NYT article you linked up and that is definitely an interesting piece. I feel if I was to ever turn this into a feature that would be a wonderful backdrop for a story like this, with the mysterious millionaire somehow sliding in. There's limitless possibilities with that. Thanks.
But for now it's just a short, and I'm glad it went over well with you. Thanks again!
First, good job. It's an interesting piece with memorable characters. I liked it.
Now, let's get down to it. The opening is hardly needed. From my pov, it doesn't matter if he's writing for a paper, magazine, or blog. The story doesn't really take off until he reaches the trailer. You're going to tell us that he's a journalist, so why go through the beginning?
You've saved yourself a huge block of time and money.
From there, the story comes out, and it's a nice little tale. The decadence of the people involved is hardly unexpected. The ballerina is a nice touch. The reveal works for me.
I think you might get more mileage from Tyler's home life. A bit more conflict might be in order. Lipstick on a collar, liquor on clothes...you know the drill. But despite what's going on, Tyler can't let go. A very good thing.
Overall, it works. It needs an edit for some nits, but you'll get there.
Thanks for the read. To clarify the opening -- that was a last minute add on before posting on SS. The original didn't have it. The reason being is conflict, not that I wanted the audience to know what kind of rag he was writing for. I wanted the reader to think the Tyler was indeed going to trash Eva in his article, and I wanted to give a reason for that. I tried to make Brian the newspaper guy as despicable as I could without overdoing it. The moment he looked down on the woman and her child in the street was the exact moment he came up with deragatory headline, so I thought that might be telling that this guy has had a failed marriage somewhere down the line. But, true to form, I probably didn't make it obvious enough. That's on me. And still I'm not exactly sure if that opening really works or not but that's my reasoning.
And yes I thought some more conflict in Tyler's home life is warranted. Again, I put in a little but probably not enough.
I liked this a lot. Very natural feel and depth to the characters and dialogue. To be honest I struggle to get into ‘shorts’ over about 15 pages -- they either feel too drawn out or too compacted. This felt about right with the kind of writing that pulls you along -- effortless read with those little details that really set the scene.
It occurred to me afterwards there’s really no conflict driving this -- the story unfolding as this protracted interview between Tyler and Eva; all the while we wait for this inevitable ‘crash’ to happen. You kept me guessing as to what and when that would be and I think you brought it to a bittersweet conclusion with the appearance of Sandy.
p.10 -- Is this a flashback? Could do with something in the header for clarity.
‘I’m the one who fucked Trump’ -- great intro line from Cassie. Though I’ll disavow all knowledge of these notes when he sues you.
My main thoughts concern the set-up. Tasser feels too disconnected from the rest of the story. He’s simply there as a catalyst -- I’m not even sure what he sees in the street below that connects to this idea of exposing the dark underbelly of the city. Perhaps I’m missing your intent on that point?
I can see what you’re aiming for with this scene -- force Tyler to go after the story (though wouldn’t a wannabe journalist be hungry to prove himself? Tyler seems almost ambivalent, not all that eager for the chase). I wonder if the idea for the article should stem more from Tyler? The idea is driven by Tasser with Tyler essentially acting as a conduit. I didn’t really get a sense of how Tyler feels about the state of the city around him. I know how Tasser feels about it, why he wants this story so bad; but what about Tyler? How are his preconceptions of people like Lady Eva challenged? We never see Tasser again outside of that opening scene yet it feels more like his set-up, essentially his goal -- yet it ends with Tyler learning the lesson that these people are all too human after all. Does that make sense?
Do you need to linger on the cock-knot moment? Think there’d be more humour/comic timing in Bob just dropping the speedos and cutting there -- especially as the knot’s ‘success’ is referred to a moment later. Good moment for comic relief though. That whole sequence came at the right moment to put an edge on things -- what has Tyler gotten himself into? Will he keep his distance or get involved?
Eva mentioning that she never slept with Sandy seems like an odd thing to say. As I understood it they knew they were father and daughter, so I’m not sure why it would ever have come up? A deliberate misdirection? Perhaps not wanting to infer a darker relationship here (fair enough).
There’s a lot to like in this. Subtle and bittersweet with some unexpected moments. Love the Sanderson twist at the end. Could see this getting some interest.
Thanks for the read. Glad you liked it. Out of order:
The last thing I wanted to do was drag out the cock knot moment! I don't believe I did, but maybe I could've kept it on the, er, shorter end.
The Tasser opening scene was tacked on before I posted this, hence the slugs there aren't bolded. An you're right about no real conflict driving the story. That's exactly why I included this scene. I wanted Eva to have this feeling that things would go terribly wrong with this article, and I felt the genesis of the article would be a decent starting point. Maybe not. This should really have something within to give us that impression, I agree.
Eva mentioning that she never slept with Sandy is because she never did sleep with Sandy. It was meant to imply, and I actually spelled it out later in Sandys dialogue at the funeral that Eva, because of her disconnect with reality, never even knew who Sandy was. She figured he was just a strange sort of client. That was the real twist.
Regarding the lack of a flashback. I read a script where a similar situation occurred, and the present just sort of blended with the past. It came off well there, I wanted to try it here. I felt in a small way it helped the flow of the story. While writing an reading this, I also felt that this read rather quick and smooth. I'm glad you picked up on that.
Thanks. You and a few other peeps read it early on too. I appreciate all the notes I got on this -- you, Janet, Libby, Mark and Ian. It's nice to know you have sort of a built in sounding board with some great writers providing advice. Much appreciated.
I know. What is this, number three?! Always enjoy writing them, and you're quite prolific of late. Yes, email me an update. I've done the review already so I'll see if it needs editing, maybe not cause I've tried to keep a lot of the actual story under wraps.
Family and parenthood are themes you often revisit, but I didn't expect this one to turn into a family drama. So, good job with the twist.
I do think that Eva not recognizing her father "because of her disconnect with reality" is a bit of a stretch, though. She was just 19 when they met in The Lady's Club, no? Even if she hadn't seen him since she was little, not remembering him at all is not plausible, IMO. Plus, her father wasn't some unknown dude, but a famous multi-millionaire.
Another thing I found strange is Eva's refusal to "be saved". Yes, now in her 40s, it is reasonable for her to say: "I've been myself far too long to change who I am now". But she was only 19 back then - a girl just getting into prostitution. Also, I'd expect her rich, powerful father to have insisted more on helping his young daughter. Despite her objections.
Enough with the gripes, though. You do have a smooth writing style, which makes even this 30-pager an easy and enjoyable read. As for the story, I loved how Tyler gets more and more interested in Eva and Eva wants to reveal more and more things about herself: her days in The Lady's Club, her relationship with Sanderson, even her masochistic rituals. I wonder if her death on that particular night was just a coincidence or she actually wanted to write this end to Tyler's story about her. In any case, this part of the story is the most powerful. It would probably have been too harsh to read hadn't it been for Cassie and Bob – good job with those moments of comic relief too.
I think you just need to give more background on the father and daughter relationship (before their unusual re-connection). The information given is not enough for me. Other than that, this could make a profound and moving film. Good luck with it!
I agree with many of your points. You're right about the themes I often revisit -- trying to get away from that a little bit of late.
I think the break from reality Eva experiences can be better to show the audience how it is possible for her not to recognize her own father. There's a lot of ways I can do that really. I think her masochistic scene was a hint at that -- break from reality, cutting herself to alleviate the real pain in her life, which is more implied than anything.
Her not recognizing her own father was meant to be like -- of course, she should have known who he was, but she was so messed up she refused to see it. Could have done a better job on explaining this through dialogue or exposition. It really wouldn't take too much to do it though.
Her death, though it is never said, is meant to be just a coincidence. I had no interest in adding the element that Tyler should somehow feel responsible for this, although I imagine on some level he does.