THE ARTIST’S SIGNATURE

written by John Kennell

based upon the novel “Contact” by Carl Sagan

2

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Carl Sagan

3

THE ARTIST’S SIGNATURE FADE IN: EXT. SPACE Silently, a half empty world appears in the center of the frame; cold, distant, alone, and embedded in an ocean of featureless black space. The intense dayside glare drowns out any hint of city lights on the night side. The stars are likewise invisible. The planet’s rotation is compressed from hours to seconds as day rolls upward, through sunset, into night. Aside from its spin, the planet is motionless, a great stone in space. Beneath its paper-thin atmosphere the interlocking shapes of land and ocean are familiar. This is Earth. A faint lens flare flickers off oceans as clouds and continents pass, tapping out a hidden language of nature. FADE IN the sound of OCEAN WAVES, rising and falling with the ebb and flow of unseen surf. The waves are lowpitched and muffled, as if heard from underwater. An UNKNOWN MAN speaks in a dispassionate monotone, like a patient interviewer at a debriefing. UNKNOWN MAN (V.O.) What do you see? An UNKNOWN WOMAN answers, robotically, as if compelled to obey a command. UNKNOWN WOMAN (V.O.) A door. FADE TO BLACK. The ROAR of the WAVES continues through the fade, becoming steadily louder. UNKNOWN MAN (V.O.) What’s behind the door? UNKNOWN WOMAN (V.O.) Nothing.

4

FADE IN: EXT. CORRAL REEF - DAY Beneath the surface of an ocean an enormous WAVE rolls and CRASHES overhead in SLOW MOTION. The low-pitched, static-like ROAR of SURF rises and falls as the wave passes. Schools of shinny fish dart past, turning and dodging in unison. Living corals and sea plants curl back and forth in the current, gathering nutrients. Bright sunbeams penetrate the surface and stroll lazily across patches of sandy seafloor. Deep hollows of coral are everywhere. Strange, yet entirely earthly creatures of every kind lurk in the shadows, or fly through the water, some like waltzing orchids. The water is saturated with color and life. From deep below appears the silhouette of a person, a woman. A halo of blue and white light surrounds her as she here and there eclipses the sun. She floats limp and naked near the reef, well under the surface, her long hair obscuring her face. Another WAVE CRASHES in SLOW MOTION above the woman, even slower than the one before it. The woman seems lifeless, or perhaps soon will be if she doesn’t get air. She is in a pre-conscious state, sub lucid and unfocused. She needs to wake up. For this brief moment of gestation the unknown woman is in the safety of the primordial womb of the sea, surrendering to the movement of the water. But the placidity of this weightless environment is deceptive. Nature will force its hand. She must grow, or she will parish. Another CRASHING WAVE. As she floats nearer the surface the pressure of the wave jostles her body. Her body jostles her mind. Awareness enters her consciousness. She reaches out into the water and tests her mobility. She wades through this fluidic space in a slow motion ballet. The woman has been under water far too long. She needs air. Raw animal instinct kicks in and she nearly panics. In a shower of bubbles she claws her way up toward the

5 sun, air, and life. CUT TO: SAME SCENE - OCEAN SURFACE The woman breaches the surface of a tropical sea, gasping for air, and squinting painfully from the bright, midday sun. Birth. The unmuffled WAVES CRASH louder now, and at normal human rhythm. The woman is about fifty years old, and pretty. She has long silvery hair. She’s disorientated at first. On her face is an odd expression for a newborn - puzzlement perhaps. The woman is just inside a reef break line. A broken wave washes over her. She can’t see over the crashing waves in front of her. She does a quick dip under the water to push her hair out of her face. Breaking the surface again she spots seagulls squawking and floating in the air above. Her gaze follows one of them around where she catches sight of a white sandy beach about five hundred meters distant. It’s a desert island, with a thin stand of palm trees. She swims lazily toward the island through a relatively calm lagoon, relaxing as she goes. In the penetrating beauty of her environment, the warmth of the water, the air, and the sun... her body finds strength. ISLAND The unknown woman walks out of the surf naked and unashamed. She rings her long hair out with her hands to remove the water. Green palm trees shimmer against a deep blue sky over bleach white sand. The tall, slender palms dwarf the lone woman by comparison. It is an absolutely perfect day, a perfect moment. The woman walks up the slight rise of the beach and finds a pile of clothes: dark leather sandals, a pair of kaki Capri pants, and a white linen v-necked t-shirt, embroidered about the neck. The clothes are neatly folded and stacked on the dry sand. Without hesitating she puts them on. As she dresses, the view ZOOMS OUT in STEPPED DISSOLVES, higher and higher. The first WIDE SHOT reveals the island as a thin,

6 crescent shaped atoll. The crescent is a half circle, a semicircle. On its inward side, where the woman had just been swimming, is an emerald lagoon. The next WIDER SHOT reveals an enormous coral reef, the highest part of which is just below the surface of the water. The reef starts where the island stops, mirroring the island, completing a full circle. It shields the lagoon from the larger ocean waves. No other landforms are visible. One more DISSOLVE, the WIDEST SHOT, reveals the ocean... Here is where this world truly departs from reality. From very high above, this “ocean” is actually a paper-thin square, a mock environment, floating in an airy space. The edges of the square ocean seem to melt off sharply into the haze below. This perspective is unavailable to the woman on the beach. If she were to swim far enough, she might fall off. ISLAND Dressed, the woman wonders without care or purpose along the shore. This world is not real, but she is immersed in it. As in a dream, she accepts everything around her as normal and true. Shadows fall directly beneath the waving palm fronds as if it were high noon on the equator during an equinox. This is a perfect day, but not quite a perfect place. The palms are a little tattered, the sand a little dirty. Palm fronds, seaweed and bits of driftwood have accumulated on the beach at the farthest reach of the water. Billions of broken seashells litter the shore. She stops. An especially pretty, unbroken seashell catches the woman’s attention. She picks it up and admires its delicate pattern. Her gaze turns inward. A memory intrudes. INTERCUT WITH: FLASHBACK - EXT. FLORIDA BEACH - DAY It’s a different beach, on a partly cloudy day. There are beach homes up on the high part of the sand, and people milling about. Two young girls, twelve (very blond) and fourteen (redheaded), are walking in casual summer dresses along the

7 shore. Sandals dangle from their hands as they wade ankle deep in the water. ISLAND As the woman stares at the shell her expression sours. This memory is painful. FLASHBACK - FLORIDA BEACH CLOSE ON the younger girl, who is crying; or rather, is trying not to cry. She chokes back tears and wipes the few that get away off her face. The older girl has her arm across the back of her companion’s shoulders. They walk together in silence, the older girl offering no words, no sympathy, merely support. END FLASHBACK. END INTERCUT. ISLAND The lone woman stares blankly at the shell, struggling to make sense of this vision that lurks just out of reach. She shakes it off, tossing the shell, along with the painful memory, back into the water. She continues on. As she walks she pirouettes, joyful again, backwards for a few paces, then forward. She scans the entire horizon line through the sparse trees and out over the ocean. She is completely alone, but not lonely. The woman stops and sits down on the high part of the sand under a palm tree. She leans on one arm with the other resting casually over her thighs, an odalisque. Rays of light filter though the waving palm fronds and trickle over her body. With her eyes closed she breathes in the fresh sea air, like a weary vacationer. She is relaxed in the moment, without a care for the past, or worry for the future. With her free hand she sifts and feels the warmth of the sand, stirring it into a spiral shape, playing with her environment. She picks up a single fallen palm frond and weaves a line in the sand, through the spiral. It resembles the trail of a serpent that has just passed out of sight. A small cloud floats across the sky above her, casting a shadow and blocking the sun. Likewise, a tinge of cold

8 and darkness creeps onto the woman’s expression. She sits up, attentive, looking up and down the beach and over her shoulder, suddenly confused by her surroundings. The cloud passes and sunlight returns. The woman stands, worried and confused, awareness of the unfamiliarity of her environment now apparent on her face. She examines her clothes, not recognizing them. She looks out over the ocean, not at its prettiness, but for an answer. But there is nothing to see, only sky and water. She reaches out to feel the palm tree nearest her, testing the physicality of her environment. It seems real enough. She pats her pant pockets, feeling for something remembered. Reaching in she pulls out a small optical telescope lens, about five centimeters in diameter. The lens is scratched and worn, and familiar. She holds it tight against her chest. It comforts her. She walks out from under the shadow of the tree and closely inspects the lens. She tests it on her hand to see if it can generate heat from the sun. It gets hotter than she expects. She shakes the heat off her hand and instinctively blows air onto the tiny burn. TIME CUT TO: SAME SCENE - SUNSET The woman is sitting beside a small fire made from dried up palm frond stalks, twigs, and bits of driftwood; beach trash. She’s flipping the lens between her fingers. The mouth of the atoll opens directly west. The sun is setting over the lagoon, opposite where she sits. At this moment it is exactly halfway gone. She watches it shimmer as waves of heat radiate up through the atmosphere. She does a quick polish of the lens with her shirttail and holds it up to her eye, looking at the fish-eyed, upside down way it distorts the scene beyond. She hears the faint RUMBLE of THUNDER in the distance. Looking out she sees a web of lightning streak silently through a distant thundercloud out over the ocean. She waits for another thunderclap, but it doesn’t come. Here effects can precede causes. She tosses another stalk onto the fire. SPARKS SIZZLE and shower upward into the sky. She settles back on the sand,

9 one hand behind her head, the other across her middle holding the lens. She stares at the ascending sparks as they drift upward and blend into the stars beyond. Familiar constellations appear. The star patterns are correct for equatorial Earth. The sun has set. The woman struggles against sleep, but fatigue finally wins out and her mind drifts away... The unseen male voice speaks again, but this time with more authority, and less patience. UNKNOWN MAN (V.O.) What do you see? UNKNOWN WOMAN (V.O.) A door. UNKNOWN MAN (V.O.) Tell me what’s behind the door. Pause. FADE TO WHITE. UNKNOWN WOMAN (V.O.) Everything. The RUMBLE of OCEAN WAVES continues through the fade, but is slowly replaced by BREEZE through RUSTLING LEAVES; white noise for white noise. FADE IN: DREAM SEQUENCE - EXT. BACKYARD CLOTHESLINE – DAY A slow ZOOM OUT from an apparently plain white sheet reveals a pattern of small printed flowers, tastefully arranged far apart in irregular patterns against the colorless cotton background. The sheet hangs from a clothesline, and ripples gently in the air. It’s a bright sunny day. A slight BREEZE BLOWS through pale spring leaves in trees against a clear blue sky. A blond, six-year-old girl walks through and among a clothesline full of these same flower-printed sheets, gently touching them as she goes. The girl is clad in a simple white dress and bare feet. The sheets sway back and forth, animated by the wind, which brings them to life in the warmth of the sun. Stopping, the girl gathers up a bit of material and with eyes closed inhales deeply, smelling the clean, fresh

10 fabric. Every so often the girl runs fast between the sheets. There now seem to be too many sheets to be realistic. Together they form an endless maze with no edge or center. But the girl is unconcerned with finding her way out. She runs and smiles and laughs with complete abandon. The girl is not WOMAN LAUGHS as woman’s shadowy The woman takes alone. From somewhere O.S. a disembodied well. The girl catches a glimpse of the silhouette on the sheets and runs again. shape.

Finally the sandy brown haired woman appears, wearing a densely flower-printed dress. The woman corners the girl in among the sheets and scoops her up. The woman tickles her child’s neck with kisses until she screams with laughter; a combination of punishment and forgiveness that only a mother can deliver. The mother whispers something secret into the happy girl’s ear before loosening her grip just enough to let her child run away. The girl disappears out of this cotton universe... END DREAM SEQUENCE. DISSOLVE TO: INT. YOUNG GIRL’S BEDROOM - NIGHT ELLIE ARROWAY, the same little girl from the clothesline, wakes from a dream. She’s wearing an old, paintspattered, men’s white t-shirt as a nightgown. Cradled in her arms is a stuffed toy giraffe, maybe two feet tall. On the ceiling above her bed is an elaborate, stylized painting of stars, planets, rocket ships, and galaxies. The luminous paint glows bluish in the dark. Her eyes scan the intricacies of the design. It’s summer, so the top windowpane above her bed is open. LEAVES RUSTLE in the trees outside. CRICKETS CRIRP in and out of harmony. The stars press against her window. Her bed is a warm planet. She hears a distant train WHISTLE hollow echoes through the blackness, and her attention moves from painted stars to real ones. The girl climbs out from under her sheet cover to look

11 through the open window. The stars are dense, forming patterns and shapes in the blackness. She leans out as far as she dares to marvel at them. Her house is on the very edge of an old residential neighborhood. Her room is on the second floor, in the back. The backyard has a few large trees, a swing set, detached garage, garden and a clothesline; all barely visible in the starlight. The yard borders a cornfield, beyond which shine the lights of a small town. As she returns to her bedcover she notices a sliver of light under her closed bedroom door. It’s late. She crawls out of bed, opens the door, and goes to investigate. The CAMERA FOLLOWS her DOWN the hall and INTO the bathroom. She squints painfully from the bright light. A handsome young man, TED ARROWAY, is at the sink, shaving. He's in his mid twenties, muscular, with thick black hair against summer tanned skin. He has a towel wrapped around his waist. She can’t decipher what he’s doing. ELLIE Daddy? TED Hi, squirt. Can’t you sleep? ELLIE Daddy, why are you shaving at night when no one will know? He weighs his answer for a moment as he rinses the razor under the tap, smiling at her through the mirror. TED Mommy will know. She’s too young to understand, and too tired to pursue the question. Her parents are in love. He finishes shaving and rinses his face. TED Need a drink? She nods, still squinting and half asleep.

12 TED Airplane. She puts her arms up so her father can lift her flat across his. He lets her drink directly from the faucet. She turns the water off when finished and he flies her back down the hall to her bedroom.