Posted by Heather in In Production // July 15th, 2015
A serene suburban neighborhood in 1984. SAM (13) is caught in the middle of a tense fight between his father, ROBERT (40) and his mother, LAURA (37), who’s questioning her husband’s unilateral purchase of a new yellow corvette. Robert storms out of the house, yelling that she can drive the damn car. To try and make amends, Laura drops Sam off at school in the new Corvette – but as she pulls away, a car crashes into her – and Sam’s Mom dies right in front of his young eyes – abruptly ending his childhood.
At the funeral, Sam flashes back to a recent memory where his mom assured him that God would always love and watch over him. She gives Sam the prized cross off her neck. Having now lost faith in everything, Sam tosses the cross in with her corpse – and turns his back on everything he’s ever known. At 13.
Wracked with guilt and grief, Robert sinks into a deep depression, aggravating his alcoholism and drug addiction. Sam essentially loses both parents simultaneously. Any attempts to bond with Sam’s father meets with rejection. His father allows the insurance company to replace the Corvette – which sits, collecting dust, brand new in the garage – a creepy talisman standing between father and son.
Sam stumbles upon up the drums and has a surprising natural ability. With nothing to play on but an old tire, his talent is obvious. It is the one thing that makes him happy.
Sam’s need for a father figure leads him to befriend a neighbor on his paper route, FRANKIE, who gives Sam outsize tips for delivering the paper. Frankie (a band manager) recognizes Sam’s talent immediately. Sam’s new “friend” seems too good to be true. He is.
Sam’s best friend, MIKE, takes up the guitar, inspiring Sam to buy a drum set which he can now afford, thanks to Frankie’s odd generosity with his newspaper route tips. Frankie pays for Sam’s drum lessons and becomes a sounding board for both boys but introduces them both to drugs along the way. Sam learns to play – for real. He’s amazing.
Discovering an escape from the pain, Sam pours his heart and what’s left of his soul into endless hours of practice. Frankie mentors the boys’ discovery of great bands and songs from the 70s and 80s which help form the basis for their original music. The mold has been set.
10 years later …
Sam and Mike (both now 23) have honed their skills to a fever pitch. The duo, along with their bandmates, PAUL and NOEL have branded themselves as a band called Phantom and have achieved a significant regional following.
Into the picture struts AMY (22). All legs and hair. She’s a gorgeous preschool teacher with a heart of gold. Her love and dedication to her kids and their devotion to her is obvious – but Amy has another side: she’s a party girl. And we’re talkin’ party. Their fates implode when they meet at Frankie’s house during a wild party – their instant combustion culminates in sex on a bathroom counter within minutes of meeting one another.
Sam falls hard for the first person he’s been able to be intimate with (albeit almost exclusively physically – and usually high). But he falls with the impact of a delayed adolescence’s first love. Amy becomes his enabling, omnipresent groupie girlfriend who asks for nothing but sex, drugs and rock and roll – and that’s all Sam has to offer – or wants in exchange. Constantly high and drunk, it’s hard to know what’s lust, what’s a trip – and what’s real. But the love seems true – at least the rare glimpses of it that are in focus.
Sam, Mike and the boys pour all their energy and resources into the band, rehearsing in Sam’s rehearsal studio/bedroom above his dad’s garage. They play all over the region – parties, clubs, seedy bars – anywhere that’ll have ‘em. Their world is populated with bikers, skanks and drunks mixed in with the occasional upscale party, giving them a wide variety of situations and audiences to perform to and party with. Their success grows.
With Frankie now their manager, skimming excessively more than his fair share of their gig proceeds, he makes sure his Golden Goose has a steady supply of the weed, X and coke they need to be happy and ignorant of his thievery. The band’s dependence on Frankie is going according to his plan. Sam is a full-blown addict and the rest are along for the ride. Problem is: Frankie shouldn’t have become a heroin addict, too. It’s tough to be an effective Puppeteer when you’re beholden to the same strings.
The boys have fun on stage but the life of rock stars is anything but glamorous. The non-stop tour buses and revolving hotels wear on them. They’re beginning to wonder why they’re not getting ahead, making more money.
They’re frustrated but avoid a confrontation with Frankie because he has booked some larger venues with higher pay, including opening for a well- known band (TBD). They don’t want to rock the boat. Just yet. So, they soldier on. Ignoring the writing on the wall that everyone’s too stoned to read.
“Get on with your life,” his hypocritical dad demands. Distant and estranged, Robert gives Sam a two-month ultimatum: go to college (which he will fund) or get out of the house if he wants to continue to pursue what Robert considers a pointless lifestyle.
After a great show and interest from legendary producer, JOHN DAVIS, interested in signing the band, Sam and Amy celebrate – Rock ‘n’ Roll style. Already drugged out to the max, they do more drugs and have sex with wild abandon. She straddles him and joyfully rides him to an accidental drug overdose that kills her … on his lap … a second tragedy Sam never quite recovers from.
On the verge of success: the band breaks up. Sam is a no show to their life changing meeting to sign with the legendary producer. Mike and the rest of the band are understandably livid. Lifelong friendships end in that instant. With both loves of his young life ripped away from him by his own undoing, Sam is “lucky” to have his dad, now working on sobriety, holding out the college offer. Sam has no other choice. But he never loves anything so passionately again.
20 years later…
SAM (45) is now a successful media executive, numbly pursuing all the trappings of projected success but he and we know: he is empty inside. He has no one. Sure, he has what looks like a career, nice cars and a big house – but he’s not connected to a single person. He’s protected himself by never caring about anyone or anything ever again. He’s miserable.
Sam pulls out an old photo and letter from his top desk drawer. The letter appears crumpled and then smoothed out later. He stares at a photo of himself, Amy and her mother, JILL, in happier times. He reads the note that Jill sent him a year after Amy’s overdose, accusing him of being a coward for never reaching out to apologize. Sam is visibly upset as he reads the letter, even after all these years.
When his assistant, KELLY, suggests he take some time off from work, she’s shocked that – for the first time ever – he does. He’s out the door. She looks at the one plant in his office – dying on his credenza. She grabs it to water. We see that she genuinely cares for Sam, beyond being his assistant – something Sam hasn’t realized or appreciated.
Sam drives to the cemetery to lay a rose on Amy’s grave and gather his strength for the impending confrontation with her mother after all these years of avoidance. The meeting is tense and devastating for Sam. His wounds are ripped back open.
He drives to a nearby park and sits on a bench, oblivious to the beautiful day and carnival-like atmosphere all around him. A MAGICIAN performs for giggling, face-painted CHILDREN. Vendors and music are all eclipsed by his depression and loneliness. He comes to the realization that he can’t continue his life this way without help.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sam sees a homeless CRAZY DUDE roller skating around the park, playing an electric guitar with a pug mini amp strapped to his back. In his colorful spandex pants topped off with a long, mismatched robe and goggles lost in his unkempt kinky hair, partially hiding his filthy face, he looks insane. But Sam realizes: his licks are amazing. He’s blissfully lost in his own world playing Hendrix as he meanders seamlessly through pedestrians.
Sam cracks his first smile in a long time. Suddenly: the Crazy Dude makes intense, unrelenting eye contact with Sam. He lazy figure-eights right to Sam finishing up his solo. He stops rolling. He stops playing. He just stares, making little, low, humming noises. Sam is very uncomfortable. Sam gets up. The Crazy Dude takes off his goggles, revealing wild eyes.
Embarrassed and tongue-tied, Sam walks away but the Crazy Dude follows, screaming obscenities at him. Sam is struck by what the Crazy Dude rants: “Yo. YO! Dis MUTHAFUCKA has GOT the music in him! It’s IN him. I can see it. He bonafide.” Startled that this Crazy Dude has somehow seen through his businessman’s veneer to his inner musician’s soul, Sam’s disoriented, confused.
The Crazy Dude jams on his guitar, circling him. He chants louder. Parents rescue their children, cover their ears and dart accusatory glances in Sam’s direction. The Crazy Dude swirls around Sam, backwards and forwards, making him dizzy. The Crazy Dude sings, chants, zigzags – completely off his rocker. Freaked out, Sam scrambles to get away. He trips off the curb and SMACK! into an oncoming taxi.
Medics scramble to stabilize Sam in the ambulance. He is taken to the hospital where he’s placed in intensive care. During a moment of lucidity, he reconciles his relationship with Kelly who saw the whole thing happen from their office window. After he assures her and she leaves the hospital: Sam flat lines. Nurses rush into the room in an attempt to revive him. Unaware of the drama in Sam’s hospital room, Kelly drives away as Sam dies.
Sam’s soul consciousness leaves his body and rises to the ceiling. From his POV, we see the nurses and now a doctor racing around Sam’s bed below, working frantically to revive him. Sam’s awareness rises above the hospital, high up into the sky. We pass up through clouds then fly back down through warped, colorful clouds at breakneck speed. We fly past trees, buildings, grass. We’ve all had this dream. As we move closer to the ground, we see a speck. As we near, we recognize that it’s a man … laying down in a back yard. Closer still: Its 23 year-old Sam taking in the sun. We dive straight for him – and into him.
Sam jerks up, gasping involuntarily – as if something has just entered his body. He sits up and looks around, disoriented. Tries to shake it off. Flashes of the life 23-year old Sam has yet to live through flood his consciousness. He smiles and winces at the good moments and the bad, trying to make sense of it all. Amy under the sheet. A flash of yellow.
Sam, 23 years-old again, wakes up back in the “present” – but “informed” of his future. He jumps up and rushes to the garage. He peers in through window, overwhelmed with hope. The replacement Corvette looms inside. His mom is still dead. He’s crushed.
Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed! And he knows it! The question is … what will he do with this second chance at life and love? We join Sam as he tries to fix it a second time around – without anyone thinking he’s crazy. But …
…some things don’t change…
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