Once Again – Synopsis

A serene suburban neighborhood in 1989. 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 of his Mom, a devoutly religious woman who was completely devoted to him. Having now lost faith in everything, Sam tosses her chain and cross onto the pile of fresh dirt next to her grave, grinds it down with his shoe – and walks away – turning 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. Inexplicably, Robert replaces the Corvette with the exact model – 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…

1999

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. Their fates implode when they meet at Frankie’s house during a wild party – their instant combustion culminates in drug-induced sex.

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 rings true – at least the rare glimpses 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 variety of situations and audiences to perform to and party with. Their success grows.

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 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 high-profile label. 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 sells is beloved drum set. He never loves anything so passionately again.

20 years later…

PRESENT DAY

SAM (41) is now a successful media executive, numbly pursuing all the trappings of projected success but he and we know: he is empty inside.

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.

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. Sam’s 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. Sam cracks his first smile in a long time. Suddenly: the Crazy Dude makes intense, unrelenting eye contact with Sam. He proceeds to perform a lazy figure-eight right up to where Sam is sitting, and finishes his solo. He stops rolling. He stops playing. He just stares.

Embarrassed and tongue-tied, Sam walks away but the Crazy Dude follows, screaming obscenities at him. The Crazy Dude jams on his guitar, circling him. He chants louder. 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.

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. 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 his “past” life flood his consciousness.

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?

Sam makes his way up to the rehearsal studio. It’s exactly the same as he remembers it; the posters, the beat-up couch, his bong – and the drum set he sold twenty years earlier! He suddenly realizes that he’s twenty-three again. He stares at his ripped arms, the rings on his fingers – the skin of a 20 something. He looks into a wall mirror and is shocked by his reflection. Before he has a chance to register what’s happening, he hears footsteps coming up the stairs. It’s his best friend Mike.

Sam is overwhelmed, while Mike is perplexed, thinking Sam has lost his mind. Sam asks about Amy but is horrified to hear that Mike doesn’t know who she is. It’s as if she never existed. Mike is really worried about Sam now. There’s only one thing to do – tell Mike the truth and hope he believes him – and when that’s done, find his dad and do the same thing. It’s surreal. Lucky for Sam, they both “get it”.

Sam is back with his bandmates, paying his dues at seedy no name establishments and working their way up to bigger nightclubs, TV appearances and large concert venues.

Even with a second chance at success, old habits die hard. Sam finds himself attracted to the perks of being a rock star and starts to drink again. When a young fan accidently hits him at a stop-light, and begs for an autograph, Sam complies, only to be arrested for drunken driving and sentenced with community service at a local children’s hospital. It is here that he comes face-to-face with Amy “again”.

Sam catches his breath. In a lifetime where she never met him, she’s the nurse she always wanted to be – and still caring for children. Sam is overcome with emotion but he can’t let the cat out of the bag and scare her away – or worse!

He secretly watches her interact with the children and his amazed by her way with them. He walks up to the nurse’s station to introduce himself. Amy catches her breath – she feels it, too: instant familiarity mixed with instinctive lust. They both get chills.

Amy’s fellow nurse, CHARLENE, can feel the confusing chemistry. Initially, they are wary of Sam and think he’s been spying on Amy but after performing one of Phantom’s songs on his garbage pail, Sam charms the women and proves who he is. New friendships relationships are born in that moment.

Sam finds Amy in a stairwell, distraught, with a bottle of prescription pills. He stops her from taking them and their relationship begins ‘again’ from a completely different place – still a place of human faults but with compassion and empathy. They get to know one another and the relationship blossoms.

Amy convinces the Hospital Director, JIM COLLINS, to allow Sam to help her with the kids, instead of mopping floors and taking out trash. Sam meets LILY (9), one of the child patients in the cancer ward. Lily sees the connection between Amy and Sam right away. Sam becomes very close to the little girl whom Amy adores as well.

Meanwhile, the band is gearing up for a new tour and having a difficult time coming up with a final song for their next album. They are uninspired. Sam has an idea to bring the band to the hospital to see the amazing work being done there and spend time with the kids to give them some perspective. As out of place as the band is at the hospital, it’s an incredible experience for all. They are inspired to write their last song.

At the rehearsal, Sam tells everyone, including Amy, about his idea to do a benefit concert for the hospital. Everyone is on board. Amy is falling hard for Sam and allows him to take Lily for her weekly stroll outside. Sam parks Lily’s wheelchair without locking the wheels and leaves her to get some water at a nearby fountain. Lily’s wheelchair rolls down some stairs and throws her onto the grass where she is knocked unconscious.

This unforeseen event puts everything into perspective for Sam and brings out Amy’s compassion under difficult circumstances. Lily ends up being okay.

The concert at the high school stadium begins. As we hear the band play their signature song and see a montage of poignant moments:

  • Lily and the other KID PATIENTS watch the band, totally immersed.
  • Amy and Sam announce their marriage in front of a delighted Robert, Jill, band mates, Frank and Charlene and other friends.
  • In her hospital room, Lily looks off into the distance as she’s stuck with needles for the hundredth time.
  • Everyone at the reception dances, has a great time. Phantom members sit in with wedding band.
  • Bride Amy and Groom Sam laugh and dance.
  • Lily is alone, in pain, in her hospital bed.
  • A SOCIAL WORKER signs formal paperwork with Dr. Collins.
  • The hospital room is empty. No more blinking lights. No machines. No drawing above the bed. The bed is stripped. The lights are turned off.
  • Amy’s long hair whips in the wind from the driver’s seat.
  • Another head of baby-fine shorter hair whips in the wind from the passenger seat.
  • Amy smiles at Lily as they blare Phantom’s music.

Sam sits on a bench on a sunny afternoon surrounded by an art fair. The mood is fun but chill, a comfortable would apart from the carnival feel from Sam’s first life in this same park. Sam sees the Crazy Dude from the first life, thinks maybe he recognizes him but can’t quite place it.

This time around, the Crazy Dude’s way more sedate, cool, playing a blues rendition of “We Won’t Be Shaken” on an acoustic guitar. Sam gets up from his bench and motions to the Crazy Dude if he can sit in. He’s welcome. Sam grabs a plastic tub off the ground, turns it over and begins to play a beat to the Crazy Dude’s music. The two men laugh – connected deep through the music – no words necessary.

A horn honks. Sam looks up, shakes the Crazy Dude’s hand, flips the tub back over – throws some money in his hat – and jogs over to the waiting open car door. Sam kisses his wife, Amy, and his new adoptive daughter, Lily, and hops in – and they drive off – a happy new family – with a second chance at life.

##

Key Character Timeline Breakdowns

                                       1989                                                       1999                                                          Present Day

Teen Sam (13)

Sam’s D.O.B. =~ 1976

Sam (23)

  • 1st Life: Rock Star, druggie Phantom Drummer
  • 2nd Life: Phantom Drummer, Philanthropist, Husband and Adoptive Father
Adult Sam (41)

Emotionally disconnected, financially successful businessman

Amy (22) Love Interest

  • 1st Life: Junkie, Phantom Groupie, Preschool Teacher
  • 2nd Life: Nurse in a Children’s Hospital Cancer Ward, still fighting Addiction (some things never change), Wife and Adoptive Mother

Robert (Sam’s Dad)

(40)  absent, addict father in a car buff mid-life crisis 1st Life (50) recovering alcoholic, car buff 2nd Life (67) sober car buff, great father-son relationship
Teen Mike (13)

Sam’s Best Friend

Mike (23) 

Sam’s Best Friend, Phantom guitarist

 For more information, visit: Once Again