(Scene: a street in downtown Memphis. KRIS, ADAM, DANNY, ALLISON, and MATT are walking along, taking in all the sights and sounds of the city. There are still many people out and about.)
DANNY: What a nice night to be out walking in Memphis.
KRIS: (Smiles) And now you got a song stuck in my head.
MATT: But seriously, can you believe we are actually in the birthplace of Elvis Presley?
ALLISON: Yeah, we totally have to go to Graceland while we're here!
DANNY: When are we gonna have time to do that?
ALLISON: After the auditions. We don't have to head to L.A. as soon as we get our golden tickets. There's a waiting period. It said so on their website.
KRIS: We'll see. I want to go, too.
ADAM: Did I ever tell you guys about the psychic who said that I was the reincarnation of Elvis? I'm not sure if I believe it or not, but I was honored.
MATT: You know, I can actually see that. You do kind of look like him.
ADAM: Yeah, I get that a lot. And I hope I can leave as big a mark on music as he did.
KRIS: That would be nice. But artists like Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, they only come around once in a generation. That's why it hurts so much when they're gone.
MATT: Very true. But right now the only thing that hurts is my stomach, because I'm starving.
DANNY: Well, look around. What looks like a good place to eat? And Allison doesn't get a say.
ALLISON: You're never gonna let me live that down, are you?
ADAM: (Stops in front of a building) Hmm. How about this place?
(They all stop in front of a building with a sign that reads "The Songbird Tree." Above the words is an image of a bird in a tree. Through the window, we see vibrant colors and lots of people.)
KRIS: I don't know, Adam, it doesn't look like they serve food here. I think it's just a nightclub.
ADAM: Well, we're not gonna know unless we go in.
DANNY: I'm with Kris on this. I think we should keep looking.
ALLISON: Aw, come on, this place looks so cool.
MATT: And if I take another step, I think my legs are gonna give out. We've been walking around ever since we check into the motel; I gotta sit down.
ADAM: Then it's settled. Let's check it out.
(He opens the door and enters, and the others follow. Cut to the inside of the Songbird Tree, as they enter in and look around. The atmosphere is slightly hazy, and lights of red, blue, and yellow hang from the ceiling. The walls are painted a light orange, and the furniture is all dark. The room is alive with the chatter of satisfied customers, all appearing to be in good moods. In one corner, there is a fireplace with a burning fire and a few long couches and plushy chairs around a table.)
DANNY: It's a little loud in here...
ALLISON: Yeah, but it smells nice.
(Noticing that all of the large tables are occupied, they all go over to the bar and sit down. Behind the counter, ANOOP slides a drink over to another customer, looks and sees them, and goes over to them. He is 21 years old and somewhat tall, with brown skin, short black hair, and brown eyes.)
ANOOP: Hey there! Welcome to the Songbird Tree. Can I get you guys something to drink?
KRIS: Actually, we were just wondering if there was food here. Sorry, I know that sounds weird, but we're passing through on a road trip, and we were looking for somewhere to eat when we found this place. It's really nice in here, but I wasn't sure if it was just a bar or what.
ANOOP: No, we serve food here. (Leans in a little, lowers his voice slightly) But I'll be honest, it's not great. Our main selling point is the alcohol, so they skimp on the food in the hopes that people will be too drunk to care.
ADAM: That is totally fine. We'll take anything as long as it's cheap.
ANOOP: Well, five bucks will get you a burger and fries, so I'd say it's a good deal. (Reaches under the counter and pulls out five menus) Take a look and let me know when you've made up your minds. I'll be right back; I gotta go take care of someone else.
DANNY: Alright. (Opens up his menu and browses) Now this is more like it...
ALLISON: (To MATT) Adam and I have been living on a budget ever since we hit the road. That's how we got to be such good friends with Kris. Our first day in town, he took us out to lunch.
MATT: (Chuckles) Oh yeah, I remember you telling that story. Is this what he does, just goes around looking for people to help out? First you guys, then Danny, then me...
KRIS: (Smiles) Nah. Most of the time they just come to me. And this whole thing started because Adam wanted to help Allison get her career started, so talk to him.
(Just then, a group of Hell's Angels approaches the five of them from behind, and one of them pounds on the bar, startling them all to turn around. A tall, burly man in leather with a beard and large tattoos on his arms steps forward and glares at them. His voice is rough, and one of his eyes is made of glass.)
CYCLOPS: (Menacing tone) Get out of our seats.
KRIS: I'm sorry?
CYCLOPS: You heard me. These are our seats, now get up and move!
MATT: Oh, really? I don't see any names on them.
BIKER: Don't give us attitude, mole face. We've been coming here since this place opened, and we own the front row. (Moves towards ADAM) Now get your fat ass out of our seats!
ADAM: (Turns around in the seat, very casual) Excuse me, sir, but we were here first, and while I'm flattered that you've been staring at my ass, I try not to get too personal with strangers. Why don't you buy me a drink first and then we'll talk.
(Some of the others laugh, including a few of the Hell's Angels, but the biker looks repulsed.)
BIKER: Sass me again, glitter boy, and I'll take you out back and pound you so hard, you'll stick to the pavement!
ADAM: (Maintaining his casual tone) Mmm, no thanks. I'm not really into bears.
(The bikers react to the diss. ALLISON bursts out laughing, and the CYCLOPS glares at her.)
CYCLOPS: What are you laughing at, bitch? (Marches up to her with his fist raised) I'll give you something to laugh about if you don't get up out of my seat-
ANOOP: (Goes over to them, assertive tone) Hey! Cyclops! (The bikers all turn and see him; CYCLOPS lowers his fist) Are you giving these people a hard time?
CYCLOPS: They took our seats!
ANOOP: There are no assigned seats here, Cyclops, and you know that. Now take your pack and go find somewhere else to sit.
ANOOP: (Very stern) Now.
CYCLOPS: (Groans, walks away) Fine.
BIKER: (As they all follow him away) That's f**king gay.
ADAM: (Grabs him by the shoulders, grins, flirty voice) Yes! I love it, too!
(The biker hurries away, and everyone laughs, including ANOOP, who goes back behind the bar.)
ANOOP: Sorry about that. Those guys don't usually give us much trouble.
DANNY: Well, thanks for getting us out of it.
ANOOP: No problem. Have you guys decided what you want yet?
KRIS: Yeah, I think we're all set.
CYCLOPS: (Calls from a table in the back) Hey, Desai! Are you gonna take our orders or what?
ANOOP: Or what! You know I only do drinks. If you want food, you'll have to call for a waiter.
MATT: What was that they called you?
ANOOP: That's my name. Anoop Desai. (ALLISON snickers, ANOOP rolls his eyes) Please don't. I got enough of that in high school.
ALLISON: Sorry. I'm Allison.
MATT: I'm Matt.
DANNY: And I'm Danny.
ANOOP: Nice to meet you. So how long are you guys gonna be in town?
ADAM: Just until the Star Seekers auditions are over. We're going tomorrow.
ANOOP: Well, good luck to you. I sang for them earlier today, but they turned me down.
ALLISON: Wait, you sing?
ANOOP: Yeah, I've always wanted to be a singer. I'm just working here to pay off my tuition. My friend Lil and I take turns performing and tending the bar. As a matter of fact, she's going on in... (Pulls his phone out of his pocket and looks at the time) Right now.
MATT: Is that an iPhone?
MATT: (Pulls his iPhone out of his pocket) Team iPhone!
ANOOP: (Smiles) Nice. (Goes over to a light switch on the wall) Now if you'll excuse me, I have to start the show. If you were wondering why Cyclops and his gang like those seats so much, you're about to find out. You guys have the best view of the stage.
(He dims the lights, and everyone cheers and turns their attention to the stage. The five friends stay silent and watch as a spotlight shines on the stage, which has nothing but a microphone and stand on it. ANOOP picks up a microphone from behind the bar and speaks into it.)
ANOOP: What's up, how's everybody doing tonight? (Audience cheers) Thank you all for coming out to the Songbird Tree...uh, DJ, I'm over here. (The spotlight moves onto him, he blinks and shields himself from the bright light for a second and then returns) That's better. It's that time of the night when we show you all how we got our name. And now, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the star of the night, Ms. Lil Rounds! (As the audience cheers even more loudly) Now you can go to the stage!
(The spotlight returns to the stage, and as the music starts, LIL walks out with a smile and a wave to the audience. Right on cue, she walks around the stage as she sings "I'm Every Woman." She is 23 years old and African-American, thin and somewhat short, with brown eyes and short brown hair. Some audience members dance in their seats, while others get up. KRIS, ADAM, ALLISON, DANNY, and MATT watch in fascination. When the song is over, the entire audience erupts in loud cheering, and she smiles and blows kisses at them, waving to certain people.)
LIL: Thank you all! I love you guys! Thanks so much for coming out tonight!
ADAM: Man, that girl can sing!
DANNY: Yeah, she sure can.
(The others continue to watch the stage. Fade into the next scene, a little while later. The five friends, along with ANOOP and LIL, are all gathered at a large table. Most of the crowd has left.)
KRIS: Can I just say, you were incredible up there.
LIL: Aw, thank you. We really got lucky; it's not every day we get a crowd this big.
ANOOP: Yeah, someone actually got to the good seats before Cyclops tonight. (The others laugh)
LIL: So Anoop tells me y'all are auditioning for Star Seekers?
ADAM: Yup. First thing tomorrow morning, we'll be in line for the cattle call. I've seen pictures from other stops on their website; it's insane how many people are showing up for this thing.
MATT: Sounds like a lot of "hurry up and wait." I'll try and remember to pack lunch.
ANOOP: You're gonna need it. I was one of the last ones to sing for them, and I just barely made it here on time for my shift. (Sighs) I waited eight hours in line just to be turned down.
DANNY: Well, maybe they didn't think you were ready. How long have you been singing?
ANOOP: Since I was a kid. I didn't really have time for it growing up, I played a lot of sports, but my parents always enjoyed it when I sang, and then I joined an a cappella group at school.
KRIS: Where did you go?
ANOOP: UNC, Chapel Hill. That's where I'm from. I came out here to try and break into the music business, but I still needed to pay off the school for the time I was there. And as luck would have it, a few days after I got here, I met Lil and she got me a job at the Songbird Tree.
LIL: And we've been taking turns singing and working the bar ever since.
ALLISON: (To LIL) So how did you end up here?
LIL: Well, I've lived in Memphis all my life, and now it's me, my husband, and our three kids. About a year ago, a tornado blew in and tore up our house, and it cost us a lot more than we had to repair, so my husband and I each had to get a second job. I heard about a place that lets people sing as part of their shift, and I've always wanted to be a singer, I've been singing my whole life, so I thought it was perfect. And it really is. I love watching everybody else perform, and seeing the crowds that come to hear us. People have come up to me and said that I'm the reason they keep coming back every week. And that just warms my heart.
DANNY: Are you going to audition for Star Seekers, too?
LIL: Nah. I thought about going today, but I'm just not sure I have what it takes to stand out. When you think about how many people are auditioning, my chances aren't great.
ADAM: Are you kidding me? After a performance like that? You totally have what it takes!
LIL: You really think so?
ALLISON: Yeah, didn't you hear them cheering? You brought the house down!
KRIS: If you want to come along with us tomorrow, we'd be happy to have you.
LIL: Well...I'll have to talk to my boss first, but maybe I will go with you guys. What time?
MATT: These guys are usually up and ready by 6:30, so probably around 7:00.
LIL: (Takes out a pen and a napkin and writes something down) Here's my address. Thank you guys so much. You really don't have to do this.
ADAM: Oh, yes we do. That voice needs to be heard.
ANOOP: (Checks the time on his phone, stands up) Well, we better start cleaning up if we want to clock out of here on time. (Walks over towards the bar, looks back at LIL) I'll cover the early bird rush tomorrow, if you're gonna be at the auditions all day.
LIL: Let's hope they haven't packed up and moved on already. I heard they've been doing that a lot, going right to the next stop without telling people. Did that happen to you guys?
(The others answer in the affirmative and then laugh. Eventually LIL laughs along with them.)
KRIS: (As the laughter dies down) But seriously, do you know where we could find a place to stay?
LIL: I'm not sure. There are a lot of cheap motels around here, just take your pick.
ANOOP: Anywhere but the Roadway Inn. I stayed there one night for a friend's bachelor party; that place needed to be condemned. There was no heat, the water tasted funny, there were cobwebs everywhere, dead bugs in the beds, and used condoms in the trash cans. (The others look surprised and some disgusted) Also, the food sucked and the pool was dirty.
DANNY: (Nervous laugh) Okay, note taken.
(Scene: the Songbird Tree the next day. We get a glimpse of the outside, as people walk up and down the busy street, and then cut to the inside, where ANOOP is bringing chairs down from the tables. As he moves from one table to the next, KRIS, ADAM, DANNY, ALLISON, MATT, and LIL walk in. Most are smiling, but a few look tired. None are particularly well dressed or groomed.)
LIL: Good morning.
ANOOP: Morning. I didn't think I'd see you guys until later. Did you get in early?
DANNY: Nope. We didn't get in at all.
ANOOP: (Looks over at them as he continues working) What? Why not?
ADAM: (Looks at KRIS with a smile) Do you want to tell the story from the beginning?
KRIS: (Chuckles) Okay, if you insist. (To ANOOP) You see, ever since we hit the road for Star Seekers, I've taken it upon myself to set an alarm on my phone every morning, so we can get up early, have a good breakfast, and make ourselves look nice for the auditions.
ANOOP: (Intrigued) Yeah...
KRIS: (Slightly embarrassed) Well, this morning was a little...different.
(Cut to a flashback of earlier that morning. KRIS is lying in bed, slowly stirring awake. As he stretches in place, he turns over and opens his eyes to see the clock on the nightstand, which reads 7:30. He gasps and his eyes go wide as he startles up and rushes out of bed. As he runs around the room, gathering up his clothes and toiletries, ADAM and ALLISON are stirred awake.)
ALLISON: Kris? What's going on?
KRIS: The alarm didn't go off! We gotta get going, now!
(They both look over at the clock and are startled out of bed, and they also rush around the room.)
ADAM: Oh, s**t! How did that happen?
KRIS: (Off camera) I must've forgotten to set it last night! I'm sorry!
MATT: (As he and DANNY come into their room) What happened? Why didn't you come get us?
ALLISON: We forgot to set the alarm!
ADAM: Oh no, Lil's waiting for us! We better call her. Did anyone get her number?
DANNY: (Comes into their room, trying to fit into a plaid shirt) Aw, come on, I can't have gained that much weight already! This shirt doesn't fit!
KRIS: (Looks out from the bathroom) That's because it's mine. (Takes the shirt from DANNY)
DANNY: Oh. Sorry. Our suitcases look the same.
(Just out of view, someone trips over something and hits the ground with a loud, shaky thud.)
MATT: (Off camera) I'm okay!
(Cut back to the present. Everyone is blushing and some are quietly laughing along with ANOOP.)
MATT: I think I put toothpaste on my toast this morning.
ALLISON: That's alright, I washed my face with milk by mistake.
ADAM: Don't even ask what I tried to comb my hair with.
DANNY: Well, I almost used peanut butter instead of shaving cream.
KRIS: I turned on the news to check the forecast for today, and it took me five minutes to realize the TV was on "Sesame Street."
ANOOP: (Pulls himself together) Oh, man. So did you ever get to the auditions?
LIL: Yeah, they came and picked me up around 8:00. They explained what happened, and I just laughed. It's a good thing I'd already eaten; we didn't even have time for a coffee run. Of course, none of them got a chance to shower, so the van stank the whole way there.
MATT: Aw, come on, it wasn't that bad.
LIL: That's because you can't smell your own stink. Anyway, we got to the theater, and there was nobody there, and I mean nobody. So we went up to the front door, and sure enough, there's a sign saying that they've already packed up and moved on to the next city.
ALLISON: This is now the third time that that's happened to us.
ANOOP: Wow, really? (The others confirm it.) Damn, how do you guys keep missing the bus?
KRIS: Because they can't bother to update their website with the correct audition schedule.
ADAM: I'm starting to think the Universe doesn't want us to audition for this thing.
ALLISON: No, don't say that. That means we've been driving all over the country for nothing.
ANOOP: Do you know where the next stop is?
DANNY: According to the map, they're heading to Phoenix, Arizona. There's a gap between here and there on the schedule, but I'm not sure how much I trust that now.
MATT: The first date listed for Phoenix is a week from now, so we've got time before we have to head out. (Looks around) Hey, where is everybody? Aren't you opening up now?
ANOOP: This is everybody. Three in the kitchen, two on maintenance, and then there's me.
LIL: We're always a little short staffed. People take up jobs here to save their money while they're waiting for their big break, but then as soon as they get a gig somewhere else, they quit.
KRIS: Without any notice? That's rude. Well, if you guys need any help around here, we don't have anywhere to be for another week, so... (ANOOP and LIL look eager)
LIL: You mean it? Because we need all the help we can get.
ANOOP: We'll pay you.
DANNY: Oh, no, that won't be necessary-
ADAM: (To DANNY) Uh, yes it will.
DANNY: What? No, we can't take... (To ANOOP and LIL) Would you give us a minute?
LIL: Sure, talk it over. We'll be right here.
(As LIL joins ANOOP in getting the club ready to open, the other five huddle up and talk softly.)
ADAM: What is your problem? It's the perfect plan. They need the help, and we need the cash.
DANNY: I just don't think it's right to take money from them when we barely know them. The best kinds of people help others without expecting any reward. You said so yourself.
KRIS: I see where you're coming from, Danny, but it's okay. They pay us for working here, and we have something even better to offer them.
MATT: So now we're inviting them to come along, too?
KRIS: Why not? They've been good to us. We know Lil can sing, and Anoop is probably looking for a second chance. Besides, the van can fit up to seven people.
ALLISON: But how are we gonna fit in there with all our stuff?
KRIS: Right. (Short pause, sighs) Look, we'll talk more about this later. Right now we should just make the offer, and if they say yes, then we'll worry about the other thing.
(They break up the huddle and face ANOOP and LIL. KRIS clears his throat to get their attention, and they both stop what they are doing and turn to face them.)
KRIS: Okay, it's a deal. We'll work for you here, for the week, helping you out with whatever you need. You'll pay us, and then...we'll take the two of you with us to the auditions in Phoenix.
LIL: (As both of them turn excitedly back to them) Say what?!
ANOOP: Are you serious?!
ADAM: Yeah, we're serious. (To LIL) You've got the voice and the stage presence, (To ANOOP), and you need to take advantage of your second chance. Come with us.
ANOOP: Oh, right, I forgot you can try again in another city.
LIL: I...I don't know what to say...how long is this gonna be? It'll take at least a day to get to Phoenix, and then there's the callback in L.A., and I don't know if I can leave my husband alone with the kids for that long-
ALLISON: Relax, Lil. With a voice like yours, they have to pick you, and then it'll all be worth it.
LIL: You really think so? (To ANOOP) I don't know, what should I do?
ANOOP: You can do what you want, but I'm going with them. I've got nothing holding me here, and this could be the best chance we ever have of making it in music.
LIL: That doesn't sound like you. You're always the practical one out of us.
ANOOP: (Shrugs) What can I say? When I'm too close to my dreams, I stop making sense.
LIL: (Smiles at him, turns to the others) Alright, count me in. (The others cheer)
DANNY: Welcome aboard the Star Seekers express.
MATT: Now let's go talk to the boss about getting on the payroll.
KRIS: Uh, actually, would it be okay if we started tomorrow? There's something important we have to take care of today, and it might be best if you guys come with us.
ANOOP: Um...okay... (A large crowd starts to pour in) Uh oh, here comes the lunch crowd!
LIL: You better get up on stage, boy!
(ANOOP hurries over to the stage area as LIL takes up her place behind the bar. The others sit down at a table near the stage as the crowd files in and occupies all of the empty seats.)
ALLISON: So are we staying for lunch? I'm starving.
ADAM: We might as well. I just wanted to hear Anoop sing.
(Not long after the audience settles in, multicolored lights flash on the stage and everyone cheers as music plays and ANOOP walks out with a microphone in his hand. He walks around in rhythm as he sings "Caught Up," and some excited young women near the stage reach up to touch his hand. KRIS, ADAM, DANNY, ALLISON, and MATT are highly invested the performance. When the song is over, they applaud along with the rest of the audience. ANOOP smiles out at them.)
KRIS: Somebody wanna tell me how this guy got rejected? (The others agree with him)
(Scene: later that day. KRIS, ADAM, DANNY, ALLISON, MATT, ANOOP, and LIL are driving down a street in the silver van. There is a car dealership up ahead.)
LIL: I don't get why you guys are trading this in. We all fit in here just fine.
ANOOP: Yeah, but what about our luggage? We can't fold down the backseat with all seven of us, and I'm not sitting with my suitcase on my lap all the way to Phoenix.
MATT: Besides, if we miss the bus again, we're probably gonna end up taking someone else with us, and then we'll be scrambling to find a bigger van.
ALLISON: I gotta say, for all the trouble it's given us, I'm gonna miss this old rust bucket.
DANNY: Rust bucket is right. I saw the underside of this thing as I was changing the tire. I'm surprised it hasn't just fallen apart on you guys.
(They pull into the car dealership and park in the first empty space. As they all get out of the van, a dealer man in a nice suit approaches them with a smile.)
DEALER: Hello there! Welcome to Ford Motors of Memphis. How can I help you?
KRIS: We're looking to trade in this van. We've been touring the country trying to break into the music business, and we're gonna need something a little bigger.
DEALER: Hmm... (Takes a close look at the van) This is a pretty big van already. Holds up to seven passengers, expandable cargo room, a little bit of rust, but not too bad, nothing we can't fix up here. How much space do you think you need?
ADAM: Well, at first it was just the three of us (motions to KRIS and ALLISON), and it was fine for us and all our instruments and stuff, but we've been trying to catch the Star Seekers bus for four days now, and our tour group keeps getting bigger with each stop we make.
DEALER: Ah, I see. Well, you've certainly come to the right place. We've got cars, trucks, vans and SUVs in all shapes and sizes, and I think I have just the thing for you. Follow me.
(They all follow the dealer to the back of the lot, where they find a large white van with perfectly clear windows. It is in very good condition, and there is a Ford logo on the front.)
DEALER: Ford doesn't usually deal in oversized utility vans, but this model has been on their back burner for months now. One of their factories is right down the road from this town, and the manager got us a few before they release them to the public. This thing can seat up to ten people, and there's plenty of room in back for everyone's baggage in the back hatch. It's a four-wheel drive, top speed of 120, and it also comes with Sync technology, for if any of you have smartphones, air bags all around, fold down seats, of course, and a built-in GPS.
ADAM: What about gas mileage?
DEALER: You know, I was really surprised, but for all its power, it's remarkably fuel efficient. Gets up to 60 miles per gallon and puts out 80% less smog compared to other vehicles this size.
KRIS: Wow. Almost sounds too good to be true. (Look at the others) So what do you guys think?
ALLISON: I think it looks like something creepy old guys try to lure little kids into with candy.
DANNY: Yeah, I'm gonna have to agree with her on that. Although at least it has windows.
DEALER: It's alright, you're not the first to say that. Unfortunately, it doesn't come in any other colors. Maybe it will once it becomes available to the public.
MATT: Well, I don't know if we'll find anything like this anywhere else. I think we should take it.
ANOOP: (Quietly) Hang on, let's see if we can get a good deal for it first. (To the dealer) What's the starting price?
DEALER: Well, let's see, an exclusive model like this is worth $228,000, according to the guys at Ford, but your van could probably go for $18,000. That brings the price down to $210,000.
LIL: Uh...I don't think that's gonna work. Maybe we should just sit with our bags on our laps.
DANNY: Relax, we might not have to pay that much. One of the guys in my church choir is a car dealer, and he says customers always find a way to get a lower price out of him.
LIL: Then he must not be a very good salesman.
DEALER: Is there a problem?
ADAM: No, we're just talking it over. I think we're gonna take it.
DEALER: Well, why don't you come with me to my office and we can talk about payment options.
(They follow him into the dealership building. As they walk, they talk quietly amongst themselves.)
MATT: I don't see how we're going to afford this thing, when we stay in crappy motels and struggle just to pay the check at a restaurant.
KRIS: Don't worry. Remember how I said the credit cards were for emergency use only?
ALLISON: But I don't have a credit card.
KRIS: Then you're off the hook. You're underage, anyway; they can't register it in your name, at least not without getting your parents involved. The six of us will be able to cover it.
(There is slight apprehension in his voice and nervousness in his face as he says this last line, and the others notice it. Cut to the dealer's office, a little while later. The six adults each sign a paper, and the dealer takes it and adds it to a large collection of documents. He looks very pleased.)
DEALER: And we're done. Congratulations on your new set of wheels. (Hands over two sets of keys) Here are your keys. Have fun, and if you ever have any issues, just give us a call.
KRIS: Thank you, sir. (They each shake hands with the dealer)
DEALER: My pleasure. Good luck at your auditions!
(They exit the office and walk back through the dealership, looking around at the other Ford cars.)
ANOOP: (Turns to ADAM, low voice) You do know this is gonna leave us all broke, right?
ADAM: Yeah, I know. That's why we're gonna work extra hard to get signed, so we can pay it off.
LIL: That's really wishful thinking, Adam. I'm all for optimism, but our chances of actually making it are slim. This is a really tight competition.
ADAM: I have to believe we're gonna make it. Otherwise, what are we doing out here?
(Cut to the lot, as the large white van drives away. ALLISON waves to the silver van left behind and then settles into the confortable seats of the new van. The sun is starting to set now, and just as the white van disappears from view, a black Ford car drives by slowly and parks at a public lot. We hear the doors open and close, and soon VITO appears on screen, walking down the sidewalk opposite the Ford dealership. ALEX, RICKY, VON, and SETH are close behind him.)
VITO: I'm not talking to you. I'm mad at you. You just cost us a whole day of travel.
SETH: I'm sorry, Ray, but I'm not familiar with this area, and Ricky was telling me to go one way and the GPS was sending me another way and I wasn't sure which one was quicker.
RICKY: Hey, don't blame this on me. I was just reading the map.
VITO: Yeah, well, we almost ended up in North Carolina because you drive like a girl. From now on, you leave the driving to me. (Turns to all of them) Got it?
VON: Fine, boss, whatever you want. But I don't see why we couldn't have asked for directions.
VITO: Because we're men, Von, and real men figure things out all by themselves. Now let's see if we can find out what Kris and his circus side show are up to.
ALEX: Can we grab a bite to eat first? I'm starving.
VITO: (As they all walk off camera) Why must you always think with your stomach?
(Scene: the Songbird Tree the next day. KRIS, ADAM, DANNY, ALLISON, and MATT have joined the few staff members in the main room as they sweep, dust, and arrange chairs around tables. They all wear similar white shirts and black pants. ADAM goes behind the bar with ANOOP.)
ADAM: (Fixes himself a drink) Alright, I think we're ready to open up.
ANOOP: Awesome. Lil and I both have big numbers planned for tonight, so I'll need someone else tending the bar. How's your cocktail game?
ADAM: (Slides the drink over to ANOOP) You tell me.
ANOOP: (Takes a sip of the drink, seems impressed) Not bad. Think you can handle the rush?
(Just then, the front door opens and customers begin to pour in from outside.)
ADAM: I guess we're about to find out.
ANOOP: Good luck, and if you need anything, I'll be backstage.
(He exits as the other staff members put away the cleaning supplies and turn their attention to the customers. They greet guests and show them to seats at tables and at the bar. Cut to the kitchen, as half of the other employees assume their positions. As they fire up the stove and oven, KRIS opens the door and stands in the doorway, looking slightly overwhelmed.)
KRIS: Okay, guys, that biker gang is back and they just put in a really big order. I'm gonna need five grilled cheese sandwiches, four beef tacos, three hamburgers, two hot dogs, one plate of spaghetti and meatballs, thirteen orders of fries, and fifteen Coca-Colas. Got it?
(The others answer in the affirmative and get out all of the necessary ingredients as KRIS leaves. Fade into a montage of scenes from the rest of the workday. The five friends go about their jobs, which includes taking orders, fetching silverware and napkins, and cleaning up spilled food and drinks. ADAM is kept very busy at the bar, but everyone is satisfied with their drinks. ANOOP and LIL are each shown onstage at different points, but we do not hear what they are singing. At one point, a cocktail waitress trips over someone's outstretched leg, and the red drink she is carrying on the tray tips over and stains her shirt. ALLISON goes over to her with some paper towels.)
ALLISON: (Quietly) I can take it from here. You go change.
COCKTAIL WAITRESS: Thank you. (Exits)
(ALLISON cleans the mess off the floor and then turns to the customers. The scenes continue in this style, and no one notices when RICKY, VON, and SETH walk into the club and sit at the very back of the room. They are very observant of their surroundings. Eventually the crowd files out and the staff gets to work wiping down tables. When the montage is over, we cut to the kitchen at the end of the day. Everyone looks exhausted, including DANNY as he pulls a fully loaded trash bag out of the garbage can, ties it up, and hauls it outside. As LIL takes stock of the pantry and ANOOP surveys the refrigerator, ADAM is eating a slice of chocolate pie.)
ADAM: Maybe it's the booze talking, but this S'mores pie is delicious.
LIL: Yeah, well, we're not gonna have any for tomorrow if somebody doesn't go to the store and get more marshmallows.
MATT: I'm on it. (Walks off camera)
ANOOP: (Looks over at him) And while you're there, we also need more butter, and some popcorn for the bar. Microwave is fine.
LIL: Y'all are good to go as soon as he gets back.
ALLISON: Good, 'cause I'm about ready to pass out. I'm gonna sleep 'til 10:00 tomorrow morning and I'm still gonna wake up exhausted.
KRIS: Just think, it'll be good practice for when you go to college.
ALLISON: Who said I was going to college? You think my parents are gonna pay for that after I ran away? No way, man, I'm taking the Free Mantle contract and running with it.
ANOOP: That contract isn't a guarantee, you know. (Looks over at her, surprised) Wait, you ran away from home?
ALLISON: Didn't I tell you that already?
LIL: No, y'all told us where you were from, but I don't remember that part of the story. (Pulls up a seat) Now you have to tell us everything.
ADAM: (Puts down his dirty plate and fork) Can it wait until tomorrow? We're all beat.
MATT: (Comes back into the kitchen) Uh...how do you get to the grocery store from here?
ANOOP: (As they all laugh) How long did it take you to realize that?
LIL: Oh, don't bother now, they're probably closed. You can go tomorrow morning before your shift. Now which of you guys are performing tomorrow night? (KRIS, ADAM, and MATT all raise their hands.) Do you guys need anything from us?
KRIS: Yeah, I'm gonna need a drummer, or at least a drum track. Matt can play piano for me.
ANOOP: You play?
MATT: Yeah, I've been playing for a long time. I would do this cool thing back home called dueling pianos, where I'd play a bunch of songs with another guy and we'd do harmonies and little battles on stage. It was a ton of fun.
LIL: Sure sounds like it. We've had something like that here before, a couple of guys playing piano together. Remember that, Anoop? (ANOOP nods)
MATT: Elton John and Billy Joel once did a whole tour with dueling pianos. Now there's a show I'd have killed to get into. They're two of my heroes.
DANNY: (Returns to the kitchen, panting) Are we good to go now?
ANOOP: Yeah, it's time for us to clock out. See you tomorrow.
(They all bid each other goodnight as they go their separate ways. ANOOP and LIL stay behind.)
LIL: I love them. I've only known them for a few days and I love them.
ANOOP: Yeah, they're cool. A little weird, but very chill.
LIL: (After a short pause, smile fades) Do you think we're doing the right thing?
ANOOP: What do you mean?
LIL: Going with them to the auditions. Is it really worth it?
ANOOP; Well, it's kind of late to back out now. We just helped them put the down payment on a new van so we could go to this thing.
LIL: I know. It's just...I haven't been away from my kids since they were born, and now, leaving them for weeks, maybe even months on end, to go see if I could be a famous singer...I'm starting to feel like a bad mom.
ANOOP: Lil, you are not a bad mom. Maybe it'll be hard for them while you're gone, but it'll pay off whether you get signed to Free Mantle or not. You're taking a huge risk to follow a dream that you've had your whole life. Think about the example that sets. When they grow up and have something they're passionate about, they'll know to go after it, and not to let anything stand in their way. Because that's what you did. That sounds like a great mom to me.
LIL: (Turns to him, smiles softly) Why is it that you always know what to say?
ANOOP: I don't know. What I do know is that there's nothing holding me back, and I can't wait to get out of this town.
LIL: It must be so nice, not have anything tying you down. The joys of being young.
ANOOP: (Looks right at her) You're only two years older than me.
LIL: Right. (Sighs) I forget that sometimes. I'm not sure whether that means I act too old or you act too young.
ANOOP: It's a little bit of both. And sometimes it's the other way around.
LIL: (Chuckles) True. We're both a little weird like that.
ANOOP: (Looks towards the kitchen door) Then we'll fit right in with them.
(The camera slowly zooms in to the window on the door, giving us a view of the empty club.)
(Scene: the Songbird Tree, the next day. The employees are hard at work in the kitchen turning on the equipment and getting out different kinds of food. All are present except for KRIS, ADAM, and LIL, who now enters from the main room.)
LIL: Alright, guys, the lunch crowd is here and we've got a big one today. Anoop's working the bar and Kris is about to go on stage, so I need all hands on deck back here.
ALLISON: No problem. It's not the first time we've spent all day in the kitchen.
MATT: (As they all get to work) You know, my boots still smell like eggs from that food fight.
LIL: (Concerned) Food fight?
DANNY: (With a smile) Don't ask.
LIL: Alright, but now I know to keep a close eye on you.
(The others laugh as the orders come in, and the staff gets to work making sandwiches. Cut to the main room, as the crowd is settled in, talking and drinking. KRIS sits on stage with a guitar in his hands, along with MATT on piano, another guitarist, and one other person on drums. A spotlight shines on the stage as the lights dim a little, and the crowd turns their attention to him. He strums his guitar, and the others accompany him as he sings "She Works Hard for the Money." The whole crowd is soon captivated, and when the song is over, they all applaud him. KRIS smiles at them.)
(Scene: some time later in the afternoon. ALEX, RICKY, VON, and SETH are walking down the street in the direction of the Songbird Tree.)
VON: I sure hope the boss feels better soon. I'd like to get him into that club to talk to the girl we heard singing. Do you think he'd like her?
SETH: I know I did. But you know how the boss is about hiring black people. They may have the most soul, but I don't think he's gonna want her to be the face of the label.
ALEX: Well, we won't know at least until tomorrow. (Chuckles) Man, we should not have stopped at that taco truck. (Stops in front of the Songbird Tree) Was this the place?
RICKY: Yup, this is where we came yesterday... (Looks over at the stage and sees ADAM) Uh oh! Let's get out of here before he sees us!
(They all take off down the street, and the camera pans to inside where the crowd is focused on ADAM, who stands alone on the stage. Music plays, and he sings "The Tracks of My Tears." The audience goes wild when he hits the high notes on the bridge, and when the song is over, he is met with loud cheering. He thanks the audience and then exits the stage, and we fade into the next scene, later that evening. KRIS and ADAM sit at the bar as ANOOP makes some drinks.)
ANOOP: I gotta say, Kris, I've heard that song a million times, but never like that.
KRIS: You like it? That's just a little something I came up with on my own. When I'm not writing my own songs, I'm looking for different ways to play other people's.
ANOOP: Well, it was very cool and very clever. (To ADAM) And you were great, too.
ADAM: Thanks. Usually when I do that song, I'll have Kris play for me and we'll get someone on drum boxes, but we didn't have time to rehearse, so I just went with the backing track.
ANOOP: That's alright. (Looks at his phone) Okay, it's time for Matt to go on, so I'm just gonna... (Looks over at the stage) Oh no.
KRIS: What's wrong?
ANOOP: I recognize that girl sitting up near the piano. Her name's Kara.
(KRIS and ADAM look over to the stage, and in the front row on the side where the piano has been set up, a tall, fair-skinned young woman with brown eyes and long brown hair is sitting alone.)
ADAM: Who is she?
ANOOP: My ex-girlfriend, and the world's biggest attention whore. What's she doing here?
(Before anyone can say anything else, another employee dims the lights, and the spotlight falls on MATT as he plays the first few notes on piano. Then the rest of the music kicks in, and he sings "Let's Get It On." Not long into the song, he gets up and walks around the stage, gazing at each of the women in the crowd. When he notices KARA, his attention remains on her. He walks over to her in rhythm, offers her his hand, and dances with her for the rest of the song. When it is over, the audience applauds, and KARA kisses him on the cheek before sitting back down. MATT is blushing as he walks back up onto the stage. KRIS and ADAM laugh, but ANOOP rolls his eyes.)
(Scene: that night. The club has emptied out, and the employees are cleaning up the main room.)
ALLISON: You know what's weird? We've been here for days now, and I haven't seen Vito or any of his cronies around. Have you? (The others answer in the negative.)
ANOOP: Who's Vito?
KRIS: He's from my hometown. We grew up together, and he originally wanted to sign me onto his record label, but I passed.
ANOOP: (Surprised) Why? Making it big in music is all about who you know. If you've got a friend who owns a label, you gotta take advantage of that.
ADAM: That's easy for you to say. You don't know the guy.
KRIS: Ray and I... (Seeing ANOOP'S confusion) that's his first name, Vito's his last name...we disagree on a lot of things. And normally I'm okay with that, but he was using his beliefs as an excuse to not hire certain people, or fire them if they've already been signed.
ANOOP: (Realizes) Okay, I see what you mean.
MATT: I mean, it's a Christian label, so I can understand him not hiring non-Christians. But not only did he fire a gay singer right in front of Kris' face-
KRIS: Uh, actually, he didn't know I was there, but I'm sure he thought I would've agreed with it.
MATT: He treats black people like crap.
ALLISON: Not just black people. Latinos, Asians, probably Native Americans, too...
MATT: Well, you know what I meant. Anyone who isn't white.
KRIS: It would've been great to work with him. His studio was close to home, I could be with Katy and hang out with all my old friends, he promised me all these perks, but I just didn't feel good taking money from someone who talks trash about people who aren't exactly like him.
ANOOP: Well, that makes you a better person than most politicians. (Some of the others laugh)
DANNY: I can't say much about the guy, I've only met him once or twice. And I appreciate how strong his faith is and that he incorporates it into his business. Anyone who stands up for God is cool in my book. I just think he's a little too pushy about it.
ALLISON: A little? He called Kris a traitor for hanging out with a gay guy.
DANNY: See, I think that's taking it a bit too far. Kris has his interpretation of the book, and Vito has his and I have mine, and they all deserve to be respected.
ADAM: (With a little bit of attitude) And you don't think your church teaching that homosexuality is a sin has anything to do with the way Vito turned out?
DANNY: Well, I can't speak for his church, but where I come from, we emphasize love above all else and recognize that everyone is human and deserves to be treated equally.
ADAM: And yet you think I'm going to hell because of who I sleep with.
DANNY: (Starting to get frustrated) Hey, you've never been to my church, you don't get to comment on what we preach.
ADAM: I bet your church would never affirm a same-sex marriage.
DANNY: No, we wouldn't, but-
ADAM: So how can you say you love us if you would deny us a human right?
KRIS: (Groans) Come on, guys, not now. It's late, we're all tired, let's just go home and go to bed.
DANNY: Fine. (To ADAM) But it's not fair of you to put words in my mouth like that.
ADAM: I'm just speaking from personal experience. You're gonna have to change your attitude if you want to change my perception.
KRIS: Alright, that's enough. I'm heading out, so unless you want to walk back to the motel, I suggest you come with me. (To the others) Good night, guys. (The three of them exit)
ANOOP: (To ALLISON and MATT) Has there always been that much bad blood between them?
MATT: I wouldn't call it bad blood. Just a difference of opinions. A lot of opinions.
ALLISON: Don't worry, once we all get a good night's sleep, they'll be back to normal, which means being polite and respectful while secretly judging each other hardcore.
ANOOP: (As they all laugh) How do you put up with it?
MATT: It doesn't happen that often. There's a lot that we disagree on, but in the end, we all have the same dreams and we're all crazy enough to go after them, and that's all that matters.
ALLISON: Hey, where's Lil?
ANOOP: She had to leave early. One of her kids was sick. (Yawns) And I think it's time for us to go. See you in the morning. (They all bid each other goodnight as they exit)
(Scene: the next morning at the motel. ADAM is lying on his bed, fully dressed for the day, looking up at the ceiling. There are slight hints of sadness and fear in his face.)
KRIS: (Off camera) Matt? Where are you? (Walks into the room) Adam, have you seen Matt?
ADAM: (Without turning his head, tired voice) No, sorry.
KRIS: That's weird. Right before we went to bed last night, he said he was going out, but he didn't say where and we haven't heard back from him. I hope he didn't get lost.
ADAM: I'm sure he's fine. He probably just went straight to work.
KRIS: He better have, or else he's gonna be late. And so will we if we don't leave now. Come on.
ADAM: (As KRIS heads for the door, without moving) I'll be right there.
KRIS: (Stops, turns around) Hey...is everything okay?
ADAM: Yeah, I'm fine. Just give me a minute.
KRIS: (Goes over to the bed) No, you're not fine. I know that voice. (Sits down beside him, looking intently at him) You wanna tell me what's going on?
ADAM: It's nothing.
(There is a short pause. KRIS does not move or look away, and ADAM looks over and sees him.)
ADAM: Oh, fine. (Turns back to the ceiling) I had a bad dream last night.
KRIS: (Lies down beside him) What was it about?
ADAM: My ex-boyfriend.
KRIS: You've been thinking about him a lot lately. Are you that scared of running into him?
ADAM: I'm not scared of what he'll do to me. He's already done his worst. I'm just afraid that he's still mad at me for leaving him...and he'll try to take it out on you, or Allison, or...everyone else we've got with us...just to hurt me.
KRIS: But you broke up years ago. Why would he still be mad at you after all this time?
ADAM: We didn't really break up. At least, not in the traditional sense. I sort of just walked out without telling him, and he tried to get back at me by...
KRIS: (Concerned) What?
ADAM: I'd rather not go into detail. Just know that he almost ruined my life.
KRIS: Well, you wouldn't have walked out on him if you didn't have a good reason for it. What did he do that made you want to leave?
ADAM: Again, I'd rather not elaborate. He hurt me. A lot. Let's just leave it at that.
KRIS: In what way?
ADAM: Pretty much any way you can think of. He was selfish, he was manipulative, and I only stayed with him through it all because I was afraid no one else would love me.
KRIS: Then you did the right thing by walking away. That's all there is to it.
ADAM: I know I did. But he didn't see it that way, and if he's still angry after all these years... (Turns to face him) I don't want any of you to get hurt because of me.
KRIS: (Places his hand on ADAM'S) No one's gonna get hurt, Adam. Not on my watch. If Brad does give you a hard time, we'll be right behind you. He won't wanna mess with us.
ADAM: You don't have to do anything, Kris. This is between me and him.
KRIS: Yes, we do. And I'm sure if you told the others what was going on, they'd say the same thing. Remember our number one rule?
ADAM: No boundaries?
KRIS: Yes. Meaning there's no boundaries on what we can do. We're a team, and we're only getting bigger and stronger. By the time we get to L.A., we'll be an army, and no one's gonna stand in our way. He has no right to scare you away from your dream.
ADAM: I know. And I'm trying not to let him. It's just...for some reason, I have no idea why this is happening now, but I can't help thinking back to everything that went down between us...
KRIS: You have nothing to be scared of. We will be beside you every step of the way. You just have to let us.
ADAM: I'll try. Thank you. (Sighs) But to be honest, as bad as Brad was, at least he was never as vengeful as some people we know.
KRIS: Yeah, I don't know where Ray and his friends are. Maybe they gave up and went home.
ADAM: We can only hope. (They both smile.)
KRIS: You ready to go to work now?
ADAM: In a few minutes.
KRIS: (Stands up) Okay, but don't take too long or else we'll all be late. (Turns to go, then stops and looks back) And if you ever want to talk about what happened between you and Brad, I'm always here to listen. If it's as bad as you're making it sound, then I think you should at least talk to someone.
ADAM: Maybe someday. But not right now. I'm still kind of embarrassed.
(He exits, and ADAM turns back over on his side. There is a brief silence, and then music plays in the background. ADAM stays on the bed as he sings the first verse of "Cryin'" and sits up at the pre-chorus, then stands up to sing the chorus. He remains standing for the rest of the song and moves around the room, and he stands still and bends over or throws his head back to hit the high notes. At certain points during the song, we see the shadows of two men on the wall. First they embrace and kiss, then they are lying down and rolling over, but then one is hitting the other, then pushing, and then holding him down forcefully. As the song fades out, the camera slowly zooms out, giving us an aerial view of the room. The agony on ADAM'S face is plain to see.)
(Scene: the Songbird Tree. The employees are setting up for the day, all except for DANNY.)
LIL: You guys have no idea how glad we are to have you right now. If you thought yesterday was crazy, just you wait. Today and tomorrow will be even worse.
ANOOP: Because the Fourth of July is coming up, and we'll be closed that day, so everyone who wants to come in for a drink or to see us perform is gonna come in now.
MATT: I don't blame them; it's always nice and cool in here.
KRIS: It's not that bad out. I mean, it's hot, but it's summer. What do you expect?
MATT: That's easy for you to say, you're not far from home. Summer never gets this hot in Michigan, we're surrounded by lakes.
KRIS: Fair enough. But that doesn't explain where you were last night.
MATT: I told you, I was going out, and I said I would see you at work this morning. I didn't think I had to get your permission first.
ADAM: Well, you didn't tell anyone where you were going or who you were going out with, so you can't blame us for getting worried, especially since we're being followed by... (Looks around the kitchen) Hey, wait a minute, where's Danny?
KRIS: Got me. I haven't seen him since we got here.
ALLISON: Last I saw him, he was on his way to the bathroom, but he should've been back by...
(Just then, they all hear music coming from the main room. KRIS, ADAM, ALLISON, MATT and ANOOP exit the kitchen and go into the main room to see DANNY standing alone on stage with a microphone in his hand. They watch and listen as he sings "Dream On," and he stands in place for the quieter parts, but when the music picks up, he moves around the stage a little. At first all goes well, but his face looks somewhat strained on the bridge, and the others shut their eyes and cover their ears as he mangles the high notes. He finishes the rest of the song in tune, but the others do not fully recover. When the song is over, DANNY looks over, sees them, and smiles nervously.)
DANNY: Oh, hey, guys. I didn't see you there.
ANOOP: Well, you were pretty hard to miss. (Chuckles)
ALLISON: What were you doing up there? It sounded like you were hurting yourself.
DANNY: I was trying to see if I could hit those big, high notes like Adam. I saved my energy for the whole song just to hit them. (Laughs) I guess I need a little more practice.
ADAM: (With a smile) Yeah, I've been doing it for years. You've got a long way to go.
MATT: A really, really long way.
LIL: (Comes out, somewhat tired) What's all the racket? Did that cat get into the blender again?
(Everyone laughs out loud as DANNY blushes and turns away. KRIS looks over at him.)
KRIS: Don't be too hard on yourself, man. It was a valiant effort. Sometimes you just gotta test the limits of your range to find out whether you're a bass or a tenor.
DANNY: I don't know, I always thought I was a tenor, but now... (Chuckles) I'm not so sure.
ADAM: Well, at least you figured it out before your audition.
(They all laugh and joke a little bit more. Then ALLISON turns to ANOOP and LIL.)
ALLISON: See, I told you they'd be back to normal in the morning.