The following is Lorenda Starfelt’s original story treatment and character description for Beginning Blue, now in production.
Blue Character Breakdowns
Ana Mason: Fifteen-year old Ana Mason is determined to be a master musician. She began taking music lessons at age five and not a day has gone by since then that she hasn’t spent several hours at practice on her piano and her guitar. She lives with her veterinarian mother, Christine, and her grandmother, Sally, a seventies émigré from Great Britain. Ana’s father died five years ago, in a New Year’s Eve traffic accident. Also at home is her brother, Mathew, a freshman at Northridge University. Ana is bright, very pretty and comfortably well groomed. None of her family is musical, so Ana has had to start the journey alone, figuring how to move closer to succeeding in her ambitions. Her last step involved finding the best local teen girl musicians/singers she could find and forming her own pop group. Anna is determined to crash through the cultural perceptions of the capabilities of an all-girl band and is using the luxurious harmonies made possible by her fastidious selection of female singers as well as their impeccable musicianship to open doors. Ana’s flawless good manners allow her the confidence to go anywhere and talk to anyone. She works at a local music shop, along with the Hanson sisters, giving music lessons to neighborhood kids.
Lilly Burton: Lilly is a pop-culture genius and Anna’s one weakness. Lilly is not nearly the musician that everyone else in the band is but she is the person who knows exactly what’s going on all over town, who’s hot and what gallery opening should be attended. She’s incredibly good looking, with a dazzling level of charm, an engaging and unexpected wit and is always fabulously well dressed. While she is a mediocre bass player, she is a genuinely gifted photographer and fashion stylist.
Sasha Baxter: Sasha is a singer and rhythm guitarist. It’s Sasha’s unexpectedly deep voice with its thrilling range that allows Anna to craft the harmonies that she believes will carry Blue to phenomenal success. In contrast to the energetic presence of Anna and Lilly, Sasha is very cool with a dry sense of humor. Even at fifteen, there is something ancient about her and when she is given the stage, no one else is visible.
Sasha, like Ana, lives in a single parent family. Her mom, Elaine, has a small bookkeeping business and works out the home. They attend a local church every weekend and Sasha earns her spending money singing at the services.
Emily and Leah Hanson: Emily and Leah are the only members of the band that come from a musical family. Mom and Dad are both professional musicians, and all seven older brothers are pursuing symphonic and composing careers as well. As such, they have a superb technical understanding of music that Anna deftly employs in her arrangements. Being surrounded by brothers, they aren’t nearly as good at the girly stuff as the rest of the band and they rely on Lilly for their make up and clothing. Tall and lanky, with long blonde hair that hangs in their faces, they have a tendency to hide behind big black glasses and sports t-shirts. Emily plays piano and Leah is on drums. The Hanson sisters work at a local music shop, along with Anna, and provide music lessons to the neighborhood kids.
Jill Jordan: Jill is the last member to join the band. She and Leah have been friends from grade school and have long toyed with the idea of playing together. Once Jill takes over the bass, she and Leah make a formidable rhythm section that anchors everyone else’s work in the band. Jill, like Lilly, has a vibrant and unexpected sense of humor and her presence on stage keeps the energy dynamic.
Christine Mason: Anna’s mom is a veterinarian and enthusiastic supporter of her daughter’s musical career. She’s there for every musical performance and has turned her garage into a comfortable and soundproof rehearsal space for the girls. Other than the initial purchase of a guitar and amp for Christmas, she has insisted that Anna finance her own musical career. She’s always willing to listen and usually has good advice, but she expects Anna to think for herself and to make her own decisions. She’s personally elegant, with a small but beautifully decorated home. Tall and slender, her wardrobe is sufficiently well stocked with vintage boho chic, that even the impeccable Lilly is covetous at times.
Jason Beck: Jason and Anna have known each other since fifth grade and have had a crush on each other for most of that time. Like Anna, Jason is ambitious and smart and has always focused his attention on school and other personal goals. Good looking and socially comfortable, he’s only recently begun socializing with a wider circle of friends and is learning that they can occasionally lead him down the wrong path.
Uncle Muck: Uncle Muck owns everyone’s favorite vintage guitar shop. The son of a legendary 60s session guitarist, his ties to musical estates allow him to bring in impressive finds from rock antiquity. Counting on the next generation to sustain his retirement, he keeps an equally well-stocked selection perfect for beginning guitarists and start up bands. Sunday afternoons he sponsors a jam in his downstairs club and when he is sufficiently impressed with a young musician, he invites them in to play with the established musicians who always turn up.
Wendy: Uncle Muck’s adorable, dark-eyed teen daughter is a skillful guitar player. Having been tutored by the masters, she knows tricks that are way beyond her years and hides them carefully from other young musicians. On Saturdays and after school, she’s always available to help out in her dad’s shop.
George Martin: Tall, elegant and formidable, Sir George Martin, the legendary producer of The Beatles, is the undisputed master of pop. In person, he is very focused, warm yet formal, and incredibly direct. He wastes no time.
Ben Barton: Forty-something Ben Barton has been writing about rock for various publications for decades. His humor and elegant wordsmithing got his foot in the door at various rock publications when he was quite young and he’s been working ever since.
Blue Story Treatment
It’s a clear spring evening in Los Angeles, and the sounds of an electric guitar can be heard outside a modest one story home. In one of the bedrooms, a young 15 year old guitar prodigy – Ana Mason, patiently instructs her far less musical best friend Lily on the bass line required for the song they plan on using at tomorrow’s audition. Lily is having difficulty with the timing, and rhythm is crucial to good bass playing. “You need to echo my guitar line here,” says Ana, “then fall in and play a counter-melody to the line when I get to this phrase.” Unfortunately, Lily just doesn’t have the ear. In the end, Ana settles on a somewhat simpler, though less musically invigorating line, one that Lily can, with bit of practice, master by tomorrow.
It’s the following afternoon at Grant High School, and preparations for the upcoming prom are starting to heat up. In the gym, a handful of bands line up to play a number, hoping to win the coveted gig. The final audition of the day is Ana Mason’s all-girl pop band Blue. Ana and her band – Lily Burton, Sasha Baxter, Emily and Leah Hanson, are experienced musicians and fairly confident that they’ll be the choice. The girls watch the auditions with smiles all around, giggling discreetly when a band can’t manage to stay in tune or a solo goes limp. Finally, it’s their turn and they storm the stage. They tune up briefly, then light into a power-pop number, with all the confidence that their years of musical training and natural ability allow them. Their vocals are so radiant they almost glow, and the instruments are carefully arranged for maximum delight. In the space of one song, the girls manage to pull off at least six very pleasant musical surprises. As they finish, the auditorium is a bit silent, as the chagrined bands that played before them, file out. A few of the adults linger behind to compliment the girls on their skill with their instruments and their superb vocals.
In the next room, the board of the prom committee consults with the music and band teachers. The chair calls the meeting back to order and suggests that they simply vote on each band that played. As the names are read off, most of the bands don’t receive a single vote, but an all male band named Puke, with a hyperactive drummer that had left the members of Blue in stitches, receives an overwhelming number of votes. When Blue’s name is finally called, only a few hands are raised. Ana and the band had expected to be a shoo-in and they are stunned. They look at the hands that aren’t raised and realize a few of their friends weren’t willing to vote for them.
In the parking lot, Jason Beck, one of the friends who didn’t vote on Blue’s behalf, catches up with Ana. He apologizes and explains that a lot of the people thought it would be lame to dance to an all-girl band. Ana, still miffed, asks if it’s easier to dance when the instruments are out of tune and the drummer can’t keep the beat. Her point is well taken and she leaves Jason behind to deal with his betrayal.
The next day at lunch, Ana, Lily and Sasha discuss ways to promote their band. It’s quickly agreed that recording a couple songs in a recording studio is the way to go and from there a website will be built.
After school, the girls head out to a few of the local recording studios. The first two are so expensive that they couldn’t hope to afford their services. At the third one, they find an owner who is charmed by their initiative. He agrees to provide the facilities and the crew for two days of recording at $2500. He’s booked for the next several weeks, but if the girls are ready to go when his current client is finished, he’ll slip them in before the next big job.
The girls go their separate ways and Ana stops into Uncle Muck’s Vintage Guitars to pick up a repair. Uncle Muck sold her her first guitar and he’s interested in seeing how well she is doing. Ana, delighted by the attention of a local guitar master, obligingly plays for him. He’s amazed by her musicality and her technical skill. When she’s finished, he invites to the legendary jam session that takes place in the basement every Sunday afternoon. Ana’s a little taken back by the invitation and so he reminds her that she has met Wendy, his fifteen year old daughter, and that she’ll be there playing as well. Ana is intrigued and quickly agrees to show up.
That night at rehearsal, the girls announce their proposal. They quickly settle in to figuring out how they’re going to raise the money. Emily and Leah sing at a local coffee house, earning money every weekend. Ana plays piano at a church – she has the money as well. Sasha can help her mom with her small business and build websites. That leaves poor Lily, who is mortified to realize that she’ll wind up babysitting for her share.
The weeks pass and the necessary sum is toting up nicely. The girls have decided to turn their money over to Ana’s mom, Christina, for safekeeping.
One afternoon, Ana is walking past Aroma, a local café, when she spots George Martin, the legendary producer of the Beatles, lunching at an outdoor table. She darts in and grabs her brother Matthew’s attention. Matthew tells her that Martin is producing an album down the street and has shown up everyday for lunch. He swears Ana to secrecy because he knows she’s up to something and doesn’t want to lose his job over whatever it is.
That evening Ana confides in her mother that she wants to approach Martin about producing their songs. Christina suggests that she spend the evening listening to a wide range of Martin’s work so that Ana can address something besides the obvious when she approaches him. As Ana researches his work on the internet, her mother begins pulling together vinyl records as well recent cd’s. The two settle in for an evening of sublime music with Christina guiding her daughter through the nuances of Martin’s work.
The next day, Ana is dressed to kill as she walks to the café. And sure enough, Mr. Martin is at his customary place, wearing glasses and making notes on a chart. Ana, terrified but determined, introduces herself to the English gentleman in front of her and asks if he has a minute. He looks up, smiling but puzzled, and pushes his paper away slightly. The movement catches her eye, and Ana, ever the musician, is distracted by the sheet music in front of her. For one perfect moment, she and Martin together gaze silently at his composition. Ana points to a line, “Oh, that’s lovely” and sings the melody softly and perfectly. Impressed with her ability to sight read, Martin smiles at how lovely the line is and takes a few minutes to have a conversation with her. She tells him that she has a pop band and that they are going into a recording studio for the first time. He asks her a few questions about what instruments they play and what kind of vocal range the singers have. He gives her a few pointers and is delighted to realize that he’s in a real conversation with a thoughtful and educated musician. The time quickly passes as the two find themselves engaged in a deeper conversation than either expected. When asked how often they are performing, Ana reveals that the prom committee rejected her band. “How old are you?” he asks stunned. “Fifteen,” she replies, “and I’m really hoping you’d be willing to produce our songs. It would only be two days.” He’s impressed with her knowledge, her wit and her determination. He agrees to attend band practice that evening and Ana departs after giving him her address.
Ana races home, phoning her band mates to tell them the news. With the exception of Lily, who cannot leave her babysitting job until the children’s parents’ return, the girls assemble and begin practicing. Forty-five minutes before Mr. Martin is to arrive, Lily flies in the door carrying duffel bags and camera bags. She shrieks in horror as she surveys her less well-groomed and well-dressed band mates. With record-breaking speed, the duffel bags are unpacked and she goes to work sprucing up the girls. Facing the Hanson sisters, she demands that the broken black glasses the two prefer for rehearsal be replaced with contacts she knows are in their purses. She pulls jackets and boots out of her bags, shoving feet more used to sneakers into the snazzier shoes. Bangs are trimmed and make up applied in a flash. Finally faced with the tall and slightly gangly Emily and Leah, Lily ransacks Christina’s closet finding some chic pieces that pull the girls into a vision that Lily finds acceptable. Finally, the camera is pulled from the bag, and with everyone in place, photos are snapped. Lily turns from a frazzled stylist to a gifted photographer in front of our eyes. Once done, she picks up her bass and starts to rehearse.
Mr. Martin arrives, prompt to the minute. While her awed mother lingers in the background, Ana introduces the band and asks him what he’d like to hear from their repertoire. A few well-known pop songs are selected and Blue launches into them with confidence that comes from years of training and plenty of rehearsal. After each song, Martin offers up a suggestion or two, which are quickly and deftly employed. Satisfied that they are the real thing, he agrees to produce their songs and requests a meeting with Ana the next day at Aroma.
The next day, Martin lays down the law. He wants to know why Lily is in the band. Ana explains that she and Lily have been friends since kindergarten. Lily was never the musician that the rest of them are, but Ana can’t imagine the band without her. Martin tells Ana that Lily needs to be let go if Blue is to have a shot at a career and that he won’t work with her. If Blue wants a studio musician to fill in, Martin can provide someone. If they have a replacement, he wants to hear the musician first. And if Ana still wants him to produce, he’ll send a contract over later this week.
Ana goes home stunned and heartbroken. She knows that Lily isn’t as good as the rest of them, but she always thought that the band’s arrangements were sufficient to cover up her weakness. Ana and her mother sit up for hours in the backyard discussing the decision to be made. In the end, Christina points out that Lily has always been as determined and focused as Ana, but with different interests and that Lily will find a different way if set free from this path. Ana goes to bed knowing what must be done.
The next day, Ana meets with the rest of the band to tell them what Martin said. While the other girls love Lily, they reveal that they feel she’s held them back. Sasha knows a girl, Jill Jordan, whom she thinks would be a perfect replacement. An impromptu rehearsal is arranged for that afternoon. Jill shows up and is put through the paces that Martin had put the band through the night before. She adapts flawlessly to the musical changes that are requested of her. As the band plays a more free form number, each member takes a few minutes to solo and its Jill’s solo that leave everyone’s jaw on the ground. After she leaves, a vote is taken and Ana is tasked with giving Lily the bad news.
The next day after school, Ana delivers the decision to Lily. Lily, curiously, isn’t surprised but is angry and heartbroken just the same. She can’t believe that Ana, of all people, is kicking her out of the band. She stomps away telling Ana she’ll never speak to her again.
That afternoon, the band meets to discuss returning to Lily her share of the recording fee and how to raise the additional money to pay Martin. Jill has money saved and can come up with her share on time. If they can delay with the recording studio for a couple weeks, they can come up with the modest producing fee being requested. A call to the studio finds the owner thrilled that Martin will be producing in his facility and the new date is quickly agreed upon. Ana calls Martin and leaves a message for him that they have replaced Lily. He shows up for rehearsal that evening, and gives Jill his blessing. His contract will arrive the next day. The deal is done.
The weekend of the recording session finally arrives. The girls are in the studio warming up when Mr. Martin, prompt to the minute, arrives. He and the engineer listen as the girls run through their best songs and the first song is quickly agreed on.
Martin sees the first choice, “California Dreamin,'” as a bright, clear pop number that can be done well with a simple arrangement a song that will allow the girls to showcase their harmonies. But first, he wants a key change. Ana and Sasha, on the front lines of the song, protest that it will never work, but the Hansens, with their thick, black glasses, are already putting the new chart together. The first rehearsal reveals what Martin is looking for – in the new key, the harmonies are much richer and more startling. That afternoon, when Christina brings lunch, she is left in tears by the artistry and professionalism on display in even the early recording.
The next morning, Martin informs the girls that he wants the next song to be one of their original numbers. With Jill onboard, he thinks the song can be a real winner. The problem that he sees with their version is that it doesn’t have a beginning, it doesn’t have an end, and it needs a middle eight. Working together, the band and he slowly pull together the number. At the end of the night, the girls are stunned at just how professional it sounds. As they are packing up, Ana has a thought about some counter point that can be added, an extension of the guitar-bass work she was working for in the opening scene. At first, the adults are skeptical – Martin’s not sure it will work and even if it will, he’s not sure that the girls are skilled enough to pull it off. “This is Bach stuff, Ana, and you girls aren’t the Beatles.” But once again, the Hansens are pulling the chart together, with Ana making quick changes, and once he sees it on paper, he’s impressed with the idea. A third day, gratis, is quickly agreed upon by Martin and by the studio.
The next day finds the girls in heaven skipping school to work on their recording. What could be better than this? Martin pushes them harder than they’ve ever been pushed. Ana’s counterpoint idea is brilliant and Martin admits to Christina that he can’t believe someone of her age came up with it and executed it. He tells her, discreetly, that he would be proud to have written the line that Ana wrote. Once again, Christina leaves in tears. Ana isn’t entirely sure what the big deal is.
That night, as everyone packs up, Martin tells Blue that they’ve done very good work. The engineer and the mixer agree on the date for the finished product. With a sincere word that he’ll be in touch when the work is finished, George Martin is out the door and on his way.
The next day at school, the girls are changed but not changed. Their music teacher pulls them aside to hear the story of the weekend. Some of their friends seem to be ignoring them. The school paper, staffed by several of the kids who voted against them, wants to do a story about their recording session. One of the members of Puke slams into the petite Ana, knocking her to floor and sending her books and papers flying. Jason Beck appears and quickly helps to her feet. To Ana’s surprise, she’s actually happy to see him and the two wander off to talk. The prom now seems like something she never should have or could have cared about and he understands that. He apologizes and says that he was real jerk for letting himself be pressured into not voting for her.
After rehearsal, Blue gets serious about their website. Sasha’s the expert, and the ideas are quickly compiled. It’s only now that they realize that Lily was the photographer and that almost all the photos they have belong to her. Christina, and some of the other parents, snapped a few photos at the recording studio, but Lily’s haunting work will be missed. And to their horror, they realize that the Hansens have their horrible glasses on in all of the photos, something Lily never would have allowed.
Over the next few weeks, the website comes together. The girls begin visiting the local clubs and slowly the gigs begin lining up. Ana remembers the invitation she’s received from Uncle Muck and decides to attend the Sunday Jam. By the time she gets there, the place is fairly packed with local musicians. Most of the crowd is well-over thirty and Ana is feeling her age when she spies Wendy, near the back of the stage, chatting comfortably with several musicians. Before Ana makes it to the rear, Uncle Muck grabs her and introduces Ana to several others in attendance. One thing leads to another, and before too long Ana and Uncle Muck’s daughter Wendy are both onstage, playing with the older, infinitely more experienced men. The sound is precise yet loose – anything could happen. Hearing something interesting on one of the guitars, Ana scans around and finally sees that Wendy is the source of the rhythmic riff. When she tries to watch Wendy’s playing, the other girl turns her back to hide the technique. The music is a briskly paced blues, and the organist is churning out crisp Gospel-Soul lines on the Hammond Organ. The crowd starts jumping and things are off with a blast! The house master guitarist, Dave, takes over with a tasty lead, then cuts it short when he steps up to the mike and calls out “share some candy with with us, Wendy.”
Wendy takes her cue without batting an eye – she’s a Stratocaster baby, born and bred. Her playing starts off very precisely, almost pedantically – all those impromptu lessons at her dad’s guitar shop from those dozens of crack hotshot players have paid off. And just as soon as there’s a feeling that maybe Wendy only knows how to parrot others, she’ll tear off and sent her Strat screaming off to the sky. Finally, she brings it back down to earth and steps up to one of the mikes, her eyes locked right on Ana. “Take it, princess.”
A lightning bolt of terror shoots up Ana’s spine. She doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do. She’s never had to deal with anything like this before. One beat, two beats – three, four, five and six beats go by with nothing happening. Then, on the seventh, Ana has a flash of inspiration. “They’re all waiting for me to fall on my face, so fall on it I shall!”
Ana rips into a loud, totally unmusical piece of discordant noise that almost brings the ceiling down. It’s the kind of moment where a musician might be calling it a night. But then, on the eighth beat, Ana recovers with a searing line of Jeff Beck madness – a decidedly non-melodic sonic attack that has nothing to do with being a good little girl. The war is on, and the crowd loses its mind!
Ana is not conscious of anything now, it’s just her and her Telecaster with the custom Humbucking for added sonic girth. She answers Wendy playfully, nastily, even flirtatiously, until the time comes for her to nod it back. Wendy, still near enough the mike to answer, says “landed on all fours, Kitty-Cat!” At that moment, Ana felt like she had just been babtized.
Musically, the battle is a contrast in style. Wendy’s attack is musical, melodic – it’s as if she’s memorized every riff from Austin, Nashville and Memphis. The overall effect is like gail force winds interspersed with Ana’s erupting volcanos. The audiences loves every second of it, and the two girls tearfully hug when it’s all over.
As Ana is leaving, Ben Barton, an independent music reporter, stops and asks if her band might be willing to sit for an interview. Willing? They’d be thrilled. Barton spends the weekend attending their rehearsals and interviewing them during their down time. On Sunday evening, Christina provides a sublime backyard dinner and Ben entertains the group with tales of interviewing the late and the great. He leaves, promising to be in touch as soon as the article finds a home.
Finally, it’s the night before prom. They’ve been so buried they haven’t paid any attention, but not a one of them has a date. No surprise – other than Ana’s occasional conversation with Jason, none of the girls have thought to talk to the boys they know. The awareness of just how bad the music’s going to be is their consolation for the evening and during rehearsal, Blue launches into a mocking imitation of the band that will be playing. The girls rehearse late into the night while they ponder their future.
The next morning, at 6am, Ana’s mobile phone rings. It’s George Martin. The band he was producing when he met Ana was scheduled to play the David Letterman show that evening, but the singer has severe laryngitis and so they’ve rescheduled. If Blue can get to LAX in the next three hours, they can play instead.
Christina has an appointment that can’t be cancelled but Matthew is already at work at Aroma and can be home by 9am. The girls are frantically pulling clothes and instruments together at Ana’s house, when the doorbell rings. It’s Lily with her bags in tow. “I heard the news. And you can’t go on Letterman without me.” The girls aren’t sure what to say to this and stand there puzzled. “I mean look at you. You guys can’t get dressed without me.” Quick as a flash, she pulls the glasses from the Hanson girls, claiming they look like hockey players, and stomps them into the ground. Next, she’s pulling clothes and shoes from her bags. Emily and Leah, the two tallest members of the band, stand in awe as the rest of the band is redressed. Finally, Lily looks at the two of them and once again, shrieks in horror. Without bothering to ask permission, she charges into Christina’s closet pulling the best of her elegant, vintage boho for the two girls.
Matthew finally arrives, and the girls, including Lily, begin throwing their bags into his SUV. Ana nervously points out to Lily that they don’t have a ticket for her. Lily laughs, “I’m goin’. I’ve already got a ticket.” She pulls her camera out and once again, begins snapping photos.
Blue arrives in NYC and begins rehearsal with Paul Schaeffer. This is going to be the biggest live audience they’ve ever played for, and they refuse to even think about the fact that they’ll be on TV. Lily happily surrenders the job of make up to the professionals in the studio and focuses on photographing the band. When the curtain finally goes up, we see and hear a very professional band that have obviously gone through a real journey in their short time.
Back in Los Angeles, prom is ending and the kids are going off into the evening. Jason is in the company of the some of the kids who had stopped talking to the girls of Blue. As they pile into the limo, they break open the bar, turn on the TV and are stunned to see their classmates performing. Jason smiling, ignores his cuddled up date, and crosses his arms as he watches.
That night, Blue returns to the hotel that has been booked for them. Lily and Ana share a room and pile into bed together as they have been doing since they were tiny little girls. Ana asks Lily how she knew about the Letterman gig. “I was at Aroma when Matthew got the text.” Next, Ana asks the question that is really on her mind, “where did you get the money to buy a first class ticket to NY at the last minute?” Lily giggles wickedly. “Ben Barton. You told him about my work. And since Vanity Fair bought his story, they bought some of my photographs. They paid for me to come.” Now, it’s Ana’s turn to shriek, “Vanity Fair? Vanity Fair?” “Young Hollywood issue!” Lily replies, “We’re on our way!”
The next morning, as the exhausted and delighted girls eat breakfast, Lily tells them the story of the reporter and the sale of the photographs and breaks the news that they’ll be in Vanity Fair. Much to the relief of the still guilty band, Lily tells them that she’s already gotten more work photographing local rock bands.
That afternoon, the girls are packed up and ready to return. As they leave through the lobby, guests begin assembling around them and asking for their autographs and photograph. The girls are pretty stunned, but happily oblige. Finally, they’re piled in the limo and on their way home when Ana’s phone rings. Once again, it’s George Martin. A promoter he knows contacted him after seeing Blue on David Letterman. He has a UK tour set up for late June and is wondering if the girls would be interested. The rest of Blue is happily chattering and laughing when Ana ends her call. Seeing her stunned fact, they quickly quiet down. As she closes up her phone, she turns to her band mates and simply says, “London Calling!“
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