Thumpers by Jim Boston | Script Revolution

Thumpers

Seeking to break away from the mainstream, three teenage ragtime musicians in 1984 Sioux Falls, SD strive to establish their band's sound...and work to build an appreciative following.

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128pp

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It’s July 1, 1984...the Sunday before Independence Day.

And Sioux Falls, South Dakota homemaker BEVERLEY SCOTT wants to celebrate...specifically, the band her piano-playing daughter TOBEY leads: The Ragtime Ensemble of Sioux Falls, a highly-talented outfit that needs an audience.

So talkative Beverley pitches her oil-company-worker husband JOE BOB, a former country singer, the idea of throwing a party in the Scotts’ backyard to spotlight Tobey’s band. After all, the gigs will come for this 15-year-old natural “when people hear how good she is...and that’s all she needs.”

Two Sundays later, the party’s on...and when dogged-and-independent Tobey jams alongside confident drummer JODY BOOMSMA and banjo-playing worry wart LUCIANNA ANDREUCCI, the three girls draw raves from PARTYGOERS. But while the band doesn’t land any gigs off the outing, Tobey lands a teacher: JASON WILLIAMS, who gave up a promising career as a blues singer-pianist in Chicago to teach in Vermillion.

After hearing the ensemble play in the Andreuccis’ basement, friendly Jason becomes its chief mentor. He deduces that Tobey, Jody, and Lucianna want a loosely-scored, piano-yoked sound...and to get that rag-and-roll sound, the group needs to add a horn player and a bassist.

The bad news is: Peeling plaster from the kitchen forces the band to switch practice sessions from the Andreuccis’ basement to the Scotts’ garage...where the sound of music disturbs a picky next-door neighbor, plant pathologist WALTER MEIERHENRY.

To top it all off, the ragtimers’ open tryout in mid-August yields no newcomers. The band gains a nemesis, though, in music-store owner’s daughter K.D. SCHUERHOLZ...who tries to bribe her way into the ensemble after failing to become its bass player.

When the 1984-85 school year kicks in, bashful motormouth CASSY COUGHLIN-MUJICA approaches fellow Washington High School student Tobey about becoming the ragtime band’s trumpeter.

Cassy’s audition blows the trio away...but almost immediately, Tobey learns the newest bandmember, for all her musical genius, seems to have something to hide.

It’s like playing alongside a Hannah Montana prototype.

A month later, the Ragtime Ensemble of Sioux Falls lands the missing piece of the puzzle when tough-talking BETSEY HEMMINGSEN catches up to Tobey as the latter walks home from school. And just like that, Betsey more than shows she’s got what it takes to be the band’s bass player.

What’s more, this street-smart teen comes up with the solution that lets Walter do his thing and the ragtimers theirs: She and Beverley put mattresses on the walls of the Scotts’ garage.

The band’s first rehearsal in a soundproofed garage sees Betsey’s bass, inherited from her imprisoned brother ELLIS and taped together like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, come apart. The quintet itself almost comes apart...but Cassy, whose theater-manager uncle got her hooked on movie treasures, rescues the group by selling her “Bambi” memorabilia and using the dough to buy Betsey a new bass.

In celebration, the Ragtime Ensemble of Sioux Falls renames itself Thumpers...after a character in “Bambi” and after one of ragtime’s prior names, “piano thumping.”

With a new name and an established sound, Tobey’s band sets out to find gigs...but the first one as Thumpers, held at Jolly Ike’s Pizza and Ice Cream Garden, goes kaput when the five girls find the fuses have been removed from the band’s amps.

Betsey coaxes a confession out of K.D. by making the spoiled, talentless troublemaker play the former’s bass...and sing...while Betsey records it all. And by forcing K.D. to hear herself on tape...loud...until K.D. can find a way to make it up to the ragtimers.

Solution: K.D. throws her own party.

Turns out she appreciates Thumpers’ music...even if HER TEENAGE GUESTS don’t. The shindig isn’t a total loss: Tobey and Co. gain a manager...in K.D. herself.

The gigs multiply for Thumpers...starting with a New Year’s Eve party at Schuerholz’s Music Center and culminating with a February 1985 concert at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, where the five ragtimers do “Happy Birthday to You” for Betsey’s first bass teacher, Ellis.

Ellis isn’t the only one in doubletakes at the jail: Cassy’s cover is blown when she sees her doctor dad DENNIS, who handles another inmate’s appendicitis.

With classical prodigy Cassy apparently grounded for sneaking off to play ragtime, Tobey tries to work with Dennis and with Cassy’s computer-programer mom WESLEY...whose own dad was a famous Dixieland trumpeter who “spent half his life on the road, the other half in bars.”

Tobey, Jody, Lucianna, and Betsey resign themselves to work as a quartet...but Cassy returns to the act after she and Wesley agree to some concessions, like an extra hour on the classics.

And the concessions suit Cassy’s bandmates just fine.

Submitted: June 21, 2021
Last Updated: July 7, 2021

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Jim Boston's picture

The Writer: Jim Boston

I first got interested in screenwriting as a college student in 1979 (Iowa State University); an additional impetus was the paperback version of the "American Graffiti" screenplay. From 1980 to 1994, I pursued screenwriting with a vengeance...but other things happened in my life. Since 2016, I've been back chasing the dream...and it's only because I inherited a Power Mac from one of the codirectors (Nick Holle) of a documentary I was in: "The Entertainers," about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival. (Nick received the computer from the husband-and-wife couple who helped produce the film, Brent and Jackie Watkins.) The Power Mac has a copy of Final Draft 6... Go to bio

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