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Screenplay


1. INT. BASEMENT - NIGHT The hazy florescent lights shine down on JAMES while he works in his basement. He is alone and sitting up thinking. The shot is distant to show the massive library of records. Thousands of records are assorted on shelves, in boxes, and on the floor. A workstation is set up in front of him with mixers, keyboards, and instruments. He only seems interested in a single piece of equipment. Time only seems to exist in his world. JAMES Damn. James gets up and looks for the record he was searching for. He pauses with a blank look and tries to remember where it could be. JAMES I need this. He moves to the other room. Vinyl is scattered everywhere. It is much less organized than the first room. He bends down in front of a box and begins to flip through vinyl. 40 minutes pass. JAMES (Sighs) Damn it. James gets up and starts to move back to the first room. He then spots the record edge sticking out of a pile. JAMES (Excited) Yes! He quickly goes back to the original room and sits down at his workstation. A close up shot shows his equipment. In front of him is a MPC 3000 sampler next to a turntable. He is about to open up his record when he hears footsteps. FRANK walks down the stairs to find James. FRANK (Looking flustered) Yo man! Where you been at? I called you. I thought we were going to hit up that show. JAMES (Obviously uninterested) Nah man. I got this sick track. I’m going to freak the hell out of it.

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2.

FRANK Damn man. I gotta get out though! James ignores him and takes out his record like it is a prized possession. He puts it on. Doo-wop rock begins to come out of the speakers. FRANK What the hell is this shit? God damn it. Put on that Busta track! This shit is gross. James plays through several tracks and straightens up. He begins to nod. JAMES I think I got it. FRANK Yeah I think you need to switch up tunes. I’m bored as hell. James starts poking buttons on his MPC for several minutes and begins pounding the pads. Frank still seems uninterested and walks around his library. He walks into the next room and sighs. Suddenly a hip-hop sounding rhythm reaches his ears and he moves back to the other room. FRANK (Interested) Yo. That sounds tight. James makes some more adjustments and the rock song begins to gain a hip-hop like structure. Frank is noticeably more interested now. He stands behind James like a teacher giving suggestions. FRANK Yeah. Now add some lows. Yeah, shit. Fix that chop. Ah, you got it. The song is shaping. James sits back and lets the one minute beat play while he nods. FRANK Shit! My man Dilla! How do you find these tunes? This is fucking unreal. James smiles. He makes a few more changes.

(CONTINUED)


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3.

FRANK Ma brotha. This is some atmospheric shit. James gets up to look at his library while the song loops repeatedly. FRANK Yo Jay, you gotta show this to COMMON. He’s gonna freak. JAMES Nah man. FRANK Fuck Jay. This is fuckin’ ridiculous. How you not gonna show Common? JAMES It’s different shit, ya know? He wouldn’t like it. Brothas can’t usually rap over this stuff either. FRANK So you just gonna leave it? Are you even gonna release this shit? JAMES Nah man. I just do this stuff to practice. I got other shit to release for rappers. FRANK (Shocked) This shit is better dog! Someday you gotta drop songs from the Dilla vault. JAMES Yeah. James bends down and starts flipping through more records as the loop keeps playing. Frank shakes his head but becomes mesmerized by the music again and starts nodding. 2. EXT. JAMES’ CAR - DAY Time moves forward two years. James looks noticebely different. He looks frail and his expression is solemn. He is getting into the car and is leaving the clinic. His Lupus has affected him greatly and he now has trouble doing simple (CONTINUED)


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4.

tasks. Getting into his car is a small struggle. The shot is at a medium distance directly in front of him. He sits in his car for a minute doing nothing before he starts moving. He is thinking. He sits up and starts his car. JAMES (Thinking) I need to finish that track. 3. INT. JAMES’ BASEMENT - DAY Twenty minutes later, James arrives. LONNIE LYNN JR. (COMMON) is waiting in is basement on a couch. He instantly looks up. LONNIE Yo Jay. You aight? JAMES Yeah man. LONNIE Gettin’ better? JAMES Not really. James slowly walks to his workstation. His walk worries Lonnie. He almost gets up to help him. There is a wheelchair next to the workstation. James sits down carefully. James forgets something and looks to the wall of records. LONNIE Whatchu need Jay? JAMES Just thinkin’ of this vocal group. From the 60’s. Might cut a track with it. LONNIE You don’t look good at all brotha. Shit is messed up man. JAMES (Still sitting) I...(pauses) I don’t think I’ll finish up this year. Shit ain’t looking good.

(CONTINUED)


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5.

LONNIE Well....(pauses) I have some paper if you want to travel n’ shit. If it would make you feel better... JAMES Nah man. LONNIE You just want to keep making these beats? JAMES Yeah. LONNIE When you gonna release that album? JAMES Donuts? (The album) I dunno. I gotta finish it. Needs work. LONNIE Man, you got all this shit backed up into yo computer. You gotta release it. Shits whack. JAMES They need some more work. James puts on the track that was made earlier with Frank. Lonnie looks amazed. He puts his head back and listens. The shot is from the far wall. James to the right on his desk with his back to Lonnie who is sitting on the couch. JAMES Dog. This is how I want to finish. Just here....making music. Lonnie and James look at each other for a split second and James goes back to work. The track continues and Lonnie can’t say anything. Lonnie holds back his emotions. He shows a genuine smile then keeps nodding to the music.


J Dilla Screenplay