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How Damien Chazelle Turned Trauma Into Award-Winning Drama ‘Whiplash’

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How Damien Chazelle Turned Trauma Into Award-Winning Drama ‘Whiplash’

Writing “Whiplash” required Chazelle to relive past nightmares.

Whiplash” was written and directed by Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”). It boasts awe-inspiring performances from Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now”) and J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man”), who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal as an abusive music teacher. Furthermore, the psychological drama has stunning musical numbers, a plethora of quotable lines, and, to top it off, quite possibly my favorite ending sequence of all time.

Whiplash” follows Andrew Neiman (Teller), an ambitious jazz drummer who will stop at nothing to be one of the world’s greatest musicians. His determination catches the eye of Terence Fletcher (Simmons), a faculty member at Neiman’s music conservatory who has questionable methods of teaching. Fletcher takes Neiman under his wing, offering the young drummer a place in his prestigious Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band. A frightening battle of wills ensues, and Neiman is forced to decide how far he’ll go in order to be “one of the greats.”

Damien Chazelle based “Whiplash” off of his traumatizing real-life experiences. In an interview with the A.V. Club, Chazelle explains:

“[Terence Fletcher] is definitely a proxy for a real instructor—specifically a bandleader I had in high school. It was a very competitive jazz band that was modeled after professional bands. And I remembered being very terrified. That was my overall emotion during those years. Just dread.”

In the video from Behind the Curtain above, Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle describes how he concocted “the most personal thing he’s ever written.” Check it out to learn the thought process behind some of “Whiplash’s” most iconic scenes.

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