BlueCat Whiplash Screening with Damien Chazelle, J.K. Simmons, and Miles Teller

Last week, BlueCat was fortunate enough to be in the audience for a special screening of Whiplash, the new film by writer/director Damien Chazelle. The film tells the story of an ambitious young drummer, played by Miles Teller, at the finest music school in the country and his struggle to please an abusive professor, played by an electrifying J.K. Simmons.

For those concerned that a film about jazz drumming can’t keep your attention, never fear. Whiplash is more Fight Club than Mr. Holland’s Opus.

The film began as a feature screenplay based partially on Chazelle’s experience as a musician in High School with an overbearing music instructor. “I was even more impressionable [in High School]. I remember drumming for fun and then I was taken into this pressure cooker. You question what it does to your psyche. Ten years out, I still wonder whether it was worth it. I definitely became a better drummer,” he said.

After writing the screenplay, and shopping it around, Chazelle faced a challenge that inevitably plagues all screenwriters. “No one wanted to finance it. I had the feature script and no one wanted to finance a jazz drummer movie.”




So Chazelle did what many writers do. He wrote and produced a short film based on his feature screenplay. Luckily he had some star power.“I got the script from Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) so I figured it was probably pretty good. It jumped off the page and I signed up,” Simmons said, “And unlike other actors I wasn’t too big shot to do a short.”

The resulting short film, which also stars Simmons as the abusive music instructor, went onto earn acclaim at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and attracted investors to sign on and produce the complete version of the script. The feature, which premiered at Sundance this year, has also garnered praise, especially from those who have gone to music school.

“Thank you for making it so accurate,” one musician in the audience said at the screening. Chazelle thanked the audience member back, then commented that not everyone was as satisfied with the script. “I remember two complaints. One was from a guy who had never been a musician and he said he couldn’t believe music school was like that. The other was a jazz drummer at Lincoln Center and his complaint is that it didn’t go far enough.” Considering the extreme bully-mentorship on display in the film, this revelation is shocking.

Whiplash is a film dedicated to devotion and discipline, two essential qualities for any aspiring filmmaker. Go see the film when it hits theaters October 10th.