[WARNING: This video contains very strong language and is NSFW.]
Damien Chazelle’s gripping music thriller Whiplash recently walked away from the Oscars with three wins and an additional two nominations – a good haul for what was easily one of the best films of 2014. Starring Miles Teller (Fantastic Four) as ambitious music student Andrew Neiman, the film follows the volatile trajectory of his drumming career as he joins an elite studio band and is put through the wringer by its terrifying conductor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).
Whiplash started its life as a screenplay that was on the 2012 Black List – a collection of the best scripts in Hollywood that have yet to be produced. A dramatic sequence from that screenplay was then adapted into an 18-minute short film, starring Simmons as Fletcher and Johnny Simmons (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World) as Andrew.
The sequence that was adapted for the short has quickly become known as one of Whiplash‘s most infamous scenes: the first encounter with the abusive and bullying tactics that Fletcher uses to whip his musicians into shape. It was wisely chosen, as the success of this short at Sundance Film Festival was what attracted enough investors to produce a full feature film.
For comparison’s sake, here’s an excerpt from the scene as it ended up in the movie. It plays out in fundamentally the same way, but the cinematography and sound mixing are more polished and the pacing is tighter.
Whiplash isn’t the first feature to get funding based on the strength of a short film pitch. Guillermo Del Toro decided to produce supernatural horror Mama after being impressed by the director’s creepy four minute short of the same name, and Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi District 9 was based on his original short Alive in Joburg.
There are still a few months of quiet at the box office before summer madness kicks in, so now is a great time to check out Oscar winners like Whiplash. Let us know in the comments what you think of Chazelle’s short film, and how it compares to the feature length version.
Whiplash is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.