Screening Series: ‘Whiplash’ director Damien Chazelle on his real-life inspiration

“Whiplash” director Damien Chazelle reveals the real-life, cutthroat makings that inspired the film.

Sometimes there’s a thin line between dedication and derangement. That’s one of the themes explored by writer-director Damien Chazelle’s drama “Whiplash” (in theaters now), which stars Miles Teller as an aspiring jazz drummer at an elite music conservatory and J.K. Simmons as his domineering teacher.

It’s also something Chazelle has experienced firsthand. As he told Los Angeles Times reporter Glenn Whipp at a recent presentation of “Whiplash” for the Envelope Screening Series, Chazelle drew on his own personal experiences for the film. (Watch a clip from the event above.)

“I was a jazz drummer, and it was my life for a while, what I lived and breathed every day,” Chazelle said. “It started out, as these things often do, as kind of a hobby and fun and enjoyable and self-expression — all that artistic stuff. And then it became like boot camp. It became like going every day up for execution, and wondering if you were going to get a stay of execution.”

In making “Whiplash,” the 29-year-old director said, “I wanted to look at the mentality that can breed that sort of intensity, that kind of cutthroat, pressure-cooker feeling, especially a form of music like jazz, that should be — or you’d think should be — all about liberation and improvisation and everything.”


For more from Chazelle and Simmons, check out the clip above, and check back every day this week.

Follow @ogettell for movie news

Get our weekly Indie Focus newsletter