Exclusive: ‘La La Land’ is musical follow-up for ‘Whiplash’ filmmaker

Director Damien Chazelle is the director of "Whiplash."
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” was the toast of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, sweeping top prizes that set it up for a potentially nifty commercial and awards run when it hits theaters later this year.

Now its writer-director, first-timer Damian Chazelle, is looking to capitalize on the heat with a new project, titled “La La Land,” according to a person familiar with the project who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly.

Described as a romantic musical set in L.A., the script centers on an aspiring actress and jazz musician who fall in love but see their relationship tested by the high-stress environment of the city’s arts and entertainment community.

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The film is being put together by WME Entertainment’s indie-film division and has attracted the interest of studios to finance and distribute. No cast has been set yet.

Chazelle’s most recent film was shot primarily in Los Angeles but is set in New York. The new movie aims to shoot in L.A.

Youth-oriented musicals have undergone a screen renaissance since the success of Disney Channel’s “High School Musical,” with everything from “Glee” to “Frozen” becoming hits, and a new screen take on “Annie” heading to theaters in December--though this film skews more dramatic than some of those works, in keeping with Chazelle’s history.

“Whiplash,” also with a music backdrop, stars Miles Teller as a talented young drummer put through the paces, and then some, by a domineering music teacher (J.K. Simmons). Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film at Sundance and plans on releasing it later this year, when its two stars are expected to draw awards attention. The movie also involves a romantic subplot, of a sort, between Teller’s character and a young student he meets played by “Glee’s” Melissa Benoist.


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