Filmed in a tight schedule of nineteen days, Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, tells the story of a young musician called Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller). Who, through dedicated and fear, explores the relationship between him and his terrifying mentor, Fletcher (J.K Simmons).
Like a boxer tapes up their bloodied hands, Andrew tapes up his fingers, as he practices harder than ever before to gain Fletcher’s approval. It’s raw, terrifying and bursting with energy.
We attended a press conference of the film at last year’s BFI London Film Festival. Packed into the Mayfair Hotel’s conference room, with director Damien Chazelle and actors Miles Teller and J.K Simmons in attendance – here is what they highlighted about the film.
Whiplash arrives in UK cinemas 16th January 2015.
You can read our ★★★★★ review of the film here.
Damien, how much of Whiplash is your own story?
Too much, I think [laughs]. I was a jazz drummer in a competitive ensemble - in case it was high school. But a special sort of high school like the one in the movie is crafted under. It had a very tough teacher and a very cut throat atmosphere. If the movie was about anything then it was about the fear that you feel as a musician in that circumstance and how the idea of how it was thought of an art. It is a special chance, it should be something that is freeing, and liberating - something where you can communication emotionally with people.
Then it turns into - at the level of education, it becomes this reason to get a raw technique before you can access or be able to improvise and do a lot of things that you are not normally doing. There is almost a military kind of hardship with it that I just don't think we know enough about, or see enough about in movies about musician. It is usually just this kind of idea that you roll out of bed, and suddenly you are improvising great solos. I don' think we see enough movies about practice. So that kind of aspect, and the fear that comes from not mastering that technique is what I wanted to point [Whiplash] on.
JK, What do you think drives Fletcher, and builds his motivation to strike such fear?
Passion for the music, just utter perfectionism, complete single mindedness of pursuit of that goal. Even collateral damaging that could be with standing [laughs].
JK, In terms of preparing for the role, what did that involve for you?
Honestly, the preparation I had to do for the role was just learning the music, as far as playing the character it was all there on the page, and I didn't feel the need to look outside of what Damien had written. All I needed to do is read it off the page for a breath of inspiration and then just hit the deck running with this guy [points at Miles Teller], and read it aloud and did our thing.
Miles, you had played drums quite early on as a teen. Did Whiplash still involve further practice and training?
Yeah, I played drums since I was like fifteen, in my family, both me and my older sisters all played instruments. I started with the piano, I actually played the saxophone in jazz band for middle school, or high school - I only played that up until Saltmore, and then played baseball and other stuff. But, yeah, drumming I some rock bands. I just asked for a drum kit when I was fifteen, my parents were kind enough to buy me one, and I started playing with my buddies who played guitar [kind of], and covered Green Day, stuff like that. But I have always taken my drum kit with me, but never taken and lessons for it.
So when I first started getting lessons [in preparation for Whiplash], it was one of those things that was like 'oh, that was so much easier to do it that way, as I have been doing it this way, which is wrong'. So I just started taking jazz lessons, four hours a day, for three days a week with Damien at first, and then the kid who plays Carl in the film [Nate Lang], he is a very good drummer. He became my teacher and was teaching me the traditional kind of playing - how to hold a stick, and it was very basic effort, like 'this is how you hold a stick' and 'this is how you hit the snare drum'. Damien had me practicing this for just hours.
(Left to right): Damien Chazelle, J.K Simmons and Miles Teller.