Whiplash: Revealing The Hidden Facts


Increasingly engulfed in excitement with every step I took towards the cinema, I could not wait to watch Whiplash! Having seen the trailer many times, I was certain I would enjoy this film. And, being a musician and teacher, I had a keen interest.

Whiplash differs from its predecessors and removes the myths of a glamorous lifestyle in exchange for the harsh reality that awaits its ‘musician-hopefuls’. Lesser now are days of the media-driven rock star, and with it, all aspects of the lifestyle. If you want to make it as a musician nowadays, bloody hard work is what it takes. Just like any other high-demanding modern job. Studying music in University is a dream for many, but the somewhat high-competitive nature is something most students are not prepared for and can devastatingly hinder ones development.

Writer and debutant director Damien Chazelle, in his early twenties, shot and edited the film in less than two months. Autobiographical, it is a “retelling” of his own experiences as a drummer in a competitive ensemble. Chazelle stated, “That kind of environment was something that I felt might be a good father for a Drama.”

Originally a successful short film presented at Sundance Festival, Chazelle developed the film further and was determined to return to Sundance with a feature-length version in 2014.

“This film is about what it takes to be great. I wanted to make a violent film, but, in this case, the violence is emotional.” – Chazelle

Miles Teller plays Andrew – the drummer-hopeful attending his first year at Shaffer Conservatory of Music. He comes into contact with Terence Fletcher – the “larger than life” head-conductor at the school. Basically, the film is about the relationship that develops between the two of these characters.
J. K. Simmons delivers an eye-opening performance, as Fletcher, while Teller is equally as stunning. Every scene they shared put me on the edge of my seat, such is the intense chemistry between student and teacher in this gasp-filled thriller.

It appears the director had experience in this environment, based on the accuracy and honesty of its message. Every detail of this competitive reality is covered.

One scene in particular when a fellow-student asks Andrew (Teller) can he borrow his drumsticks. Seeing the frustration expressed by Andrew this request brought back memories of my days at University. Some students take borrowing more seriously than others, therefore a division is created amongst students. This is one of the many details in the film that reveals the knowledge behind it.

Whiplash gets its name from a complex Jazz piece written by Hank Levy in the 1970’s. It is the song featured most prominently in the film. I would strongly recommend the soundtrack to any drummer or Jazz fan. Featuring many drum parts as seen on the film, as well as Jazz standards such as Caravan. Buddy Rich and Charlie Parker are shown admiration in the movie – Buddy being the main character’s idol.

Nominated for five academy awards, Whiplash is both insightful and captivating – a real edge of your seat movie. Also, it must be said that the cast was perfectly chosen by Chazelle.

Notably, the shots of the characters playing their instruments are brilliant. Little has been faked. In preparation for Miles Teller’s role, Chazelle moved his drum kit into Tellers apartment and began giving him private drum lessons. Such is the thought-process and attention to detail that has gone into making this film. And it’s not about some drummer in a pop group playing the basics; this is Jazz – high-level musicianship at its best.

If you want to improve your playing – whether it’s to develop further or learn from scratch – our local music tutors can help you accomplish your goals.