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Whiplash (2014 film)

File:Whiplash poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Produced by
  • Jason Blum
  • Helen Estabrook
  • Michel Litvak
  • David Lancaster
Written by Damien Chazelle
Music by Justin Hurwitz
Cinematography Sharone Meir
Edited by Tom Cross
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • January 16, 2014 (2014-01-16) (Sundance)
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.3 million[2]
Box office $33.1 million[2]

Whiplash is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle based on his experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band.[3] Starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, the film depicts the relationship between an ambitious jazz student (Teller) and an abusive instructor (Simmons). Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist co-star as the student's father and love interest respectively. The film opened in limited release domestically in the US and Canada on October 10, 2014, gradually expanding to over 500 screens and finally closing after 24 weeks on March 26, 2015. Over this time the film grossed $33.1 million against a production budget of $3.3 million.

Whiplash premiered in competition in the US Dramatic Category at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2014, as the festival's opening film.[4] Sony Pictures Worldwide acquired the international distribution rights.[5] At the 87th Academy Awards, Whiplash won Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.


Andrew Neiman is a first-year jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. He has been playing drums from a young age and aspires to become one of the greats like Buddy Rich. Famed conductor Terence Fletcher discovers Andrew practicing in the music room late one night and eventually invites him into his studio band as the alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. Fletcher is abusive toward his students, mocking and insulting them; when the band rehearses the Hank Levy piece "Whiplash" and Andrew struggles to keep his tempo, Fletcher hurls a chair at him, slaps him, and berates him in front of the class.

At a jazz competition, Andrew accidentally misplaces Carl's sheet music; as Carl cannot play without it, Andrew steps in, telling Fletcher that he can perform "Whiplash" from memory. Fletcher promotes him to core drummer. Soon after, Fletcher recruits Ryan Connolly, the core drummer from Andrew's former lower-level class. Ryan is the less talented drummer, but Fletcher promotes him to core, infuriating Andrew. Determined to impress Fletcher, Andrew practices until his hands bleed and breaks up with his girlfriend Nicole, believing she will distract him.

The next day, Fletcher tearfully reveals in class that a talented former student of his, Sean Casey, has died in a car accident. The band rehearses "Caravan", but Ryan struggles with the tempo. Fletcher auditions Andrew, Ryan and Carl for hours while the class waits outside, and finally gives the position to Andrew.

On the way to a jazz competition, Andrew's bus breaks down. Determined to make the performance, he rents a car but arrives late without his drumsticks. After an argument with Fletcher and a tirade against his fellow musicians, Andrew drives back to the car rental office and retrieves the drumsticks. As he speeds back, his car is hit by a truck. He crawls from the wreckage and arrives on stage badly injured. When he struggles to play "Caravan" due to his injuries, Fletcher stops the band midway through the performance to tell Andrew that he is "done". Andrew attacks Fletcher in front of the audience and is dragged away.

Andrew is expelled from Shaffer and meets with a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey. The lawyer explains that Sean Casey actually hanged himself, having suffered anxiety and depression after joining Fletcher's class. Sean's parents want to prevent Fletcher from teaching. Andrew agrees to testify anonymously and Fletcher is fired.

Months later, Andrew has abandoned music and is working in a restaurant while applying to different colleges. He walks past a jazz club and sees Fletcher performing on stage. Fletcher invites him for drinks and explains that he pushes his students beyond the expected so they might achieve greatness. He invites Andrew to perform at a festival concert with his band. Andrew agrees and invites Nicole, but she is in a new relationship and declines.

On stage at the jazz festival, Fletcher reveals that he knew Andrew testified against him, and the concert is his revenge. He leads the band in a new piece for which Andrew was not given sheet music. Andrew is humiliated and flees the stage, but as Fletcher is addressing the audience, Andrew returns to the drumset and starts playing "Caravan". The rest of the band joins him, surprising Fletcher, who eventually follows suit. Andrew ends the performance with an extravagant drum solo; Fletcher gives him a smile, which Andrew returns, having pleased his teacher at last.


  • Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, an ambitious young jazz student at Shaffer who plays the drums.
  • J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, the jazz instructor at Shaffer.
  • Paul Reiser as Jim Neiman, Andrew's father, a high school teacher.
  • Melissa Benoist as Nicole, a movie theater concessionist, who becomes Andrew's girlfriend.
  • Austin Stowell as Ryan Connolly, another student drummer who later joins Fletcher's class.
  • Nate Lang as Carl Tanner, the original core drummer in Fletcher's class.
  • Chris Mulkey as Uncle Frank, Andrew's uncle.
  • Jayson Blair as Travis
  • Kavita Patil as Sophie
  • Michael Cohen as Stagehand Dunellen
  • Kofi Siriboe as Greg
  • Suanne Spoke as Aunt Emma
  • April Grace as Rachel Bornholdt


While attending Princeton High School, writer/director Damien Chazelle was in a "very competitive" jazz band and drew on the experience of "just dread" that he felt in those years.[6] He based the conductor, Terence Fletcher, on his former band instructor (who died in 2003) but "pushed it further" adding in bits of Buddy Rich as well as other notorious band leaders.[6]

Originally conceived in the form of an 85-page screenplay, Whiplash came to prominence after being featured in the 2012 Black List that includes the top motion picture screenplays not yet produced.[7] Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions produced, and in order to secure financing for the feature, helped Chazelle turn 15 pages of his original screenplay into a short film starring Johnny Simmons in the role of the drummer and J. K. Simmons in the role of the teacher.[8] The 18-minute short film went on to receive much acclaim after screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival,[9] which ultimately attracted investors to sign on and produce the complete version of the script.[10] The feature-length film was financed for $3.3 million by Bold Films.[5]

In August 2013, Miles Teller signed on to star in the role originated by Johnny Simmons; J. K. Simmons remained attached to his original role.[11] Principal photography began the following month with filming taking place throughout Los Angeles, including the Hotel Barclay, Palace Theater, and the Orpheum Theatre.[12][13]

Early on Chazelle gave J. K. Simmons direction that "I want you to take it past what you think the normal limit would be", telling him: "I don't want to see a human being on-screen anymore. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal." Many of the band members in the movies were real musicians or music students and Chazelle tried to capture real moments of terror from them. However, Chazelle noted that in between takes Simmons was "as sweet as can be" which Chazelle credits for keeping "the shoot from being nightmarish."[6]

The film was shot in 19 days, with a schedule of 14 hours of filming per day.[14][15] Chazelle was involved in a serious car accident in the third week of shooting and was hospitalized with a diagnosis of possible concussion, but he returned to filming the next day to finish the film in time.[14] Despite being set in New York City, the film was filmed in Los Angeles with a few exterior shots filmed in NYC.[15]


Box office

Whiplash opened in a limited release in the United States in six theaters and grossed $135,388, averaging $22,565 per theater and ranking number 34 at the box office. The film expanded wider and earned $6,671,000 domestically and $901,092 in other territories for a total gross of $7,572,092, above its $3.3 million production budget.[16] The film had a total domestic gross of $13.1 million.[16]

Critical response

Whiplash received critical acclaim upon its premiere on the opening night of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, with Simmons' performance receiving universal praise. The film has a score of 95% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 241 reviews, with a rating average of 8.6 out of 10. The site's critical consensus states, "Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J. K. Simmons and Miles Teller."[17] On Metacritic, another review aggregator, the film has a score of 88 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[18]

J. K. Simmons won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[19][20] Peter Debruge, in his review for Variety, said that the film "demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena."[21] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of Teller and Simmons, writing: "Teller, who greatly impressed in last year’s Sundance entry The Spectacular Now, does so again in a performance that is more often simmering than volatile ... Simmons has the great good fortune for a character actor to have here found a co-lead part he can really run with, which is what he excitingly does with a man who is profane, way out of bounds and, like many a good villain, utterly compelling."[22] Whiplash also won the 87th Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing and the 87th Academy Award for Best Film Editing.[23]

Amber Wilkinson from The Daily Telegraph praised the direction and editing, writing: "Chazelle's film has a sharp and gripping rhythm, with shots, beautifully edited by Tom Cross... often cutting to the crash of Andrew's drums."[24] James Rocchi of Indiewire gave a positive review and said, "Whiplash is...full of bravado and swagger, uncompromising where it needs to be, informed by great performances and patient with both its characters and the things that matter to them."[25] Henry Barnes from The Guardian gave the film a positive review, calling it a rare film "about music that professes its love for the music and its characters equally."[23]

Forrest Wickman of Slate accused the film of distorting jazz history and promoting a misleading idea of genius, writing: "A mounting body of evidence shows that no amount of practice, whether 10,000 hours or 20,000 hours, guarantees true genius."[26] In The New Yorker, Richard Brody argued that "Whiplash honors neither jazz nor cinema".[27] The term "Whiplash backlash" is increasingly used to describe the reaction to the film by jazz fans.[28]

Top ten lists


The film received the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival;[29] Chazelle's short film of the same name took home the jury award in the U.S. fiction category one year prior.[9] The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.[30] Whiplash was originally planned to compete for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but on January 6, 2015, it was announced that the film would be competing in the Adapted Screenplay category.[31] At the 87th Academy Awards, J. K. Simmons received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, Tom Cross won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing and Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing.


  1. ^ "Whiplash". British Board of Film Classification. August 5, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Whiplash - Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  3. ^ Heyman, Marshall. "N.Y. Film Fest 'the Holy Grail' for 'Whiplash' Director". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Sandy (17 January 2014). "Sundance Film Festival 2014 opens with premiere of 'Whiplash,' Damien Chazelle's tale of a brutal drumming instructor and his protege". The Oregonian. Associated Press. Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Horn, John (January 16, 2014). "Sundance 2014: Sony grabs international rights to 'Whiplash'". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Dowd, A.A. "Whiplash maestro Damien Chazelle on drumming, directing, and J. K. Simmons". The A.V Club. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  7. ^ Finke, Nikki (December 17, 2012). "The Black List 2012: Screenplay Roster". Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  8. ^ Bahr, Lindsey (May 14, 2013). "'Whiplash': Sundance-winning short to become full-length feature -- BREAKING". Entertainment Weekly. CNN. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "2013 Sundance Film Festival Announces Jury Awards in Short Filmmaking". Sundance Film Festival. Sundance Institute. January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  10. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (May 14, 2013). "Cannes: Bold, Blumhouse, Right Of Way Strike Up Band For Feature Version Of Sundance Short ‘Whiplash’". Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (August 5, 2013). "‘The Spectacular Now’s Miles Teller Gets ‘Whiplash’". Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (September 19, 2013). "Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Nightcrawler’ Gets California Incentive (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Tuesday, Sept. 24 Filming Locations for The Heirs, Undrafted, Dumb & Dumber To, Focus, Shelter, & more!". On Location Vacations. September 24, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Making of 'Whiplash': How a 20-Something Shot His Harrowing Script in Just 19 Days". Hollywood Reporter website. Hollywood Reporter. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Producer: ‘Whiplash’ was filmed in 19, 14-hour days". Page Six. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Whiplash (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Whiplash (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Whiplash". Metacritic. 
  19. ^ Smith, Nigel M (October 15, 2014). "J. K. Simmons on His 'Whiplash' Oscar Buzz and Abusing Miles Teller". indieWire. Retrieved October 15, 2014. 
  20. ^ Riley, Jenelle (September 3, 2014). "J. K. Simmons on Playing a ‘Real’ Villain in ‘Whiplash’". Variety. Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Sundance Film Review: ‘Whiplash’". Variety. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Whiplash: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "Whiplash: Sundance 2014 – first look review". The Guardian. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Sundance 2014: Whiplash, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Sundance Review: ‘Whiplash’ Starring Miles Teller Leads With The Different Beat Of A Very Different Drum". indieWire. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  26. ^ Wickman, Forrest (October 11, 2014). "What Whiplash Gets Wrong About Genius, Work, and the Charlie Parker Myth". Slate. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 
  27. ^ Brody, Richard (13 October 2014). "Getting Jazz Right in the Movies". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  28. ^ "Peter Cater Talks Big Bands, Drumming and the Whiplash Backlash". Jazzwise Magazine. February 5, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015.  See also Clark, Nick (January 23, 2015). "Whiplash movie hit by backlash from disgruntled jazz fans". The Independent. Retrieved February 16, 2015. 
  29. ^ Zeitchik, Steven; Mark Olsen (January 25, 2014). "Sundance 2014 winners: 'Whiplash' wins big". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  30. ^ Richford, Rhonda (September 13, 2014). "'Whiplash' Takes Top Prize in Deauville". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  31. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (January 6, 2015). "Oscar surprise: 'Whiplash' deemed an adapted screenplay by Academy". HitFix. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 

External links

Preceded by
Fruitvale Station
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by
Me & Earl & the Dying Girl