Damien Chazelle on 'Whiplash'; Jewish Émigrés & Film History
Director Damien Chazelle tells Kim Masters how he was able to turn a 15-minute short film into a full-length feature that was the darling of Sundance. Then, a look at the role of Jewish émigrés in the birth of film noir.
The new film Whiplash follows an ambitious young jazz drummer who encounters a relentless teacher who drives him to the brink. Filmmaker Damien Chazelle shares how he went from working as a horror script rewriter to directing the film that won the Audience and Grand Jury awards at this year’s Sundance film festival. Plus, Avishay Artsy reports on new exhibitions highlighting how some Jews fleeing Hitler found refuge in Hollywood and forever changed American cinema.
Photo: (L-R) J.K. Simmons and Director Damien Chazelle. (Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)
Matt Belloni, Executive Editor of the Hollywood Reporter, joins Kim to discuss top entertainment news stories of the week.
- Marvel announces their latest slate of superhero movies with dates and titles through 2019. - Interstellar has started screening, and critics are giving mixed reviews, which may shake up this year’s Oscar race.
In the new movie Whiplash, Miles Teller plays drummer Andrew Nieman, a first-year student at an elite music conservatory , and J.K. Simmons transforms himself into the terrifying, abusive teacher, Fletcher.
Director Damien Chazelle, is a drummer himself, and drew on his experiences in high school, where he played in a jazz band and had a frightening teacher. When Chazelle sat down with Kim Masters, he said his own teacher was nowhere near as scary as the one Simmons portrays in the film, but the sense of dread Chazelle felt going into rehearsal every day was something he wanted to unpack in the movie.
Chazelle first started working in Hollywood as a writer, often doing rewrites of horror scripts while working other odd jobs to pay the bills. He was able to drop the side jobs and focus solely on writing after he sold a spec script he said he wrote purely with the intent to be commercially viable. That script hasn’t been made into a movie, but another one of Chazelle’s projects has. Whiplash was a hit at Sundance this year, but the film actually made its first Sundance appearance in 2013, albeit in the form of a short.
The hope was that making a 15-minute short film first would help Chazelle get the funding he needed to make a full-length feature, and that’s exactly how it worked out. Chazelle said the process of making the short was actually helpful, sort of like a rehearsal for the feature, which ended up being a very intense, all-consuming film shoot. But he’s looking forward to longer having to audition his own films as shorts first. Chazelle’s next feature-length movie, La La Land, will have him working with Miles Teller again, no short required this time.
Photo: (L-R) Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher (Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)
In the 1930s, as the National Socialist Party gained power in Germany, people around the world did what they could to help Jews escape the Nazi threat. Jewish filmmakers and producers found refuge in Hollywood, and their contributions forever changed American cinema and culture. Those stories are told in several new museum exhibits across Los Angeles. Avishay Artsy took a visit to these exhibits and reports on what he found.