Whiplash - From Short To Feature

Intercutting between Damien Chazelle's Sundance-winning original short Whiplash, and the equivalent scene in the Oscar-winning feature.

Genre: Drama

Length: 14:31

Free To View

Producer/s : Jason Blum et al,

Director/s : Damien Chazelle, 

Writer/s : Damien Chazelle, 

Actor/s : JK Simmons, Miles Teller / Jonny Simmons

 

Notes compared

The producers of the feature film Whiplash were having trouble convincing investors that Damien Chazelle’s screenplay about a young jazz drummer at a prestige music college would make for cinematic drama. They financed a short as proof of concept, and entered it into the Sundance Film Festival where it won Best Short Award. Money flowed, and Whiplash the feature hit the screens in 2014.

What hooked Sundance jury and investors alike was J.K. Simmons’ riveting performance as the terrifying music teacher whose technique is to reduce students to quivering crying wrecks. He eats them for breakfast, he’s Hannibal Lecter without the soft streak, he’s the brutal Drill Sergeant in Full Metal Jacket.

For Whiplash: From Short to Feature, Jacob Swinney has cut between the short film and the equivalent scene from the feature. While it’s almost shot-for-shot and line-for-line identical, seeing the differences actually heightens the experience. In the short the students stay seated as he enters – in the feature they jerk to attention like rookie soldiers. The short is set in a functional grey rehearsal room; while the feature’s room is classy, dark and oak-panelled. Instruments gleam gold, and the richness of colour makes Simmons’ primal alpha bullying all the more horrible. His intensity, already set to 11 in the short, is notched up even higher in the feature – compare his body language between teh two.

The best supporting actor gong came his way, alongside Oscars for editing and sound. All three are evident here. (The Academy ruled that the feature was an adaptation of the short film, rather than vice versa, so it was nominated in the best adapted screenplay category, where it lost out to The Imitation Game. Would it have beaten Birdman as best original screenplay? I think so.)

Swinney’s Vimeo channel is worth a look, as it has several other fascinating edits, exploring such things as Fincher’s extreme close-ups, the Coens’ use of green, and the shots Tarantino nicked from other films.