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On Your Radar: Film Review Whiplash
by Karen Pecota

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle.

Drumming was Chazelle's life for years. His instrument of choice is known to be one for the expression of musical freedom and joy. Chazelle's association with the music was different. He did not see it as entertainment. It wasn't fun. Nor was drumming a tool for self-expression. It was purely fear that drove him to excellence. It is out of his own personal experience his feature film Whiplash was born.

The fear of missing a beat. Fear of losing tempo. Fear of the conductor. These personal fears that Chazelle struggled to overcome drive his musical storyline. He recalls, "I wanted to make a movie about music that felt like a war movie." Then explains, "I wanted to replace weapons with instruments, where words felt as violent as guns, and where action unfolded not on a battle field, but in a school rehearsal room, or on a concert stage."  Chazelle wanted to use his own tension-filled experience to explore the journey in which a teacher pushes a student toward greatness. As well as, when the student struggles to make sense of the teachers motives. Chazelle explores questions such as, how far does one push? or, how far does one allow being pushed? When is enough, enough?

Creative maneuvering within the industry allowed Chazelle to bring his screenplay to the big screen. Partnering with Blumhouse and Right of Way productions helped to approach a different way to showcase his original screenplay. Together with producers Helen Estabrook and Couper Samuelson, Chazelle created a three-scene short film that he took from a critical sequence in his script. It was an experiment. And, it worked.

It premiered in the short film competition at the Sundance Film Festival and won the U.S. Short Film Jury Prize. The production and finance team at Bold Films were impressed enough with the creative short Chazelle lifted from his original screenplay to put his whole project to film. Whiplash, the movie, premiered opening night at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is a student of jazz drumming attending an elite music conservatory. Nineteen year old Andrew is playing in one of the practice rooms and is discovered by the jazz performance conductor of the conservatory, Terence Fletcher (J.K.Simmons). Andrew is summoned to report to Fletcher the following day. To be transferred into Fletcher's competition band.

Fletcher, known for his unethical teaching methods for greatness, desires to mold Andrew's raw talent. Fletcher becomes obsessed with making Andrew into a great artist. Not simply a good musician. Pushing Andrew to his limits and beyond. Andrew is honored to be sought after by the revered Fletcher. He takes every opportunity to prove himself worthy.

Flying high Andrew has the courage to pursue a relationship with Nicole who works at his favorite cinema. Nicole is flattered. The two share a kindred spirit but still only time spent together will foster their relationship.

Chosen as the alternate drummer to the core drummer, Andrew memorizes the music in  preparation for a chance to perform. The core drummer's music goes missing before a big competition. Andrew boasts he knows the score my memory. Fletcher puts him to the test and he passes. The jazz band wins the competition.

Andrew steps into the core drummer chair at the next rehearsal. Shocked are the senior band members at Andrew for taking advantage of the situation. His circles of relationships begin to diminish. He is thrilled to be Fletcher's new favorite son until he experiences the brutality of what he will have to endure and what it will cost him for such a privilege.

The nearer to perfection Andrew gets from Fletcher's tutelage, the narrower his circle of influence. Those who keep him balanced, like Nicole who comes closer to being snuffed out of his life. A shear detriment to greatness. Andrew's journey as a musician brings him to a fork in the road. He must choose to either descend into madness with a madman out of fear or ascend toward greatness and be true to himself for freedom and joy.