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Oscars 2015: Is 'Whiplash' really an adaptation?




(L-R) Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons star in Damien Chazelle's
(L-R) Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons star in Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash"
Sony Pictures

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Academy Award nominations were announced this past Thursday, including a few for "Whiplash" — the psychological thriller about a jazz student and his teacher. On top of being included in the Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor categories, the Academy nominated "Whiplash" for Best Adapted Screenplay.

But Damian Chazelle, the film's writer and director, insists the screenplay is original, and based on his real-life experience in music school. So where does the confusion come in?

Pete Hammond, awards columnist for Deadline, says it all starts with a short film made by the same team before "Whiplash" had secured enough funding to make it a feature. "It was a short film only because they were looking for financing to make the movie in the first place," says Hammond. "So they took an 18-minute scene from the script and shot it."

The short film did well — so well it won a prize in the 2012 Sundance film festival. The Academy argues that since the short film came out first, "Whiplash" has to be an adaptation.

Not everyone agrees with the definition. The Writers Guild Awards and the British Academy both nominated "Whiplash" for best original screenplay. "I was shocked, like a lot of people were," Hammond adds.

With the nominations set and announced, will the film's category affect its chances at winning an award for its script? Hammond says it might. "It might get some resentment from some people in the Academy. And should it win, it's a classic example of something that should really have an asterisk next to it."