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'Whiplash' director Damien Chazelle on how virtuosity is bloody painful




Bloody drumsticks from the set of Damien Chazelle's
Bloody drumsticks from the set of Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash"
Sony Pictures
Bloody drumsticks from the set of Damien Chazelle's
Miles Teller stars in Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash"
Sony Pictures
Bloody drumsticks from the set of Damien Chazelle's
(L-R) Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons star in Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash"
Sony Pictures


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Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000-Hour Rule," purports that one must log so many hours of practice in order to be truly great at a given task. But what does that practice actually look, sound, or feel like?

Damien Chazelle offers a gripping take in "Whiplash," a film about an aspiring jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and his perfectionist tutor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).

 

Chazelle recently stopped by The Frame's studio, where he talked about the physicality of practice, musicians who can only communicate through their art, and the battle of artistic compromise.

Interview Highlights:

On artists who can only communicate through their art:

If you're an artist, you want to draw from real life, you want to draw from experiences, emotion, and it's something that a lot of musicians juggle with. I've always found it so fascinating. There are a few musicians that I know who seem on the outside like very asocial or somewhat unemotional people, people who aren't capable of emotions, and people think they're very cold inside. And they'll be like that, and then you'll hear them play their instrument, or you'll hear the music they write, and you'll hear emotions come out of that music that you'd never expect coming from that person, and that to me is always this fascinating thing, these people who truly can only communicate through music.

So I wanted to make a movie about people who live music in that way and compare that to what it's like in the outside world. You know, a guy who gives his heart and soul to a music school and an instrument and then he goes out to dinner with his family and he's met with indifference, and what that sort of does to you when your interior passion doesn't line up with what the world wants from you.

On the artistic similarities between himself and Andrew, the protagonist of "Whiplash":

Going back to my film education, I always have that voice in my head that's always screaming, "sell out!" And that's good, you want that, because it keeps you on your toes, and it's important to remember what's actually important. I think, especially living in L.A., it's very easy to get wrapped up in weekend announcements and the trades and the whole social life of the city, and to get divorced from what actually matters.

So it was never a thought in my mind that this movie would be about anything other than jazz drumming, or that, for example, the character of Fletcher, the conductor character, would be softened for commercial purposes, or that the lead character would be made a little more likable. I purposefully wrote this movie so I wouldn't have to make those compromises; I wrote something that I thought would be "makeable" enough, that didn't require a gigantic budget, so that I could tell exactly the story I wanted to.



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