Damien Chazzelle’s WHIPLASH is one of the better redemption stories in recent Hollywood memory, not just onscreen but behind the scenes as well. Chazelle always intended for it to be a feature, but his first time out he could raise enough interest for funding, so had to settle for making a shorter, 18-minute encapsulation starring John Simmons as Andrew, the drumming student, and eventual Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons (no relation) as hardboiled instructor Fletcher. That short was submitted to and shown at the Sundance Film Festival, where it finally got the attention – and the cashola – it deserved. A year or so later, everybody knew the film and Chazelle, and now we’re all waiting with increasingly-baited breath for his follow-up, the widely-acclaimed LA LA LAND.

But remaining a moment on WHIPLASH, knowing it was a feature turned into a short turned back into a feature sets it up as a very interesting model indeed for adaptation and the limits and benefits of both short and feature-length stories on film. In his latest alchemic masterpiece, Jacob T. Swinney has created an in-depth and interweaving look at the similarities between the two WHIPLASHes. In the space between these films can be found a font of education in regards to when to abbreviate, when to expand, when to cut short and when to let it ride. Chazelle is obviously destined to be one of the truly great filmmakers, as at the age of 31 he’s on the verge of his second Oscar nomination (his first was for writing WHIPLASH) and likely a couple more past that; LA LA LAND seems a shoo-in for Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture noms. That makes this the perfect time and the perfect essay to acquaint yourself with the simmering and whimsical genius of Damien Chazelle, all while learning a thing or two about how to turn little stories into big films.

WHIPLASH: From Short to Feature from Jacob T. Swinney on Vimeo.

And in case you haven’t seen it in its entirety, here’s the full version of the WHIPLASH short from 2013.

Whiplash (2013) from mamlakat on Vimeo.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist