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The young director, who graduated from Harvard with a degree in visual and environmental studies, drew raves for his second feature, “Whiplash,” a fictional story that borrows heavily from Chazelle’s experience as a jazz drummer in a high school band. The film, starring Miles Teller as an ambitious first-year student at a top music conservatory and J.K. Simmons as his exacting and abusive instructor, is nothing short of terrifying, an unusual sensation for a film about jazz.
PROVENANCE: Providence, R.I.
SUNDANCE BUZZ: “Whiplash” was the first major U.S. deal of the festival, acquired by Sony Pictures Classics for a reported $3 million.
KEEPING IT REEL: “I wanted to make a movie about music that felt like a thriller, something where anyone can see how high-octane and anxiety-producing it is for these guys,” Chazelle says. “I had a conductor with the sort of personality that made it feel very life and death. It was thinking back on those experiences and having nightmares to this day about losing the tempo or showing up onstage and not knowing the songs that I drew on. Those fears felt really primal to me even though they are really specific, I think they translate to a lot of fields.”
UP NEXT: Chazelle says he may mine the music world again for his next project but he’s still mulling his next move.