Whiplash: a film about music

Whiplash is a film about music released in 2014 and has a duration of 106 minutes. In that same year (2014), the film won more than a dozen awards. Among them we could highlight that it won an Oscar for best sound. It also won the award in the category of best sound at the BAFTA and Satellite Awards. Whiplash was directed and written by Damien Chazelle and starring by Miles Teller (as Andrew) and J.K. Simmons (as Fletcher). 

For those who have not yet seen Whiplash, a film that I highly recommend, here is a brief synopsis taken from IMBd: 

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Whiplash (2014). (2014, 15 octubre). IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582802/

I wanted to talk about this movie, basically, because it was the first movie that made such an impact on me talking about sound (at least consciously). Also, today I have several friends involved in the world of music, and one in particular is studying jazz at the Conservatory of Amsterdam (Conservatorium van Amsterdam). He does not play drums like the protagonist of the film, but I found it interesting to enter that world of studying music with high pressure. So, I found it attractive to talk about the sound of an audiovisual product, precisely, of a movie that deals with music. 

Throughout the film we can listen to the sound in its different applications. Obviously there are voices with the dialogues, there is ambient sound, there are effects, but above all and more importantly, there is music. The interesting thing about this film is that it is presented in a diegetic way and is a fundamental part of the story and the main character. 

In the following video we can see an interview that URSA Straps did with Tom Curley, the manager of the film’s production sound mixer

Behind The Scene : WHIPLASH with Sound Mixer Tom Curley CAS | URSA Exclusive. (2020, 1 abril). [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZJiF18BxZY&t=239s 

Referring to various curiosities or how the recording was developed, which are mentioned in the interview, I would like to talk about some specific scenes in terms of sound. 

The first scene is the class led by Fletcher. At minute 18:18 the band starts playing. In the interview, Tom says that in this type of scene the songs were already recorded previously, so that what the artists were playing at that time, who, by the way, were real musicians, would not be used in the film. One of the reasons for doing it in this way is that the scene represents a class, so they could not put microphones as they would have been seen on screen. Tom adds that they could have hidden the microphones, but they would not have recorded properly. Although there were microphones to record the atmosphere and the dialogues. 

Screenshot of the movie Whiplash (scene 1). (2014). [Photography].

One of the curiosities is that normally the characters were not wired for the dialogues. Only on certain occasions did it happen. J.k. Simmons directly refused from the beginning of the movie, so they only did it twice where without the wiring it would have been very difficult. One of those scenes is when Fletcher is talking about an ex-student who passed through the conservatory. In that scene (minute 53:40) a relatively long shot is taken from a little far from the actor with steadicam and it required a microphone close to the actor. 

Screenshot of the movie Whiplash (scene 2). (2014). [Photography].

And finally, for me, the most shocking part comes in the final performance of the film of the song Caravan. In it, the main character, Andrew, plays a piece for 9 minutes. I think I had never been so long watching and listening to how they play in a movie without getting a little bored. In this movie it happens the opposite, every time it goes forward you get more excited. The truth is that I do not understand much in music and less in jazz, but what I do know is that when the piece is finished, you still want it to continue, it seems like the music absorbs you and transports you completely within the film, every time it excites you more. I let written two links of videos in which you can see the final performance.  

Whiplash Amazing Final Performance (Caravan) (Part 1) | Whiplash (2014) | 1080p HD. (2016, 20 diciembre). [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZY-Ytrw2co 
Whiplash Finale (Caravan) (Part 2) | Whiplash (2014) | 1080p HD. (2016, 20 diciembre). [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TAfvMn8_EQ 

So, after briefly commenting on the film and some of the scenes, once again, I repeat that this film seemed wonderful to me and recommend, also once again, that you watch it if you have not already done so. You can find it, for example, on Amazon Prime

Web/bibliography  

Behind The Scene : WHIPLASH with Sound Mixer Tom Curley CAS | URSA Exclusive. (2020, 1 abril). [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZJiF18BxZY&t=239s 

Whiplash (2014). (2014, 15 octubre). IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582802/ 

Presentation file: https://universitatdevic-my.sharepoint.com/:p:/g/personal/marta_bermudez1_uvic_cat/EbA_V-ANtFVDtnVt80LF-7UBJUzr3DnmjFSi98pahNZ2QQ?e=zIjnMw

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