'Whiplash': An Example of Brilliant Writing, Directing, and Editing

This film may not be quite your tempo when it comes to writing, directing, cinematography, and editing skills. But it's a brilliant example of how young writers, directors, and editors can join together and create a masterpiece.

It's one of my favorite movies so far. The director and writer of "Whiplash," Damien Chazelle, also directed "La La Land." The feature film "Whiplash" (2014) was based off of the short film "Whiplash," which Chazelle wrote and directed a year before as proof he had the skills and was capable of making it into a feature-length movie. He submitted the short to the Sundance film festival and later got the funding for the 2014 movie. That happened when he was in his 20s. The feature film was done on a very small (for a Hollywood movie) budget of about $3.3 million. Together with the editor Tom Cross, who edited both the original and the feature film, great cinematography, and a great cast of actors, they were able to create a music movie that felt like an action thriller. I don't want to underestimate the role of the other team members, such as the set designers, sound engineers, ACs, ADs, and others, but in this, we focus mainly on the writing, directing, editing, and the right tempo, of course.

A good editor can sometimes save a badly written and directed film, but in this case, the script and directing are spot on. One of the most prominent feelings throughout the film is the ever-building drama and suspense that is created by increasing the tension of the action and relieving it for a short time, followed by another emotional climax. You can see how tension composition-wise is built up by using extreme close-ups, dramatic lighting, increasing the tempo of the cuts, and using lots of jump cuts. The following video is a compilation of scenes from the original Whiplash and the feature film, where you can see the composition, focal lengths, and framing is almost identical. Both versions are edited by Tom Cross.

The film is an inspiration to all of us who may not win an Oscar, but at least we know that great movies are not always a due to great budgets, but people with skills.

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Rod Kestel's picture

Thanks, I really enjoyed that.

I've just started editting video interviews and even the simplest version - one camera, one talent - has given me a bit of grief. Next I want to ramp up to using b-roll to break long sections of talking head.

Start easy, then get fancy. It's not until you begin that you realise how little you know.

Can somebody recommend good online courses for interview technique?

Jason Lorette's picture

This is a fantastic film, I agree with everything you've stated. I need to go watch this again.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

It's fantastic indeed.

Jason Lorette's picture

I'm a sucker for a well written music related film too, but the drama in this is awesome, the instructor is just mean and brilliantly acted by J.K. Simmons.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Indeed. Same with La La Land. Superb execution there too.

Jarrod McMatt's picture

This is one of the best films that many people have no idea even exists. All the parts in it are played to their absolute fullest.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Unfortunately it's true that many people don't even know about the film. The movie is superb indeed.

Michael Kormos's picture

An outstanding film indeed. I always judge movies based on the emotional footprint they leave you with. Whiplash had certainly stirred me up. Chazelle is a breath of fresh air in Hollywood. La La Land was also a joy to watch. And I seldom watch musicals!

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