The savage Sundance-winning short Whiplash, about a young drummer facing down a brutally antagonizing music instructor, is about to become a feature film.
Writer and director Damien Chazelle adapted the 18-minute short from several scenes in the full-length script with the hope that it would attract investors for the complete version.
Now Bold Films, the production company behind Drive and the upcoming Only God Forgives, has stepped forward to fill out the undisclosed budget. The company will make Whiplash as a joint production with Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions, who teamed up to create the short.
In the video above, EW debuted the first clip from Whiplash, which went on to win Sundance’s short film jury award for fiction.
The movie focuses on a drummer (Johnny Simmons) in an elite jazz orchestra conservatory as he struggles to impress a merciless teacher, played by J.K. Simmons (Juno and Spider-Man.)
In the interview accompanying the clip, Chazelle and the short’s executive producers Jason Blum and Jason Reitman talk about the challenges of financing indie films and how a short can serve as “proof of concept” for would-be investors.
Why did they get involved originally? They just believed in the script, which was on to the 2012 Black List, Hollywood’s run-down of the best new screenplays. “It’s kind of like Shine meets Full Metal Jacket,” said Reitman.
Not only will Chazelle write and direct the feature, but J.K. Simmons (no relation to his co-star Johnny) will be returning as well — delivering terrifying scoldings that will either scare wannabe musicians into practicing more, or leave them helplessly curled in the fetal position. It’s not clear yet who will play the boy in the full-length version.
The feature will reunite key members of the short’s producing team, including Blum as a producer for Blumhouse and Helen Estabrook producing for Right of Way. Couper Samuelson, who also worked on the short, will executive produce alongside Reitman and Bold’s Gary Michael Walters.
“We had high expectations of Damien’s ability as a filmmaker even before he took 15 pages from his screenplay and made a terrific short. We can’t wait to have those expectations exceeded once again with the other 85 pages,” said Estabrook and Samuelson in the press release announcing the news.
David Lancaster of Bold Films, who will produce along with colleague Michel Litvak, added: “We are excited to support a new talent like Damien who has such a fresh and unique voice as a filmmaker.”
Whiplash will shoot this summer in Los Angeles.
In the meantime, here’s a sample of Chazelle’s previous work: the elegant indie musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @ldbahr