Director Damien Chazelle’s stunning dramatic feature, Whiplash, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the festival’s two most prestigious prizes, the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic features. The film concerns itself with a young Jazz prodigy, played by Miles Teller, and his demonic instructor/band leader Fletcher, stunningly played by character actor J. K. Simmons. The very nature of the film, Jazz, almost by definition required a soundscape for the project that was both compelling and credible – needing to match Teller’s performance (playing the drums) while paying homage to some of the most iconic musical legends like Charlie Parker, and especially Parker’s colleague, Max Roach, as well as to a number of classic compositions from Jazz history, including the titular “Whiplash.”
The soundscape mix for Whiplash was overseen by Technicolor’s Craig Mann and Ben Wilkins, working from Technicolor’s theatrical mix stages at Paramount studios, along with the film’s music supervisor Andy Ross, and Richard Walters, the film’s executive in charge of music. Speaking on behalf of the Technicolor sound team, Mann and Wilkins elaborated on the work behind the accomplishment, “One of Damien's primary concerns about sound was that all the band performance music feel natural and fit in the space sonically.”
Damien had a very clear vision about what he did and didn't want in the track. He was incredibly attentive toward sound effects content and placement during the scenes between music sections. We were very careful not to add any sounds that didn’t expressly advance the story or reinforce emotion. The result is a sometime very sparse soundscape, echoing the loneliness of our characters, which makes the drumming sequences so much more impactful.”
Reflecting on the film’s rather Spartan budget, Mann and Wilkins noted, “On a project of this size, very small, it's important that all departments are in touch very early on. We had a specific sound pre-production meeting with the production mixer, music editor, post sound group, line producer and several of the other production heads to make sure that playback of the music on the set ran correctly and production recordings would be as usable as possible. We knew that a lot of the production sound would be covered with music playback on the set and we came up with some ways to use as much of the production recording as possible, as there was little to no money for ADR.”
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