Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle was in a “very competitive” jazz band during his years at Princeton High School. The experience of “just dread” is what Whiplash is based on.
He based the conductor, Terence Fletcher, on his former band instructor (who died in 2003) but he said he “pushed it further” adding in bits of Buddy Rich as well as other notorious band leaders.
Chazelle would later admit, to writing the film ” initially in frustration,” while trying to get his musical film La La Land off the ground.
He decided to turn 15 pages of his original script into a short film starring Johnny Simmons in the role of the drummer and J. K. Simmons (no relation) in the role of the teacher.
The 18-minute Whiplash short film went on to receive much acclaim at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and that ultimately attracted investors to sign on and produce the complete version of the script.
The feature-length film was financed for $3.3 million by Bold Films.