Last year’s jazz-fueled feature Whiplash was one of 2014’s surprise hits, and earned its cast and creative teams five Academy Award nominations, taking home three Oscars in the end. What isn’t widely known, however, is that feature-length movie was based on a short film of the same name made by the director a year earlier.
In a new video, the 2014 feature and the short film that inspired it are compared side-by-side, offering a peek at the movie’s evolution on its way to earning some of Hollywood’s highest honors.
The video comparison was assembled by YouTube user Username Hype, who synchronized the original 18-minute short film directed by Damien Chazelle with various scenes from the full feature directed by Chazelle. Given that many members of the short film’s cast reprised their roles in the feature — most notably, “Best Actor” Oscar winner J.K. Simmons — it’s a fascinating video to watch due to all of the subtle changes in dialogue and visual cues, among other elements.
Along with the vastly different color palette used in the feature, one of the most conspicuous changes from short film to feature is the casting of the film’s young drummer at the heart of the film. Miles Teller provided a memorable performance as jazz student Andrew Neiman in the feature-length film, but the role was originally played by The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World actor Johnny Simmons (no relation to J.K. Simmons) in the short film.
One thing that didn’t seem to change much in the film’s transition from short to feature-length project is J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of jazz instructor Terence Fletcher, the relentless, abusive taskmaster masterfully brought to the screen by Simmons. The performance earned Simmons a well-deserved Oscar, and the side-by-side comparison of the short film and feature reveal some subtle shifts in both Simmons’ character and the focus of several scenes in which he appears that helped to define the role.
More than anything else, however, the comparison offers an example of the way a short film can serve as a template for a broad feature, condensing certain themes, visual elements, and performances into their core components.