Damien Sayre Chazelle (born January 19, 1985) is an American film director and screenwriter.
Many of Chazelle's produced films —namely Grand Piano, Whiplash, and La La Land— share a common theme of music, which isn't an accident, given his original focus in studying jazz. His experiences as a jazz drummer in particular inspired the story of Whiplash, for which he received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
In addition to his work writing and directed the aforementioned films, he also is a graduate of Harvard University, penned The Last Exorcism Part II and 10 Cloverfield Lane, the latter of which he was tapped to direct but ultimately chose to focus on La La Land instead.
At the 89th Academy Awards, Chazelle was honored with the Best Director Oscar for La La Land and, at 32 years of age, is the youngest person ever to receive the award.
As writer and director:
Tropes present in Damian Chazelle's work include:
- Author Appeal:
- His directorial efforts have primarily focused on the struggles artists (primarily musicians) tend to go through.
- He also really likes jazz music - had he not gone into filmmaking, hed have been a jazz musician.
- Bittersweet Ending: Is a very big fan of these. Whiplash has Andrew perform a very complicated and impressive drum solo, but it's left ambiguous whether or not this has made his personal and professional lives suffer as a result. In La La Land, Mia and Sebastian end up fulfilling their dreams, but end their relationship with each other as a result. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Michelle realizes the world has been overrun by oppressive aliens, but hears a radio signal based in Huston and starts heading towards there, with he hope that there's other life available.
- Career Versus Man: A rare gender-inclusive example. His characters are faced with the difficult task of choosing between their careers and their personal lives (love included). More often than not, career wins.
- Determinator: Whiplash deconstructed this trope, while La La Land somewhat reconstructs it. He doesn't deny the hardships one goes through when trying to achieve your dreams, however. He himself is a big example. He attributes his talent to good old-fashioned hard work and practice in interviews and during the production of Whiplash, he had gotten into a rough car accident, eerily like Andrew does in the film, had gone to the hospital and returned to direct only a day later.
- Genre Throwback: La La Land is this to the old Hollywood musicals of the 50s, as well as the musicals of Jacques Demy.
- Genre Roulette: In his career so far, he's co-written a sequel to a supernatural horror film(The Last Exorcism Part II), a thriller set during a piano performance (Grand Piano) a bottle movie/thriller/mystery/character drama/post-apocalyptic sci-fi picture(10 Cloverfield Lane), a thriller/character drama/deconstruction of the "Mentor and Muse" relationship/examination of ambition with elements of autobiography and set in a music conservatory(Whiplash), and a light romantic comedy/stylish homage to Hollywood musicals about two struggling artists in L.A (La La Land) and a biopic of Neil Armstrong (First Man).
- Lighter and Softer: While sharing similar themes, La La Land is MUCH lighter than Whiplash.
- Production Posse: All of his films have been scored by Justin Hurwitz, Tom Cross has edited all his films starting with Whiplash and Linus Sandgren and Mary Zophres were cinematographer and costume designer, respectively, for both La La Land and First Man. On the acting side, he has worked with Ryan Gosling and J. K. Simmons twice each, and is set to work a second time with Emma Stone.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Whiplash is very much on the cynical end, while La La Land is much more idealistic.
- Write What You Know: His experiences as a jazz musician, filmmaker and an overall artist, as well as what it means to strive for greatness and to balance art and life, have informed the themes and situations invoked in his movies.