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Creator / Damien Chazelle

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Damien Sayre Chazelle, born on January 19, 1985 in Providence, Rhode Island, is an American film director, screenwriter and producer.

Many of Chazelle's produced films — namely Grand Piano (which he didn't direct), 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 a nomination for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

At the 89th Academy Awards in 2017, he was honored with the Oscar for Best Director for La La Land, which made him, at 32 years of age, the youngest person ever to receive the award.

In addition to his work in writing and directing, Chazelle is a graduate of Harvard University and worked for numerous years as a "writer-for-hire" in Los Angeles after he graduated. Alongside Grand Piano, he also co-wrote The Last Exorcism Part II and was brought in to rewrite 10 Cloverfield Lane, the directing gig of which he ultimately turned down to focus on Whiplash. He was additionally roommates in college with composer Justin Hurwitz, who has since scored each of his films; the two were also among the founding members of the indie pop band Chester French, for which Chazelle played drums and Hurwitz played piano and percussion.

Selected filmography

As writer:

As writer and director:

As 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, he’d 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 deconstructs 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 1950's, 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), a light romantic comedy/stylish homage to Hollywood musicals about two struggling artists in L.A (La La Land), a biopic of Neil Armstrong (First Man), and an epic period drama set in 1920s Hollywood (Babylon).
  • 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. He was meant to reunite with Emma Stone for Babylon, but it fell through.
  • 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.