January 19, 1985
Providence, Rhode Island, United States
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The backbone and inspiration of many of Damien Chazelle's films was always his love of music, first seen in his black and white musical "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench." Music then became the subject of his award-winning short--and then later feature--?Whiplash.? Born in Rhode Island in 1985, Chazelle grew up in both France and America; his comfort with two cultures strongly informed his film work. He began his first film, a short entitled ?Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench? (2009), as his thesis for his Masters at Harvard in Visual and Environmental Studies. Over the next two years, he developed it into a full length feature, utilizing friends and a 16mm camera to tell the story of a woman and a jazz musician. After graduation he moved out to Los Angeles with a plan to connect with the film studios through his work as a screenplay writer for hire. By 2009 he had taken ?Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench? to festivals where it gained some notice and several awards including recognition as an emerging artist at the Denver International Film Festival and a Jury Special Prize at the Torino International Film Festival. He continued to hone his writing skills as a screenwriter in Hollywood and began to write his next feature, ?Whiplash? (2013). This film was much more personal, an insider's dark look at the powerful emotions and obsessions that drive music students. As a former student at musical academies, it was a subject he knew quite well. When he found the script a tough sell, he listened to advice and took a scene from it to develop as a short film. The short created buzz across the 2013 film festival circuit and won numerous awards including the Short Film Jury Prize at Sundance. New interest in the original led to the feature-length script being included on the coveted ?Black List? of unproduced films considered by studios. With this help, funding was secured and the feature-length film ?Whiplash? was produced, winning awards and acclaim from Sundance to Cannes. Chazelle's next project moved even further into his love of music: "La La Land" (2016) was a full-fledged musical, with elaborate song and dance numbers throughout. Stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling did all their own singing and dancing as a struggling actress and idealistic jazz pianist. The critically acclaimed box office hit scored 14 Oscar nominations, tying the record set by "All About Eve" (1951) and "Titanic" (1997), and won six, including Best Original Score, Best Original Song (for the film's love theme "City of Stars"), Best Director and Best Actress. In one of the most shocking moments in Oscar history, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that "La La Land" had won Best Picture and producer Jordan Horowitz was most of the way through his acceptance speech before it was revealed that a mistake had been made: the true winner of the Best Picture award was indie drama "Moonlight" (2016).