02/23/2015 11:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Sound of Whiplash (Video)

Thomas Curley and his team were over the moon, when they won the Bafta for Production Sound Mixing for Whiplash, already anticipating going to the Academy Awards a few weeks later. But despite the hype, the praise and critical acclaim, as part of the crew, you may dream of it, but you don't really think 'this one is going to win an Oscar'.

For the production sound team and Curley this dream was made reality at the 87th Academy Awards, when Whiplash bagged three Oscars, including Best Sound Mixing.


We meet Thomas the day after winning the Bafta in his hotel room in Covent Garden, central London. He's in surprisingly good shape, considering having received his first major prize the night before, then having "been dragged to some after party to celebrate".

"When I took the job of sound production for Whiplash, everyone called me crazy," he admits. And reading through the script and coming across more and more scenes involving music, drumming, yelling, thrown objects and dialogue, all at the same time, these sceptics may not have been too off. The film is a mix of band rehearsals, performances and solos of highly complicated jazz pieces, so it's not surprising that it was a huge challenge to do the script justice with the sound.


"Early on in the film, when he [Fletcher] first introduces Andrew to the class [...] we had to have the right piece of music queued up, our playback guy had to change tunes in a very short amount of time, all the while I'm mixing in drumming and dialogue," Curley describes handling one of the more challenging scenes.


He studied engineering, film and video production before graduating with a BA in Film Studies at the University of Buffalo. After a few years of broadcast engineering for Fox and NBC affiliates, and a bit of production assistant work, he found his calling in sound production, while working on Dreamworks' "The Time Machine" in Troy, NY. Six months later, Curley moved to Los Angeles and started Curley Sound with his Brother.

The offer for Whiplash came through a friend of his, and it seemed to be over before it really started, with production only lasting 19 days. For Curley as the on-set production sound mixer, these were intense 19 days to say the least.

Perhaps due to the nature of the subject, J.K. Simmons comedic talents didn't find much opportunity on set, apart from the time when he was told to slap Miles Teller round the face, which according to Curley "he took great pleasure in".


We're celebrating the technical skills that go into the production of a film, that may occasionally stay in the shade of actors' performances during award season. While Thomas Curley was the one to take home a trophy, these nominees also had very interesting production anecdotes to share.

Weta's senior digital effects supervisor Joe Letteri, nominated for Best Visual Effects for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director Michael Lennox, on Boogaloo & Graham, nominated for Best Live Action Short

Producer David Rosier on Wim Wender's The Salt of the Earth, nominated for Best Documentary

Text by Ruth Amelung for
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