Whiplash is a 2014 film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Its success helped launch Chazelle’s career. It tells the story of a young man driven to become a world class jazz drummer both because of and in spite of his abusive mentor’s methods. The film earned five academy award nominations and won three, including best adapted screenplay. 

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Whiplash Script PDF Download

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Written by Damien Chazelle

Damien Chazelle is an award-winning American writer and director famous for multiple critically acclaimed films. Chazelle’s script for Whiplash won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay, and he won best director for his film La La Land, making him the youngest person to ever receive the award.   



Here is the story structure for Whiplash screenplay:


Andrew Neiman wants nothing more than to play for his school’s elite jazz band. While practicing, he catches the attention of Fletcher, the band’s conductor, but Fletcher leaves, seemingly unimpressed. 

Inciting Incident

Fletcher shows up at Andrew’s rehearsal one night, asks him to play, and offers him a coveted position in the school’s top band. 

Plot Point One

Andrew sacrifices his friends and family to impress Fletcher, who is increasingly revealed to be temperamental, manipulative, and abusive even though he helps Andrew at times.

Rising Action

After losing the sheet music for a performance, Andrew must play in place of his bandmate. His bandmate can’t play the music from memory but Andrew can and does well. He is promoted to core drummer.  


Before an important competition, Andrew gets a flat tire and has to rent a car. He then forgets his sticks and must rush to collect them and is hit by a truck. Hurt and bleeding, he runs to the competition to play but does poorly and is dismissed by Fletcher. 

Plot Point Two

Andrew is depressed but tries to move on. He learns that a family is suing Fletcher because they believe he pushed their son to commit suicide. Andrew reluctantly agrees to testify. 

Build Up

Andrew sees Fletcher playing at a jazz club and the two men have a heart to heart. Fletcher justifies his teaching methods and asks Andrew to play in an upcoming concert. Andrew is excited for this opportunity. 


At the concert, Fletcher humiliates Andrew as retribution for testifying and leads the band to play a song Andrew hasn’t practiced. Andrew performs terribly. 


Andrew refuses to give in and takes over, cuing the rest of the band to follow him. He plays brilliantly and Fletcher is impressed. The two men share a moment and play together. 

Whiplash Script Takeaway #1

Whiplash characters are driven

Whiplash is a story about two deeply compelling and conflicted characters: Andrew Neiman, an aspiring jazz drummer, and Terrance Fletcher, his unforgiving mentor. Both are intense, obsessive, and committed to jazz. Despite these similarities, the two characters are at odds throughout most of the film, and their conflict drives the story.    

Let’s look at how these characters are introduced in the Whiplash screenplay. We’ve imported the screenplay into the StudioBinder screenwriting app where we can see how Andrew and Fletcher’s similarities and differences are set up from page one. Click the image link to read the entire scene.

Whiplash Script  •  Andrew and Fletcher meet  •  Read Full Scene

The first character we meet is Andrew, the film’s protagonist. Nearly every detail reveals his dedication to jazz. He’s covered in sweat from his intense practice and has toned arms “built from years and years of drumming.” If the fact that he’s playing isn’t enough to clue us in to how important drumming is to his character, these other details highlight that fact. 

Another important detail is Andrew’s white T-shirt. It’s a subtle detail, but one loaded with symbolism that signals he’s the story’s hero, especially when compared to Fletcher. When Fletcher is introduced, he's not only wearing a black T-shirt, but also “black slacks, black shoes.” His darkness is there, it’s just not obvious yet.   

Fletcher’s antagonism develops throughout the rest of the script as he becomes increasingly hostile and abusive towards his students, as seen in this clip.     

Fletcher helps and hurts Andrew  •  Whiplash

Fletcher is clearly the antagonist of the film, though he’s disguised as a mentor. In both these roles, he acts as a foil to Andrew, driving his character arc and defining the story’s theme.

Whiplash Script Takeaway #2

How Whiplash plays with theme

At its core, Whiplash asks if the sacrifice required to achieve greatness is worth it. This central theme is not only explored in Andrew’s relationship with Fletcher but in his relationships with his family and friends as well. 

When Andrew’s father is introduced, he’s described as “average” and the script tells us he “has the eyes of a former dreamer.” Andrew’s father acts as a foil to Andrew. He’s a man who had a dream and gave it up, something Andrew refuses to do.

Whiplash Script  •  Andrew and his father talk  •  Read Full Scene

As the movie continues, Andrew and his father’s differing opinions eventually come to a head during a family dinner. Andrew looks down on his ordinary family and makes it clear he thinks he’s better than them. It’s obvious his father disapproves of this attitude when he reminds Andrew he’s not the genius he thinks he is because he hasn’t achieved greatness yet. 

Andrew and his family argue about greatness  •  Whiplash

The central theme in Whiplash asks if it’s worth doing whatever is necessary to achieve greatness. Andrew and Fletcher, despite their adversarial relationship, agree that it is while Andrew’s father shows a different point of view. In the film’s final scene, we learn who’s right.   

Whiplash Script Takeaway #3

Subverting expectations in the end

The Whiplash screenplay follows a traditional story structure, but the ending subverts the typical Hero’s Journey and with a final message that is open to interpretation. 

In the final act, Fletcher and Andrew reconnect at a jazz club, and Fletcher asks Andrew to play with his band. He tells Andrew to take some time to think about the opportunity, but Andrew doesn’t need to.

The script tells us Andrew knows “this is something to seize on,” and he does, believing it’s his moment to prove his worth. 

Whiplash Script  •  Andrew and Fletcher reconnect  •  Read Full Scene

But in reality, Fletcher has set Andrew up for failure to get back at him for testifying against him. In a brutal scene, Andrew is humiliated in front of a live audience, but he refuses to let Fletcher defeat him and rises to the occasion. 

Andrew pushes forward, ignoring Fletcher’s instruction and thereby earning his respect because Andrew plays ferociously. He’s truly something to behold. 

Whiplash  •  Drum Solo Final Scene

In this final scene, Andrew gives everything he has. He pushes himself and delivers an incredible performance. In doing this, he finally proves he has what it takes to both himself and Fletcher, but the audience is left wondering if it’s worth it because we know what reaching this point has cost him and worry what it means.


Read and download more scripts

Whiplash is an incredible script that solidified Damien Chazelle’s career as a screenwriter. If you want to read other first scripts from famous screenwriters, we have similar titles like 12 Angry Men, Citizen Kane, and Fences in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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