“Whiplash” Sound Mixers Drum Up Award-Caliber Sound


By Charlie Greenwald 02-21-15

It’s crucial to hit all the right notes when you’re mixing the sound for a film about jazz music; and Tom Curley, Craig Mann and Ben Wilkins were up to the challenge.
The three audio engineers are now Oscar-nominated sound mixers for their work on “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle’s thrilling film about a young drummer and his relationship with his teacher.  The film stars J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.
“It’s an incredibly humbling feeling,” Mann tells WEBN. “To be recognized like that by your peers is fantastic.”
Each of the men came to California in their early 20s, driven by their love of sound fostered when they were children. Curley always wanted to work in film, while Mann and Wilkins were more interested in music and radio.
“The cleanliness of the worlds created on the BBC really allured me as a kid,” Wilkins tells WEBN, “So I started there before I came to film.”
Quickly, each man found his way in the industry. Curley has worked on more than 50 shows and films including “Community” and “The Spectacular Now,” while Mann has supervised the “Insidious” franchise and Wilkins has edited sports films like “Warrior.””All of our previous experience has laid the framework for our interest in musical based material,” says Mann.

“I love learning new things and taking on each challenging endeavor to learn new skills,” Curley continues (you don’t really need to quote Curley again; it’s obvious that he is “continuing” his thought)Remarkably enough, the three men only had five weeks to put together the complete sound mixing for the film. The film was very low-budget and the filming schedule was extremely time-sensitive.

“When you’re young and stupid you’re up for anything,” says Mann. “Ultimately, though, there was a lot of pressure that the director, Damien Chazelle, put on himself, and a lot that we put on ourselves.”

Wilkins notes that despite the quickness, nobody ever felt shortchanged or regretful.

“We always gave the film the due consideration and care that it needed,” he says.

Curley was the only one who was actually present for filming, but each of the mixers were impressed by Chazelle’s discipline during the film’s tight production schedule. They also glow when recalling the incredible performances they witnessed from the cast, namely rising star Miles Teller and Oscar favorite J.K. Simmons.

“We all realized on set though that we had something good on our hands,” Curley recalls. “J.K. is a consummate professional, Miles worked incredibly hard, and Damien had full command, so working on this project felt good for us.”

For all three, this is the first Academy Awards nomination. They appear humbled by the honor, and mostly just hope that people would see the film and develop an even stronger following.

“We are so honored that the sound group noticed this film,” says Mann, truly shocked. “Indie films never get noticed in this category, so that is an achievement for us in and of itself.”


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