Editor’s note: Deadline’s Read the Script series debuts and celebrates the movie scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie award race.
Since the birth of cinema, movies have adapted plays and books as source material. In recent years, comic books, video games, and even podcasts have inspired feature films. Zola may be the very first movie adapted from a Twitter feed.
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A’Ziah King told the story in an infamous 2015 Twitter thread under his name @_zolamoon. She began: “You all want to hear a story about why me and this b**** here fell????? It’s a bit long but full of suspense.
Janicza Bravo’s film adaptation tells the story of how Stefani (Riley Keough) invited Zola (Taylour Paige) – the two waitresses from Detroit – to Florida for a dance gig. Stefani’s pimp, X (Colman Domingo), actually tried to trick the girls into prostitution. Drugs, violence and more sleazy characters ensued before Zola escaped this situation.
Bravo wanted to turn the thread into a movie as soon as she read it. She didn’t make her first film, Lemonuntil 2017. However, his shorts landed him the job with Killer Films, which held the rights to David Kushner’s thread and sequel rolling stone interview with King.
She co-wrote the screenplay with Jeremy O. Harris. At one point, the film cuts to Stefani’s point of view, based on the rebuttal of the woman Stefani is based on after Zola’s thread goes viral. King said she used humor to make the sex trafficking story more palatable, reaching a wider audience to raise awareness.
Bravo said she wanted to capture both the funny and uncomfortable feelings of the adaptation. She and Harris agreed to highlight the friendship between Zola and Stefani, highlighting the shared conflicts that can arise between black and white friends.
Zola premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and A24 released it in theaters on July 30, 2021, after theaters reopened following the Covid-19 closures. The screenplay is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, as is Bravo for the direction, actors, editor, cinematographer and the film itself. Bravo is also on the BAFTAs’ long list for directing.
Click on the image below to read the script.
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