What should follow Zola in the Twitter-to-movie pipeline?
These five viral threads are ready for the big screen
As the printing press was to the Gutenberg Bible, Twitter is to Aziah "Zola" Wells' viral 148-tweet thread from 2015 about a trip to Florida gone extremely awry. But while countless books have made their way to the big screen, Zola's story remains the first and so far only example of the new micro-blogging form to have been actually adapted into a major movie release, out next week.
Admittedly, "Y'all wanna hear a story about why me & this b*tch here fell out?" is maybe not quite on par with, "Call me Ishmael." But it might, at the very least, be the digital equivalent of "All this happened, more or less." For, although Twitter has a reputation for being vapid and exaggerated and lacking in any literary merit, don't try telling me you're not sucked in by the cap-locked cliffhanger, "AND TWO BIG BLACK DUDES SNATCHED JESS!!!!!"
So while Zola might be the first Twitter thread to get the movie treatment, it shouldn't — and won't — be the last. Here are five other threads that also deserve, in some form or another, to be on a marquee someday.
The Case of the Stolen Heroin
First tweet: "Y'all wanna hear a story about the time I accidentally transported a brick of heroin from Los Angeles to Seattle? I bet. Alright, let's do this…" [Since deleted]
The gist: In 2019, a Nashville web developer named Shane Morris claimed that a few years prior, he'd bought a beater van to drive from Los Angeles up to Seattle. After purchasing the van, however, Morris discovered a kilo of heroin hidden inside, which he proceeded to sell. Fast forward, and the son of the van's original owner gets back in touch with Morris, wanting desperately to buy back the van (and, of course, the heroin he believes is still inside). Morris agreed to sell back the van — but in the place of the heroin, he taped up a John Grisham novel. Whoops: turns out the van owner's son was … a member of the notoriously violent gang MS-13.
Why it should be a movie: Most viral Twitter threads involve generous embellishment. Morris', though, was a flat-out lie. "I would love for this story to be a movie, but I need you to know it's not a movie 'based on a true story,'" he shared in a since-deleted Medium post that was, ostensibly, supposed to be an apology. In the same essay, Morris also claimed that his life was under threat after alleging he'd stolen from a member of MS-13, and he launched a GoFundMe to go into hiding ("If the GoFundMe fails, I get murdered, and this whole things becomes a documentary, rather than a drama," he claimed, but he only raised around $140 of his intended $20,000 goal). Rather than reward Morris' obvious grift with a straight adaptation of the story he told, there's a darker satire to be made about Morris the web developer from Tennessee, who lied to the internet and made everyone mad.
Who should direct it: Adam McKay, the Vice and Big Short director whose kaleidoscopic filmmaking and amusing absurdism are just what this story needs
The Tale of Hari and the Blizzard
The gist: Twitter-famous musher Blair Braverman frequently shares stories about her adventures with her adorable pack of sled dogs, and this one came in the shape of a bedtime story told to the hoard of puppies living on her farm in 2018. If you want to skip all the puppy pics (sicko), you can jump right to where the story starts, with "Once upon a time, I told them, there were some very good puppies. They had a grandfather named Hari, and Hari was magic." While mushing in a blizzard, Blair and her team lost their trail. But when Blair moved Hari, her blind sled dog, to the front of the team, "Hari's ears perked. He sniffed the snow. And then he started leading the team forward through the storm … Hari didn't need to see the trail. He could smell it." I'm not crying, you're crying.
Why it should be a movie: Though there are lots of stories from Blair's life that would make great movies (Kelly Reichardt, where are you?), this one, in particular, would be the sweetest animated film. Paging Cartoon Saloon…
Who should direct it: Tomm Moore, the animator behind beautiful works like Wolfwalkers and Song of the Sea
The Waffle House Saga
The gist: Lee Sanderlin really, really sucked at fantasy football this year. As punishment for coming in last place, he had to spend nearly a day in a Waffle House. Thankfully for all of us, he tweeted through the entire hilarious and gastrointestinally agonizing experience.
Why it should be a movie: Watching some guy eat waffles for 15 hours probably doesn't sound like a riveting movie. But hey, neither does a movie about a guy who lives in an airport; there are plenty of ways a creative director could spice up this story. Sanderlin, perhaps because he's a journalist, didn't appear to embellish much at all in his telling, so that'll be what Hollywood is for. Can you say "the first Waffle House body-horror film"?
Who should direct it: David Cronenberg, the gross-out and hallucinatory auteur responsible for Videodrome and The Fly
The Story of the Very Bad Date
The gist: In 2017, Lisette Pylant went on a very, very bad date. How bad? Well, about 45 minutes after getting to the bar, the guy's next date showed up. "I decide to play the friend in order to help the girl feel less awkward until he exits for a moment and then I tell her what's up," Pylant explained. As the night wore on, more and more dates kept showing up — the dude had scheduled six back-to-back — and Pylant befriended them all. Think of it as a one-night John Tucker Must Die .
Why it should be a movie: "What was about to unfold was an internet saga so dramatic and so ridiculous you'd say 'that could never happen' if you saw it in a movie," Intelligencer wrote in its recap of Pylant's viral saga. But the "based on a true story" credibility of it is exactly why it should be a rom-com, posthaste.
Who should direct it: Lorene Scafaria, the Hustlers director who has a knack for capturing the subtle, complicated dynamics between female friends
The Dear David Chronicles
The gist: New York City-based illustrator Adam Ellis chronicled the truly creepy haunting of his apartment in August 2017. According to Ellis, he would see and speak to the spirit, called Dear David, in his dreams; there was also paranormal activity in his apartment, including some really weird behavior by his cats. Ellis continued to post updates throughout the summer and into the fall, including creepy Polaroids, moving chairs, and the discovery of a crawlspace (of course). The story even went international at one point, with Ellis seeing a doppelganger of Dear David in Japan.
Why it should be a movie: Because it is a terrifying story, even if it's possibly a hoax. In June 2018, The Wrap reported that Ellis had "scored a movie deal for his viral social media ghost story," though there haven't been updates on the project for a few years. Still, here's to hoping this one gets made; seeing how creepy it was to follow live, it'll be even scarier watching Ellis' experiences imagined on screen. As he continued to insist to The Wrap even after his movie deal, "I've never been interested in convincing anyone that ghosts are real — I just wanted to tell my story. If it was all fiction, I probably would've updated more than once every couple weeks."
Ideal director: James Wan, whose "based on a true story" adaptation of The Conjuring is pure nightmare fodder
Editor's note: After publication, it was brought to our attention that You Might Be the Killer, which aired on Syfy in 2018, was also based on a viral Twitter thread.