Editors note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the scripts of films that will be factors in this year’s movie awards race.
Since the birth of cinema, movies have adapted plays and books for source material. In recent years, comic books, video games and even podcasts have inspired feature films. Zola may be the first ever film adapted from a Twitter thread.
A’Ziah King told the story in an infamous 2015 Twitter thread under her name @_zolamoon. She began, “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this b**** here fell out????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.”
Janicza Bravo’s film adaptation recounts the story of how Stefani (Riley Keough) invited Zola (Taylour Paige) — both Detroit waitresses — to Florida for a dancing gig. Stefani’s pimp, X (Colman Domingo), actually tried to set the girls up for sex work. Drugs, violence and more shady characters ensued before Zola escaped that situation.
Bravo wanted to turn the thread into a movie as soon as she read it. She didn’t make her first film, Lemon, until 2017. However, her short films landed her the job with Killer Films, which owned rights to the thread and David Kushner’s subsequent Rolling Stone interview with King.
She co-wrote the screenplay with Jeremy O. Harris. At one point, the film shifts to Stefani’s point of view, based on the rebuttal the woman Stefani is based on posted after Zola’s thread went viral. King said she used humor to make the story of sex trafficking more palatable, thus reaching a larger audience to raise awareness.
Bravo said she wanted to capture both the funny and uncomfortable feelings in the adaptation. She and Harris agreed to emphasize the friendship between Zola and Stefani, highlighting the common conflicts that can arise between Black and white friends.
Zola premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and A24 released it in theaters July 30, 2021, after theaters reopened following the Covid-19 lockdowns. The screenplay is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award along as is Bravo for directing, the cast, editor, cinematographer and the film itself. Bravo is also on the BAFTA longlist for directing.
Click the image below to read the script.
Must Read Stories
Read The Screenplay Series
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.