How A24’s ‘Zola’ Proved the Power of Virality and Black Twitter
“You all wanna hear a story about why me and that asshole here fell in? It’s a bit long, but it’s full of suspense.”
On October 27, 2015, A’Ziah King – also known as Zola – shared a thread of over 130 tweets that represented a wild weekend gone wrong in Miami, Florida. With a silly boyfriend bully, strip clubs and a roommate looking like he’s more than he looks, it’s safe to say this weekend has been a little more than “full of suspense. “. Now the infamous yarn has been turned into a film produced by A24, co-written by Janicza Bravo and Jeremy O’Harris and starring Taylour Paige and Riley Keough.
Bleacher Report pop culture commentator and producer Jeff Johnson remembers being glued to his phone when the Twitter feed first posted in 2015, so it’s no surprise that the social media moment was translated into a feature film. “No matter what people were doing, you kept refreshing its timeline to see what happened next. To keep people engaged with 140 character tweets of plain text with minimal photo [or] Using GIF is a talent, ”Johnson praised King’s storytelling skills. “Twitter collectively stood up and showered Zola with virtual applause and flowers at the end of the story. Those tweets were art!
When For (bes) The Culture asked King herself what prompted her to tell her story on the social media platform, she simply replied, “Nothing.”
King used Twitter the same way other users do – tweeting about their lives and reporting their daily activities in 140 characters or less. For King, it was a typical day in the Twitterverse. When she came across old photos from her famous weekend, King felt inspired to dig deeper into the weekend and all of its turmoil, trials, ups and downs.
“I already knew it was kind of a sense of community and that’s why I was even on Twitter in the first place. I don’t know, I guess that’s just the huge audience you can reach, ”King told For (bes) The Culture of the online community called Black Twitter. “I mean, I’ve had people in Switzerland like, ‘Oh my gosh this is so funny.’ I’m like ‘where are you from?’ I guess it just made me realize how connected we are all thanks to the internet.
When the Twitter thread first went viral, King recalled the first feelings of dread and even a hint of internal questioning and regret. “I was like, ‘What have I done?'” She admitted. “I used real names, photos and where people worked – and then Twitter did their thing.” She described Twitter as “private investigators” who then discovered family members, close friends and even high school students, which even threw King into the ultimate loop. “I tried to control the damage and remove everything, but it was already a screenshot and set up on Imager. It kind of took a life of its own. I was like, ‘Maybe I’ve said too much,’ but there was no going back. It was too late.”
From an internal perspective, Venesa Coger, head of social media at R29 Unbothered, believes the power of Black Twitter increased the virality of Zola’s original Twitter feed and ultimately turned it into a feature in theaters today. While Coger recalled being on the edge of her seat when the thread was posted, she acknowledges that the thread sparked a larger conversation among people regarding her travel experience with a new friend.
“As a social content strategist, Black Twitter definitely keeps me up to date with what’s going on in our community, from pop culture to black business. Black Twitter definitely has the uplifting power and for the most part that can be positive, ”Coger told For (bes) The Culture. While she defines Black Twitter as “a core for black people to truly express their thoughts on the Internet,” Coger knows that Black Twitter is more than just a community of blacks on a social media platform and has the power to ‘raise a movement and move forward a moment in time.
Coger continued, “The community has evolved over the years by continuing to hold people accountable for their actions and speak out on issues that greatly affect the black community, but that’s not all. ‘Black Twitter’ really contributes to the cultivation of memes in a big way. Somehow we tend to find a way to act out in any situation.
The very next day, King told For (bes) The Culture that she had been approached with the idea of a film. At the time, she had been in contact with then-director James Franco, who had flown her to meet her in person. A year after the initial exchange, positions began to change and the deployment process was “dragged on,” as King described it. Fortunately, everything happens for a reason and the team change actually worked in his favor.
“There was a rough draft and a written script that I didn’t really like,” King revealed of the early development of the 2015 Zola scenario. “When we changed directors, I think that’s when my version, or what I envisioned in that experience, really started to come to fruition with Janicza and Jeremy rewriting the script and Taylour accepting. finally to come. The script was obviously much better. Although the Hit the ground The actress could not originally engage with Zola due to her reflections on the initial script, Paige later accepted her new role as the main character after the script was rewritten.
While much of his “big experiment” was censored, King said the script was very aligned with his dark Twitter stories. “You can’t fit everything in two hours and I couldn’t fit everything into the thread, but if it’s in the thread, it’s in the film for sure”, she assured. . She admitted that while there was “a lot of things that didn’t happen,” some parts that actually happened that didn’t make it into the movie were left out because it was “too dark.” for television ”. She continued, “Nobody wants to see it, but the energy is there, so it makes up for it.”
When it came to working with Bravo and O’Harris, King described his experience as “amazing” and expressed his gratitude to both for allowing him to tell his story more candidly and comfortably. She admitted that her initial experience with the script had discouraged her from continuing with the film due to her fear of not having her “voice at the forefront” of her own story. Fortunately, Bravo’s vision and collaborative efforts convinced her otherwise.
“I think we had the same goal, which was to make it as authentic as possible because there are so many stories of sex work, stories of strippers and stories about the experience period of the Blacks that are not told from a black perspective, which causes disconnection a lot of times, ”King explained. “I know I’ve seen black culture-centric movies that I can’t relate to at all, and it’s crazy. How can I not? I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want a sex worker to see this, or be involved in it and not see the correlation. [Janicza] I didn’t want my voice to be lost. I didn’t want my voice to be misinterpreted. Based on the fact that we both knew it and expressed it to each other, I put all my trust in her and Jeremy and they understood the mission.
When asked how the vitality of the Twitter feed has changed the course of his daily life, King said nothing has strayed – at least not yet. “I think more people are paying attention now because I’ve always been that person. I’ve always been so vocal and shared myself with the world that way. I think it’s going viral, I don’t think it’s changed much for me, ”she humbly told For (bes) The Culture. “It obviously got a lot more attention, which is good. I guess that has always been the point. If I can inspire someone to have this conversation or even want to share their stories, I think that’s the point. is still my goal.
Cultural writer Naima Cochrane noted how the power of Twitter has become evident, from jobs and book deals to podcasts and TV shows. However, Cochrane pays homage to Zola to be the first of its kind. “A movie from a Twitter thread, not a constant presence on Twitter, was, and I think it still is, a first,” she told For (bes) The Culture. “I think what’s important to note about Zola is that she tweeted a fully developed story with characters, storyline, suspense, twists, violence, comedic relief and a resolution. The reason it went viral was because it read like a movie.
Cochrane went on to explain the cultural relevance of Black Twitter: “Our space has impacted almost every online trend since 2012. Scandal have done all of their promotional campaigns for the Black Twitter Live Community Watch. Showrunners mingle with tweeters during or after live broadcasts and explain plot decisions. Brands try to blend in with the community with AAVE and “hip” content – and outlets just sit, watch and borrow. It’s a space where you can watch trends grow and change in real time. We find ways to make these vast areas of the internet common through our common connections, whether it’s jokes, memes, music, or key topics, and that’s what sets Black Twitter apart.