A24's 'Zola' Movie: The Real Story Behind The Viral Twitter Thread's Journey to the Big Screen

A look inside A24's ‘Zola’ movie & how the hilarious Twitter thread about two strippers’ chaotic trip to Florida became one of the most anticipated films.

Zola movie
A24 Films

Image via A24 Films

Zola movie

Zola, the first feature film made from a viral Twitter thread, is out now in theaters. When the Twitter thread first dropped in October 2015, it was clear that the story was about to take a life of its own. The action-packed movie was released on June 30 and the six-year process of taking it from Twitter to the big screen has been a whirlwind. The saga kicked off when a woman named A’Ziah “Zola” King shared the 148-tweet story of a messy adventure she went on to Florida after meeting a customer at Hooters named Jessica Swiatkowski (who was renamed Stefani in the film). The thread was riveting and packed with so much drama that it caught the attention of millions of Twitter users who retweeted and followed the story tweet by tweet. It received such a huge reaction, it became a global trending topic. 

It wasn’t long before journalists took notice of the reactions the saga was getting online, and a Rolling Stone article featuring interviews with the people involved in the tale also got Hollywood’s attention. The article was then adapted into a screenplay and production for the film began quickly after. Similar to the thread, the film follows Hooters waitress Zola (Taylour Paige) after she befriends a customer named Stefani (Riley Keough), and they go on a trip to Tampa so they can strip together. The adventure quickly turns from a fun girls’ trip into complete chaos, filled with murder, prostitution, and absolute madness. Writer and director Janicza Bravo was tasked with the responsibility of taking the exciting viral thread from Twitter to the big screen. [Ed note: Bravo co-wrote the Zola screenplay with Jeremy O. Harris, of Slave Play fame.] 

Take this look at how Zola went from a hilarious Twitter story about a weekend filled with debauchery to one of the year’s most anticipated films.

The viral thread that started it all  

Zola Movie

A’Ziah ‘Zola’ King gets profiled by 'Rolling Stone'


James Franco was in talks to direct the film

James Franco

A24 taps Janicza Bravo as director 

Zola movie

Taylour Paige is cast as Zola


The film was well-received at Sundance

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Date: Jan. 24, 2020 

Zola made its world premiere on Day 2 of the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. The film was praised by movie festival-goers who gave it props for its humor, for being so entertaining, for telling the story accurately to match the tweets, and for the acting, especially from Paige. The film was also nominated for the Grand Jury Awards pre-screening. A24 planned for a wide release later that year, but the plans to have a 2020 release date were postponed until June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first trailer for the movie was released in August 2020 and gave fans a glimpse of what was in store.

Sex-trafficking victims Jessica Forgie and Breeonna Pellow speak out against the movie

zola movie

The movie finally hits theaters

Zola Movie

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