When Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o took their seats at a Miu Miu fashion show during Paris Fashion Week in 2014, no one could have predicted it would lead to Netflix winning the rights to a movie adaptation based on, well, them.
Netflix recently announced it had outbid a number of aggressive studios that were interested in developing a film based on a photo of the singer and actress that had started floating around Twitter earlier this year. The original tweet came from a user named Ash, but it wasn’t until another Twitter user added an elaborate backstory that people started picking up on it.
Rihanna looks like she scams rich white men and lupita is the computer smart best friend that helps plan the scans https://t.co/PhWs1xd3nj— WHOOPHERASSKOURTNI (@1800SADGAL) April 18, 2017
It isn’t uncommon for these types of tweets to go “viral,” as the antiquated saying goes, but this didn’t just fly under the radar. It garnered the attention of Nyong’o, Rihanna, director Ava DuVernay and Insecure creator Issa Rae. It also had help, naturally, from those on Twitter willing to jump on the hype-wagon and get the idea the attention it needed from people in the industry who could do something about it.
Now, all four women are involved with the project. It may seem like an incredible story but, while it’s still outside the norm of how many feature films and television shows come to be in this age, it isn’t exactly new.
One of the first TV shows to get an order based on a Twitter account was CBS’ $#*! My Dad Says. The series, which ran for 18 episodes before being cancelled in May 2011. The show starred Star Trek’s William Shatner as Dr. Edison Milford "Ed" Goodson III and Entourage’s Jonathan Sadowski as his son, Henry. Based on a Twitter account of the same name, but spelled “Shit My Dad Says,” the show followed Henry as he lands a job as a writer forced to take down notes based on the politically incorrect, unwanted rants.
In reality, the Twitter account was run by Justin Halpern, who at the time was an unemployed comedian, and featured things his father, Sam, said. When his friend tweeted out the link, it was discovered by comedian Rob Corddry and Kristen Bell, and was even featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Twitter account quickly amassed millions of followers and, it was because of the success Halpern found on Twitter, that Warner Bros. Television decided to option the rights for the show.
In 2013, Sex and the City creator Darren Star had similar aspirations. Deadline reported that Star had optioned the television rights to The Honest Toddler, which was a book written by Bunmi Laditan based on her own Twitter feed of the same name. Described as a “Modern Family from a toddler’s point of view,” the show was slated to head to a broadcast network. Nothing has yet to come of the series.
It’s not unsurprising that Twitter would become a place for studios and networks to find inspirations for their next project. Like blogs and YouTube channels, it’s essentially ideas being given away for free.
Rihanna and Nyong’o’s Netflix movie all started with a simple post on Tumblr in 2014 that finally found its way to Twitter and into the right hands this year. But this won’t be the last movie to find its inspiration on Twitter.