How do you encapsulate the career or persona of multi-hypenate James Franco? Sure, he’s an actor/writer/director/soap star/intellectual/gossip page fixture. But to say all that is only to scratch the surface. Yet somehow his latest film project seems the most Franco production to Franco yet.
Deadline reports Franco has signed on to direct a Zola movie. Yup. The string of 148 tweets about one stripper’s wild night of sex work, violence and much much drama is coming to theaters. Killer Films is producing the project, basing it not on the tweets themselve (can you option tweets?) but on David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article, “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted.” The script is being penned by Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts, which is to say not Zola herself. Strangely, the Deadline item doesn’t mention if Aziah “Zola” Wells—the tweeter who birthed an internet sensation—will be involved in any way.
So. Let’s check the optics for a moment: The “real story” of a woman of color’s dangerous journey through the world of sex trafficking will be brought to the screen by male writers and a white male director, inspired by the analysis of another male writer without any apparent involvement of Zola herself beyond the initial Rolling Stone interview.
On one level, that’s awkward, especially as Zola uses language typically off limits to the likes of Franco. For instance, one of her most popular lines was the worldweary “This n*gga lost in the sauce & that bitch lost in the game.” But beyond that, it seems men of privilege are cutting out the female story teller from her own story! And let’s not forget that Wells’ storytelling impressed not just the scandal-loving internet but also the likes of Missy Elliot and Ava DuVernay.
In India reading #Zola. Drama, humor, action, suspense, character development. She can write! There's so much untapped talent in the hood. x— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) October 29, 2015
To be fair, we don’t know that Wells hasn’t been paid, or that she hasn’t been offered a chance to be involved with Killer Films production of her story. However, if she has, you’d think that’s some information the producers would want out there.
Kristy Puchko can’t even sometimes.