[Snowball] Adaptations of the Internet

We’ve seen some pretty unusual adaptations in recent years. Battleship is a movie based on a board game. Pirates of the Caribbean is based on a ride. So how unlikely is it that bit of the internet, like a meme, become its own movie? Here are three ideas that have very humble internet beginnings.

Safety movie

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is a comedy feature film released in June 2012. It played at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and is currently fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at 92%. Guess where it came from? An internet meme. Safety… might be the first meme-adapted feature film ever.

It started as a real classified ad placed in Backwoods Home Magazine in 1997. The text read:

Safety

After it was printed, Jay Leno mentioned it his show and it was featured on National Public Radio. But it really caught on when it was posted to the website YTMND.com. As it happens with memes, people changed it, made it their own. Someone added a photo to the ad of a stone-faced, mullet man and later someone attached a song to the ad, the 80s rock hit “Push it to the limit.”

The internet became obsessed with finding the original poster. While the phone number was disconnected, someone found the number associated with the PO Box and contacted its owner, Debra, whose answering machine asked callers to leave messages for her as well as Moses and Caesar. They turned out to be her cats but their names fueled the time-travel hysteria.

As a Leno joke, it was forgettable but as a meme it evolved. It was perpetuated, modified, and improved. Eventually, it became a story worth telling.

shit my dad says

SHIT MY DAD SAYS is the internet’s most well-known adaptation. This Twitter account was created by struggling comedy writer Justin Halpern after he moved back into his father’s house. He first tweeted on August 3, 2009 and in less than a month the account was mentioned on The Daily Show. Halpern tweeted vulgar yet insightful comments from his 73 year old father like…

“The dog is an outside dog. You want an inside dog, you go get your own inside.”

And

Why would i want to check a voicemail on my cell phone? People want to talk to me, call again. If i want to talk to you, I’ll answer.”

The account was first adapted into a 2009 book that went  #1 on the New York Times best seller list. Then it was adapted into the 2010 primetime sitcom with William Shatner as the dad that says the shit. While it only lasted a season, it granted Justin Halpern (the show’s creator and writer) his dream of writing professional comedy.

Rome Sweet Rome

ROME SWEET ROME is a big budget, historical-action movie currently in production. Since Twitter and meme adaptations are now commonplace, it shouldn’t surprise you that this is based on a DAMN REDDIT COMMENT!?

In September 2011, a Reddit user posted an interesting question to the AskReddit group: “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?” There were some genuine, academic attempts to answer the question but then user Prufrock451 posted this short fiction of the scenario:

DAY 1 The 35th MEU is on the ground at Kabul, preparing to deploy to southern Afghanistan. Suddenly, it vanishes. The section of Bagram where the 35th was gathered suddenly reappears in a field outside Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber River…”

The first post was just 343 words but Prufrock451 was overwhelmed with demand for more. He made it to ‘Day 8’ before he stopped. In the end, his posts received tens of thousands of upvotes and a new Reddit group was created just for his story.

Who is Prufrock451? He is James Erwin, a 37 year old amateur historian and writer of software manuals. He lives in Iowa where one day, all his interests (history, writing, technology, Reddit) combined into the perfect internet comment.

When Warner Brothers bought the rights to Erwin’s story idea, the only text that existed was the 3,678 words of his original posts. The film is still in development but a script does exist.