How a Reddit Comment Turned into a Movie Deal

By Michael Rosa

Ancient Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger may have said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” but James Erwin and his brainchild Rome Sweet Rome are living proof.

Fans of Erwin’s storytelling have created some impressive art depicting his tale.

Erwin, a software manual writer in Des Moines, Iowa, has a long history with words. He was a two-time champion on the tv show Jeopardy!, has written two encyclopedias, and recently published Acadia, his first novel, earlier this month.

But when Erwin was surfing the Internet back in 2011, he saw this question on Reddit: “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?”.

Launching Pad
Erwin (known as prufrock451 on Reddit) began writing a flash fiction series via the comment section in response, one in which a modern day Marine base is transported back in time and must ultimately engage in battle with Caesar Augustus’ thirty-legion army.

Somehow Warner Bros. saw it, and the studio liked it enough to buy the rights and put it into production, launching Erwin’s film career.

The New Age of Idea Distribution
The Internet has made it so that with the right amount of luck (preparation + opportunity), anyone…yes, anyone…has a chance at stardom. Because of this, Reddit is a great platform for sharing and a lot of Hollywood heavy hitters frequent it. But Rome Sweet Rome isn’t the first success story to be picked up from an Internet site.

Erwin is finding fame through an unlikely source: Reddit.

Comedian Bo Burnham was discovered on YouTube, and then became the youngest person featured on “Comedy Central Presents.” Nicki Minaj’s music was picked up on MySpace by a New York record label. Likewise, “After,” a story based on the Pop band One Direction, was recently picked up on Wattpad by Paramount Pictures.

Enrolling in one of DMA’s Filmmaking & Visual Effects courses can give you the necessary skills to create a pitch, make a short animated film, learn how it might be picked up as a feature, and then prepare for when it does. Opportunity only knocks once: Make sure you’re prepared.