‘Dear David’: ‘It’ Producer, BuzzFeed to Develop Horror Film Based on Viral Ghost Story (Exclusive)

Dan Lin’s Rideback will partner with website on writer Adam Ellis’ story

Dear David Adam Ellis BuzzFeed Rideback

“Dear David,” the online ghost story from BuzzFeed writer Adam Ellis, is on its way to the big screen, TheWrap has learned exclusively. BuzzFeed Studios is partnering on the film with “It” producer Dan Lin’s Rideback.

The film, currently named The Untitled “Dear David” Project, will be a high-concept horror thriller based on Ellis’ tweets and images. He says his entire story is true. It began with this message from Ellis on Aug. 7, 2017:

“My apartment is currently being haunted by the ghost of a dead child and he’s trying to kill me.”

In subsequent tweets, Ellis presented what he said was digital evidence of a boy with part of his head missing — a boy he addresses with the words “Dear David. He said the boy has worried him and his cats, and followed him as far as Japan. Ellis amassed more than 1 million Twitter followers eager to see where the story would go.

“I’ve never been interested in convincing anyone that ghosts are real–I just wanted to tell my story,” Ellis told TheWrap. “If it was all fiction, I probably would’ve updated more than once every couple weeks.”

BuzzFeed and Ellis struck a deal to bring the project to market in partnership with Rideback. Mike Van Waes is attached as the writer, based on a story by Van Waes and Evan Turner. BuzzFeed Studios’ Lauren Dolgan and Hieu Ho will produce alongside Lin and Jonathan Eirich. Turner will serve as executive producer.

In February, TheWrap’s “Shoot This Now” podcast focused on why “Dear David” should be a movie. This week we talked about it actually happening. You can listen on Apple or right here:

Ellis’ account story was posted as an article on BuzzFeed and continued as an ongoing post titled “Dear David,” which raised questions about whether BuzzFeed or Ellis himself owned the rights to the story — and in whether BuzzFeed was involved in producing the narrative, which, again, Ellis says is true.

Suspicion arose when Ellis posted a screenshot of an Instagram story that included a distorted photo of himself with a friend. Another photo of what looked like a child seemed to have been blended in.

“Nice editing,” one follower wrote, while another added, “I’ve that app.”

On February 6, Ellis announced he was leaving BuzzFeed after four years to focus on “personal projects.”

His last tweet about Dear David read, “For everyone asking if I’m alive: I’m doing OK! It’s been pretty quiet around here lately and I’ve been trying to focus on work. Of course I’ll keep you updated if anything strange happens, but for now I’m staying busy with drawing and other projects.” This didn’t appease fans at all, and many threatened to unfollow when he started posting unrelated things to the ghost story.

“Dear David” is the newest project on BuzzFeed’s production and development slate. BuzzFeed is in development with Warner Bros. on “Brother Orange,” with Jim Parsons set to star and Ellen DeGeneres and Ilana Glazer to executive produce. “Brother Orange” follows another viral BuzzFeed story in which a man attempts to find his phone when pictures of a man with an Orange tree appear on his iCloud.

BuzzFeed is also in production for an interactive dating series “RelationShipped” for Facebook, as well as Buzzfeed News’ recently announced “Follow This” for Netflix, “The Killing of Jessica Chambers” on Oxygen and “From Russia With Blood” with George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures. This is in addition to the company’s digital series that includes “Worth It,” “Ladylike’ and “Buzzfeed Unsolved.”

Lin recently renewed his first-look film deal with Warner Bros. His company, Rideback, was formerly known as Lin Pictures. Lin’s ten-year collaboration with the studio has spawned franchises such as “The LEGO Movie,” “Sherlock Holmes” and “IT.” Rideback is also producing Disney’s upcoming “Aladdin,” starring Will Smith and directed by Guy Ritchie. Rideback also produces the Fox Network series “Lethal Weapon,” based on the hit movie franchise.