Previous: Let's Talk About Stress!
Next: I Have (a little bit) HAD IT!



View count:279,230
Last sync:2024-04-08 09:30


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "On the Movies." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 5 December 2017,
MLA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2017)
APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2017, December 5). On the Movies [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2017)
Chicago Full: vlogbrothers, "On the Movies.", December 5, 2017, YouTube, 03:40,
In which John visits Los Angeles, talks about who books belong to, and considers the perils and opportunities of Hollywood before making an announcement about Turtles All the Way Down.
I will be in comments to answer your questions! (But give me a bit; I've gotta put my kids to bed!)

Subscribe to our newsletter!
And join the community at
Help transcribe videos -
John's twitter -
John's tumblr -
Hank's twitter -
Hank's tumblr -
Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

Aggresively unscripted video incoming, so I'm in Los Angeles for reasons that will become clear shortly; and I'm thinking right now about storytelling. So I have often said over the years that I believe books belong to their readers.

Like I don't think it matters whether an author intended a symbolic resonance in their story as long as it's there, because we're not reading the author, we're reading the book. Also, I don't think we should privilege the author's voice when it comes to matters outside the text, like for instance, what happens to characters after the story ends because I don't think that's up to the author, I think that's up to us as readers. My books belong to me while I'm working on them and then when I'm finished, they don't.

Except... There are a couple problems with this world view: one, it's a little bit disingenuous to pretend that the author isn't present in the book at all, especially in our personality-driven culture, and especially if the author has chosen to have a public life by, for instance, participating in an eleven year long video blog conversation. And then secondly, there's the problem that while the book belongs to the reader, the author has to make a lot of decisions on behalf of the book.

And that's true even after the book is published, which brings us to Los Angeles. So I almost didn't sell the movie rights to my book "The Fault in Our Stars" partly because I've had some bad experiences in Hollywood, but partly because that book was really close to me. A big part about what I enjoy about writing made-up stories is that they're kind of coded autobiography in which only I have the complete key to the code, and TFIOS not only contained parts of me that lots of people knew about, like my friendship with Esther Earl, but also parts of certain traumatic experiences I had never told anyone about.

I mean, obviously it was exciting to imagine a movie of my book, but it was also scary to imagine some of that coded stuff being on a big screen for lots of people to watch. Also, so much can go wrong! I mean, they could have changed the whole plot, they could have made Hazel an eighty-four-year-old survivor of the Titanic.

That's actually a pretty good idea for a movie, you have the story of the Titanic but it's around this frame of like an eighty-four-year-old lady who- this is not an original idea. Anyway, in the end I sold the movie rights and I got so lucky. I had no way of knowing that Elizabeth and Aaron at Fox 2000 would be the perfect stewards for that movie or that we would get amazing producers or the best possible screenwriters or an amazing cast and end up with a movie I really loved.

And then we got to do it again with Paper Towns, and then i thought "well, that was a good run", because Paper Towns didn't make as much money and also because I had decided to write this extremely quiet novel that takes place almost entirely inside of one person's head, which isn't the sort of thing that usually lends itself to film. The big challenge for me in Turtles All The Way Down was whether I could use language to find some sort of direct form or expression for obsessive thoughts rather than only relying on metaphor. I wanted to try to give readers not only a sense of what OCD is like, but maybe at least a glimpse into what it is, which is like a profoundly non-visual thing.

But as Isaac, who produced The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns pointed out to me, obsessive thoughts are also a non-linguistic experience, and that didn't stop me from writing the book. So for the last two months we have been talking about it, is there a way to tell this story visually without relying on the old tropes that are usually associated with portrayals of OCD. And today, I get to announce that working with the same studio and production company  that made The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, we're gonna give it a try.

That doesn't mean there will definitely be a movie, but it means that there might be one, so now is the time to begin inundating me with casting suggestions, because no one-ever-reads my Twitter bio. I'm really excited for the opportunity, and also the challenge, of the Turtles All The Way Down movie and I hope you're excited too. The book does belong to you but I had to make this decision on behalf of it: I really trust the people who are working on this.

Thanks to everyone who has made the a number one New York Times bestseller for now seven weeks straight. And if you care about the book please now that I will try to listen to you throughout this process. Hank, DFTBA, I will see you on Friday.