On Hollywood, doubters, and voting with your wallet in the YA age

I love movies. Always have. Always will. The first things I ever tried to write were screenplays, and to this day I utilize screenwriting techniques for every single one of my books.

But there is a lesson that I had to learn very early on. And that’s simply that there is a difference between movies and the movie business.

A big one.

As many of you know, we recently announced two new movie options for my books.

Heist Society is now with Lionsgate where Max Handelman and Elizabeth Banks are producing. (They are the team behind my favorite movie of 2012, PITCH PERFECT.)

The Gallagher Girls are set up with Tonik Productions, run by two savvy women who have, between them, championed many YA and kidlit properties, and who are incredibly committed to bringing strong, diverse, and just plain awesome characters to the screen.

I cannot express how excited I am about both of these possibilities! Still, at the moment, they are just that…possibilities.

But we are in an interesting time, Hollywood-wise… And a part of me can’t help but allow myself a tiny, sliver of hope that this time might be different.

You see, for many years now, a lot of YA properties have been optioned for film. Remember in the Twilight heyday? It seemed like there was a new paranormal property getting optioned every other day. But none of those properties got made.

Why?

Well, I’m sure there were probably, technically, dozens of reasons (after all there were dozens of properties set up with dozens of companies), but I think the biggest reason is that this thing…this YA thing…it was unproven. Unreliable. A fluke.

And furthermore, it was a fluke made by and for teenage girls. If there is one group of people who are universally discounted it is teenage girls.

Now flash forward a little book called Hunger Games.

Finally there was a book series so successful that no one could ignore it. Something had to be made. There was just too much potential money on the table not to make something. But even then, the chatter on the Hollywood boards for weeks leading up to the release was…skeptical.

This is just one comment left on places like Deadline.com

a movie where the lead character is a girl named “Katniss Everdeen” ?

That right there is the first sign of what a piece of sewer bilge this movie is. female young adult fiction – dumbing down the average intelligence of girls on a daily basis.

Yep. There were comments like that. There were lots of comments like that.

Of course, some people believed in Katniss, and in the end we know what happened: Hunger Games not only succeeded, but it grew. And Lionsgate laughed all the way to the bank.

All of a sudden, YA was looking less like a fluke. Maybe it really was a thing? Maybe teenage girls might actually be worth making movies for after all.

And that’s when the tide seemed to turn. City of Bones began filming and two of the most successful dystopians, Divergent and The Maze Runner, got the green light. All of a sudden, there were casting announcements for Vampire Academy and goodness knows The Fault in Our Stars was gaining buzz.

Along the way there were a few other entries. Perks of Being a Wallflower, an indie passion project with the star power of Emma Watson, grossed $32 million world-wide on what was probably a fairly small budget.

But, in Hollywood in the tentpole era, people don’t seem to care that much about small profits. People want big profits.

So all eyes turned to Beautiful Creatures…

And Beautiful Creatures didn’t do well.

Follow that with The Host (which isn’t a YA book but everyone seems to forget that) under-performing, and all of a sudden we are back where we started.

Look! They’re flukes! We told you this YA thing wasn’t a thing! We were right! *fistpump*

That could have been the end of it (at least until the next Hunger Games-level book breakout). But we have one thing going for us this time: some movies are already too far down the pipeline to turn back now.

The Spectacular Now has already swept people off their feet at Sundance, and City of Bones is coming out August 21st. Divergent, Maze Runner, and Vampire Academy have already finished filming. There is no stopping the runaway train that is The Fault in Our Stars (at least I hope not.)

Those films are happening! It is too late to stop them.

But now it’s our turn to prove that YA fiction is too good to be stopped. That we are not just Twilight and Hunger Games and Harry Potter. That if Hollywood really wants to be in the story business then we can provide them those stories and then…

And then this is the big part…

And then we will turn out to support those stories.

This big, long post just to say this: if we want YA books to get made into movies, then we have to go see movies based on YA books.

And if we can’t go to the movies, then we have to blog and tweet and tumbl about them. We have to tell our friends and relatives. Because here’s the deal, folks: a lot of people are waiting for us to fail. A whole lot of people have been predicting that for a long time and we all know how people hate to be wrong.

And if this new crop of movies doesn’t do well then I am personally afraid there won’t be a next crop. Not for a long, long time.

Don’t get me wrong. We have advocates! Fans! Brave producers and directors and studio execs who are still optioning and green-lighting and championing YA properties. (I’ve been lucky enough to be in business with many of them.) And these people want to be right as well.

It’s up to us to help them.


Notes

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    TO ALL YA BOOK FANS: R E A D T H I S. If you’re American, support Vampire Academy. Go see it today!!!! We need to show...
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    GO SEE VAMPIRE ACADEMY TOMORROW
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