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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hollywood and a John Green Story Come to Town

by Jenny Ramaley

From Sisters of the Traveling Pants to Harry Potter to Twilight to Hunger Games, Hollywood loves kidlit fiction. Hollywood also loves Pittsburgh. Did you know that?
My out-of-state sister and brother-in-law were visiting the day I read in our local paper that film crews would soon start filming John Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars, right here in our area. We were all in the living room when an older pickup truck stopped in front of my house and watched two lanky young guys lope up my sidewalk. Turns out they were scouting locations for the main character’s home, and thought my house looked homey – but more importantly – noticed our flat front yard, a rarity in the hilly Pittsburgh area. Could they take a look at the inside of my house?
Hmmm. Normally that answer would be “are you out of your mind, buddy”, but ‘Greg’ volunteered his driver’s license while my brother in law slipped out and photographed his license plate, so I let him come in. He went through every room taking pictures – he was a real nice guy. Since my sister was visiting, some rooms were picture perfect – while other rooms were piled with all the detritus from the neat rooms. Greg swore he could see past the mess and assured me he’d seen a whole lot worse. It was kind of . . . exciting. But having had some past brushes with Hollywood from my screenwriting days, I knew not to get my hopes up that Shailene Woodley would be roaming my hallways with an oxygen tank anytime soon.

Not to go on and on, but our house just wasn’t what they needed. We heard later that they found a house about a half hour away with flat terrain that better suggests the Indiana location where the story is set.  Cynthia, a Route 19 Writer who lives on my street, had her bathroom scouted – yep, they just needed a specific bathroom layout – but she didn’t meet the location needs either. She did, however, sell the services of her environmental company to the location scout, and a few days later was overseeing water sampling in a mucky pool that was being used for a different film project - a horror story where 'bodies' were floating in the water, and they needed to make sure the water was safe for cameramen to stand in. Ah, Hollywood.

Although our houses didn’t meet the bill, the church at the top of our street did get the nod for filming the scenes where the teens’ cancer support group meets. The crew is keeping things low-key, but I suspect they’re filming today – street parking is blocked off with orange cones, and guys were off-loading crates that look like camera equipment in the back corner of the parking lot.

Best of luck to the film project – John Green does such a great job capturing teen angst, and this story has the added challenge of intertwining cancer and the specter of early death into the characters’ lives. Shailene Woodley did a great job with George Clooney in The Descendants. I can’t wait to see how this story is brought to the big screen, and how hilly Pittsburgh is transformed into suburban Indiana.



  1. I knew they were filming here Jenny - how cool that both yours and Cynthia's houses were scouted. Loved TFIOS and can't wait to see the movie with our beautiful city as the back drop!

  2. Great story, Jenny. Hope the movie will be half as good as the book.
    Now, I forgot to mention my "6° of separation" story as it relates to Hollywood filming this movie here in Pittsburgh.
    Another writer friend is related to someone who actually got to meet John Green - yes - he was on the scene here in Pittsburgh. Reports are he's a really great guy.