Flee made history when it was simultaneously nominated in the international, animation and documentary categories for this year’s Oscars. And now the Danish film has found its next act.

Scholastic will publish Flee as a graphic novel aimed at young adult readers, with director Jonas Poher Rasmussen penning the novel.

Flee (the movie), Rasmussen tells The Hollywood Reporter, “was originally told as an animation to give [main character] Amin anonymity as he wasn’t able to share his story publicly. Flee (the graphic novel), he notes, “gives him and these kind of untold stories a platform to get out there and to be seen widely.”

The inverse of the well-trafficked book-to-film pipeline, the novelization of movies has been deployed as an extension of a film’s marketing campaign, or a commercial capitalization on a film’s success. There are recent examples of Oscar winners that begat books, including animated short winner Hair Love and Guillermo del Toro’s best picture honoree The Shape of Water, each published in close proximity to release dates and the Oscars. But the novelization of Flee will be coming out long after the Oscars glow fades. (A release date has yet to be set.)

“There is not going to be a big sticker that says, ‘See the movie!’” says UTA publishing agent Albert Lee, who helped broker Flee’s publishing deal. He adds, “Books can be a really significant space for [filmmakers]. They have a literal and figurative shelf life.”

Lee and head of UTA publishing Byrd Leavell see deals like Flee’s as a step in a different direction, where novelizations will be received as literary events, separate from the original film’s release.

Meanwhile, If Anything Happens I Love You, which earned the best animated short award at the 2021 ceremony, is getting a YA graphic novel that is due out in September via Simon & Schuster imprint Andrews McMeel. The short went viral on TikTok, with users filming reaction videos, prompting filmmakers Will McCormack and Michael Govier to ask their agents if the animation could jump formats.

‘If Anything Happens I Love You’ book cover
Courtesy of Andrews McMeel

The thematic contents of both Flee and If Anything Happens — the former follows a gay Afghan refugee’s journey to Europe as a teenager and the latter is about parents grieving the loss of a child killed in a school shooting — were not the easiest sales to publishers. “We just got a litany of rejections. There is not an easy comparison,” says Leavell of If Anything Happens.

But the prevalence of animation in Hollywood came as the graphic novel continues its rise in publishing. (According to Publisher’s Weekly, the graphic novel genre saw the biggest increase in sales among fiction genres in 2021.) And then there are the straightforward practicalities of transposing animations into the graphic novel format — novel scripts are like screenplays and animation storyboards reminiscent of comic panels. Each project eventually landed prominent publishers.

Within UTA, Leavell and Lee say that reps and filmmakers have come to see books as more than pseudo-marketing materials divorced from their original efforts, but as a separate creative and, yes, commercial possibility. Agents will ask, says Leavell, “’Can this be a book?’ and bring it to us with a question mark, and then we come back with four exclamation points.”

A version of this story first appeared in the March 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *