Turning a comic or graphic novel into an animated project is a fairly common route, but it’s much rarer to take a finished script for an animated feature and reimagine it in print.
That’s exactly what filmmaker and Bloop Animation Studios founder Morr Meroz set out to do with his new project. Land of snows. In this article, Meroz tells readers why and how he turned his screenplay into a graphic novel. Now let’s move on to Meroz:
At the end of 2019, the scenario of snowy lands has been completed. After two years of writing and rewriting this script, which was intended for an animated feature, it was finally ready to be sent out into the world.
My idea to do an animated feature film came after years as a freelance animator. With three animated shorts under my belt, I thought the next logical step would be a feature film.
As if making a feature film was like making a short, but longer. This is not the case.
But the script was ready, so I started submitting it to contests and script listing services. In fact, it did very well, reaching the quarter-finals of the Academy Nicholl Scholarship as well as the top of the blacklist for animation scripts.
So the script was good, but the next steps turned out to be a bit more abstract. Among other things, they tried to get an agent, pitch the film to studios, and get financing. For an animated feature, the options are very limited. There aren’t many animation studios, and most develop their ideas in-house. Getting funding isn’t easy either, as animated films tend to be expensive.
In other words, I was watching years of pitch and networking meetings that may or may not ultimately end in a greenlit movie. For me, as a freelance creator, wasting so much time convincing other people didn’t seem like an efficient use of my time.
So I didn’t do any of that.
I asked myself the same question that I always ask myself: what is can I do it?
The answer came in the form of another question: what about a graphic novel?
I’ve always loved reading graphic novels and knew it was something I could fund myself and make. I wouldn’t need to introduce it to anyone, because I could just self-publish it. I just needed to assemble a great team behind the project.
Build the team
I started with an editor. Since I had never written a graphic novel or a comic before, I thought I should hire someone with experience in the field. I found Jim Spivey, who worked as an editor for decades, at DC Comics among many others, and is a treasure trove of knowledge on all things comics.
He taught me how to write for the medium and helped me adapt the whole screenplay to graphic novel format. This meant not only writing down what happens in each panel, but also thinking about what should appear on the right page, as opposed to the left one. Thinking about history in a completely new visual way.
After our new graphic novel script was completed, I sought out our art team. This team would be made up of a draftsman, a colorist and a letterer.
The hardest part would have been finding the right designer, as that would determine the whole look of the book. The way I approached finding one is by testing many artists with the same two pages, providing them with the script for those pages as well as some character design sheets, and seeing what they do. Each artist was paid their fee for this test whether they got the job or not.
Among our suitors, I found Collin Fogel. What struck me most about his work was that he drew on paper, not on a tablet. It’s a bit of a rarity in today’s comic book landscape. Her pencils were so beautiful that I made the decision to keep them as is, rather than inking them digitally. What you see in the finished book is his actual pencil work, with digital color on top. I thought this gave the book a unique visual style and set it apart from many graphic novels that sometimes looked alike.
For coloring I found Davi Comodo. I loved his work for the same reason. It didn’t look too digital and had a painterly quality. I asked her to push this style for this project and laid down some ground rules for coloring.
For example, we have never allowed the use of gradients. If we needed a color transition, we had to do it like we would in a painting, layering the colors on top of each other to blend the color change. I also asked not to use any “special effects” such as lens flares or blurring the background to create depth of field. The idea was basically, if it can’t be done with real paint, don’t do it. It worked really well with the digitized pencils, pushing back the handcrafted feel of the book.
For the lettering, we hired industry pro, Deron Bennet, who has worked on many comics and graphic novels. We found a unique style for the lettering that would fit in with the art. This meant using a handwritten font for the main dialogue and imperfect organic balloons. We’ve also colored the balloons with a special graphite pattern to give them a pencil-drawn look to better suit the art. As for the effects, we made sure to make each letter a little different so it didn’t look computer generated.
Printing of the finished book
For printing, I knew I wanted it to be a premium hardcover book, so unfortunately using Amazon’s KDP print-on-demand service was out of the question. I wanted a shiny headline, custom inside pages, and other little things that can only be done with a real print shop.
Fortunately, our publisher had worked with printing companies in the past and set us up with a large Canadian printing company that produces beautiful books. This means paying a lot upfront with a minimum order of 2,000 books, but the result was more than worth it.
And the movie?!
If you’re wondering what happened to the initial idea of making a feature film, here’s how I see it.
Producing this book was a great experience that didn’t take too long (in film terms), and it’s something I can do again. The next book is already in production, and many other related products are on the way, such as a novelization of the comic and spinoffs.
I believe that if I spend the next decade developing the snowy lands universe, slowly building a fan base for it, then the process of making it as a movie will be a lot easier. And I can have fun along the way. But if that never happens, we’ll still have produced a great book series and built a fan base for an original idea.
The graphic novel is available on Amazon in ebook and hardcover. The ebook version is also available on Apple Books, Kobo and Nook.