Fandom is the future: How Legion M is changing Hollywood
Finding an audience is ultimately the most essential step on the long road of a film’s distribution campaign. Then there’s the funding, the production, the marketing – none of it’s easy. What if there were a way to make every step of the journey simpler, to ensure the audience and marketing were already built into a company’s business model?
That’s where Legion M comes in. Hailed as the world’s first fan-owned entertainment company, founders Paul Scanlan & Jeff Annison launched the project in 2016 to offer filmmakers an all-in-one production company fully funded by fans – and with fans comes an audience.
Unlike other media houses with its pursestrings controlled by big Hollywood movie studios, Legion M is owned by enthusiastic, dedicated fans who invest via equity crowdfunding. The Legion partners with creators – from independent filmmakers to big Hollywood studios – to produce movies, TV shows, VR experiences, and more.Members and non-members of the Legion can invest as little as $100 and have a say in who and what they want to watch. The Legion then works as a group to promote the studio’s projects, and there’s also opportunity to scout new talent (more on this later). Meanwhile for the investors it’s not a case of simply buying into a single project – it’s investing in a diversified slate chosen by professionals with guidance from an extensive network of advisors & partners.
Needless to say, Legion M’s is a savvy and innovative business model that’s continued to snowball in size and scope over the past two years. The last time we caught up with Legion M founders Scanlan & Annison, the company was a little over a year old with movies like Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal under its belt. Today, the Legion has over 20,000 members and some very exciting new projects in the pipeline. Speaking of which:
Legion M started a partnership with Dean Devlin and his company Electric Entertainment for Bad Samaritan, the thriller starring David Tennant (Jessica Jones).
“It’s a great movie,” announced Annison, “and really the icing on the cake is the fact that we have the opportunity to work with Dean Devlin. He’s been involved with some of the biggest titles out there – he’s one of the creators of Stargate, he co-wrote and co-produced Independence Day, not to mention his involvement with The Librarians, which he did out of his Electric Entertainment company.”
The opportunity to partner with Electric Entertainment was an added bonus for Annison and Scanlan. “With his company, Devlin’s really trying to disrupt and innovate in Hollywood. So he independently produced Bad Samaritan – and not only that, but he’s also independently distributing it. By doing so, Devlin’s going off-grid by Hollywood’s standards, and that’s the sort of thing that totally resonates with us,” added Annison.
The reaction to the partnership has received a warm buzz from the Legion M’s investors. Shareholder Jerry Seward told Film Daily:
Electric is a proven success in the industry. The Legion partnering with them shows that I made a good investment – the other investors are excited as well. Legion M is still very much in its infancy as a company, so right now it’s all about growth and strengthening the brand. While this deal certainly moves us forward, I also like that Legion M isn’t try to rush success. The company has taken great care in forming these relationships.
Bad Samaritan will enjoy a much wider release than anything Legion M’s done to date, making it the perfect opportunity to reach out to investors and fans. “The reaction has been phenomenal,” declared Scanlan. “Once the film is out, we’re going to be doing meetups around the country when it opens. We did that with Colossal and it was really successful.
“It’s cool enough to go and see a film that you know you’ve played a role in, but it’s even better when you can meet with other people in your shareholder community. What we’ve found in doing this for Colossal is that it’s not just good for the film and the business – it’s also a lot of fun. You can meet like-minded people and talk about the film. Since we had that opportunity with Colossal, our community has been wanting to do it again, so we’re excited to wrap our arms around Bad Samaritan and make that happen.”
To stay informed on Legion M’s meetups and events, you can find out more on their Insider Benefits page. However, if you’re not yet a member or investor of the company, the question remains – how can one join the Legion?
Fans of the world, unite!
The great thing about Legion M is that you don’t have to invest to become a member. It’s totally free to register (which you can do via the website), opening up opportunities such as the Legion M Scout Program, which allows the community to play the role of studio executives, helping find and evaluate projects for its slate.
Members are also invited to the meetups & events like the Legion M lounge at Sundance Film Festival and they can also take part in the Legion M Sponsorship program, in which it’s possible to earn a finder’s fee for connecting the team with sponsors for its projects & events.
However, with the company enjoying such success since launching two years ago, and with so many exciting projects on the horizon, investing in Legion M is an enticing prospect. While Legion M is not currently accepting investments, it will be opening up for a third round soon and it’s possible to shotgun a slice of the pie via its reservation page.
Annison announced, “It’s a non-binding reservation, meaning you can always change your mind. But what it does mean is if you’ve made a reservation, we’re gonna make room for you in the upcoming round, even if it’s otherwise sold out. We expect that round to launch probably within the next month.”
When asked about their highlight from last year, the answer from Annison and Scanlan was unanimous: the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Taking the Legion to Park City for the first time, the pair set up the Legion M lounge at Red Banjo Pizza on Main Street.
“The venue was alive, day and night,” said Scanlan. “We had the renowned film critic Leonard Maltin and the editor of Movie Pilot Russ Fischer conducting interviews, which we live streamed on Facebook through Movie Pilot, speaking to the top directors and casts of movies that were viewing at Sundance.”
Meanwhile, the company’s first project in its Legion Midnight series – Mandy starring Nicolas Cage – screened at the event. Annison announced the decision to include a photo mosaic of the Legion M fans during the film’s credits. “We use photo mosaics as our production card whenever possible. We think it’s the perfect analogy for Legion M – a million tiny pieces coming together to form something greater.”
Leading the content revolution
We ended our conversation with Annison and Scanlan by discussing Legion M’s leading role in the content revolution. With streaming sites continuing to dominate the market (Netflix alone has 700 original TV shows and movies planned for 2018) and companies turning to alternative production & distribution setups, Legion M has placed itself in a strong position.
Chairman of VC RoundTable and investor in Legion M Terry Moore described: “It is thrilling to be a part of the world’s first fan-based team that is truly disrupting Hollywood – an old boys industry. It’s ripe for change during this time of #MeToo for this monumental shift in the way in which we not only produce and finance, but also distribute and consume entertainment today.”
Writer & director Thunder Levin, known for his infamous Sharknado series, was an early supporter of Legion M. Levin told Film Daily, “As the studios move further and further away from small- and medium-sized genre films, a company like Legion M becomes more and more important to the fate of the kind of movies so many of us love.”
Meanwhile, Annison declared, “It’s great for us because at the end of the day, as technology and the distribution paths and the processes all change, when you’re in a field like this that’s being disruptive, it’s so easy to get caught up in the current trends.
“But the most important thing is you’ve got to stay connected to the fundamentals, and from now until the end of time, the most important thing in the equation is the fans. And that’s why the concept of a company owned by fans is so amazingly powerful.”
With so much in the pipeline, it looks like Legion M are ready for another stellar year. However, Annison and Scanlan are not stopping there – far from it. The pair finished our conversation by outlining their biggest focus in 2018: growing the Legion. “Our long-term goal is to unite one million fans as co-owners of Legion M. If we’re successful, we could become one of the most influential companies in Hollywood.”