Can fans actually get a seat at the table? Well, that’s what Legion M aims to accomplish. The relatively new (it was founded in 2016) and growing company has a unique structure – it’s a movie production company that relies on investments from film fans, rather than well-connected Wall Street moguls. As a result, founders Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison are looking to knock down walls for film fans. Want to invest in the next potential breakout hit, thus earning a piece of the profits? Legion M’s entire business model is based on that dream. Want to get invited to movie premieres and film festivals? Legion M wants to make that happen for you.
The production company originally scheduled a big panel for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. However, the global pandemic has limited every panel to a series of pre-taped Zoom discussions, and Legion M was no exception. Scanlan and Annison made the best of the situation by highlighting what their company is all about. You can view the panel below.
After seeing the panel, two things become apparent quickly. First, the enthusiasm from Scanlan and Annison is off the charts. This is crucial considering this is an organization that relies on ingratiating itself with a fanbase that doubles as potential investors. It’s not enough just to say what Legion M can do; you have to establish that Legion M is a fan community not too different from Marvel, DC, or Star Wars. In that department, Legion M’s founders, a bunch of lovable nerds like it’s target base, exceeds.
This comes across when the film Save Yourselves! is awarded the trophy for best Sundance film among Legion M’s fan base. The scene is replete which a comically large trophy and an absolutely dreadful rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra. In other words, Legion M hopes to take the stuffy pretentiousness out of traditional Hollywood, which applies double to the rigid nature of awards season.
But the second aspect of Legion M that is promising is how much thought goes into giving the fans a voice. This is best demonstrated with Legion M’s featured app – Film Scout. Film Scout essentially allows you to vote on films that the company is considering buying the distribution rights for. This includes, but not limited to, Sundance – you can vote on which films you think are the best, raising the chances that the film is bought.
But it goes a step further than that – the app also gives the option to vote on how you think the public will vote. What this does is establish your ability to predict consumer trends, and the better you are at this the more your profile will rise in the app. The app even has a ranking system to determine who’s the best at predicting a film’s popularity. This is a clever way to find potential investors who may have a hand on the pulse of the general public.
Honestly, I hadn’t heard of the company until this year, so it was surprising to hear they had a hand in the distribution of films like Colossal (2016) and Mandy (2018). Some of their current projects include The Girl With No Name (a comic book that is being adapted into a feature film), the Left Right Game podcast, Archenemy, and the documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien.
However, it’s not all gravy. Colossal boasted a budget of $15 million (not including marketing costs), but only grossed $4.5 million at the box office. Mandy was also a flop, only grossing $1.4 million against a budget of $6 million. This is the catch 22 of being a film investor – some films will cost you money. But no one should enter a partnership with Legion M based on a delusional get-rich-quick scheme. You have to join for the right reasons (intense passion for movies) and you have to realize that film investment is a game where patience, timing, and intelligence are crucial.
Legion M, like any production company, isn’t perfect. But keep in mind that it is still growing and their best days may be ahead of them. The company is mixing business with pleasure in regards to their relationship with fans – they try to give the fans what they want while also promising a piece of the pie. It hasn’t been attempted before, so there will continue to be growing pains. But ask any established production company if it was all rosy in the beginning. If you want to reach their heights, you have to pay your dues, in more ways than one.