It can take a long time – and a lot of red tape – to get a project made in the entertainment business. Legion M is aiming to change that, as the first fan-owned studio, putting the power back in the hands of the consumer. Founders Jeff Annison and Paul Scanlan spoke recently to LA Fan Cultures Examiner about the idea behind Legion M and what’s going to make them consider this bold, exciting new venture a success.
Jeff and Paul have worked together for years to push the industry forward, earning an Emmy Award as two of the co-founders of MobiTV, which helped to pioneer the idea of putting content on mobile devices. From MobiTV came New York Rock Exchange, which operated with the same idea as Legion M – to put fans on the same team with the creators that they love.
“The whole purpose of that company was to bring fans to the same side of the table as bands and artists that they support,” Paul explained. “The idea is that the band would allow their fans to own a part of a song and put their name on the copyright for that song. That company is also still ongoing and doing well.
“We saw the magic that can happen when you put fans and the artists that they support together on the same side of the table to do things. We saw how much fans appreciated it. The bands and artists also appreciated it in how it strengthened the bond between them.”
They were still a bit limited in what they could do until the passing of recent legislation that’s made it possible for regular folks to invest in early stage companies. Explained Paul, “Legion M is taking advantage of those rules to go out directly to fans and for the first time ever allow those fans to invest in and go behind the scenes in the creation of movies and TV shows and Hollywood entertainment.
“We’re partnering with top tier Hollywood producers like Stoopid Buddy Studios and the team behind Robot Chicken, 42 Entertainment, Meltdown Comics, all of these guys are some of the top of the class in Hollywood and some of the best innovators,” he continued. “So we’ve gone directly to them and gotten them on board so that we can align them with their fans and create great content [where] the fans really feel like a part of it.”
That’s far different from current crowdfunding services like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and PledgeMusic. In the case of Legion M fans aren’t just pledging money and getting a selection of rewards. They’re purchasing a genuine ownership stake in the project. That benefits the studio and content creators because they’re able to grow an existing fan base that is legitimately invested in and excited about their work, and the fans get to be an actual part of their team. And that journey could take them just about anywhere.
“There is not one specific genre that we are tied to. We just want to do fun, cool, compelling content,” Jeff told us. “That includes everything from feature films to web series to network television. Also to some of the new frontiers of storytelling like interactive television, virtual reality, alternate reality.”
What are the factors that they’re looking for when it comes to Legion M content?
“A combination of things,” Paul said. “Obviously as an investor there is shareholder growth, but we do want sort of monetization. We want to be able to bring successful shares to successful entertainment projects to the market…We feel like we can increase our competitive advantage and reduce some of the risk by having fans engage from the very inception of those projects.
“There is a lot of great content out there, and the difference between great content that is successful and great content that is unsuccessful is really whether it’s developed a fan base,” he continued. “Then there is obviously bad content and we try to steer clear of any of those projects. This is why we have really strong creative allies that are working with us, so that we can increase our odds of having high quality great content from proven talents.
“The other component I think that is super important for our Legion is are the projects engaging and interesting to get involved in?” he explained. “One of the things we wouldn’t do is go buy something that is already produced and just try to monetize it because there wouldn’t be much for the Legion to really go behind the scenes and see.
“So we really are looking at projects that are very early in the stage so that we can take the fans along for the ride as it gets developed. As we know there will be ups and downs but it will be an adventure and it will be cool and fun. It’s a prerequisite that projects allow us behind the scenes. Even if it was the best movie with the best monetization opportunity in the world [and someone] said because of confidentiality we’re not going to share anything with you, we’d have to pass. We would move on to the next project.”
Those projects could come from anywhere, be it a brand-new voice or an established creator, a wholly Legion M production or a co-production with another company. They’re not closing themselves off to any opportunity as long as the potential is there for something interesting that they can enable the public to be a part of.
“The studios these days so much of what they create are safe bets, or a retread of an old franchise or another sequel or something like that because they are very risk adverse,” Jeff explained. “They know that if they release content like that that people will come.
“We felt that with a legion of people like fans that are emotionally and financially invested in a project and have been a part of it from day one, that we’ve got this amazing opportunity to create new franchises, because of the fact that we have got an audience. It gives us a chance to kind of go outside of the box a little bit.”
It’s certainly an exciting business proposition, but the biggest strength of Legion M is that it has the right people behind it with priorities that are not about business. That’s a part of it for sure, yet talk to Paul and Jeff and you realize very quickly that what drives them is not some bottom line but a genuine desire to make something special happen and for everyone to be a part of it. They are nothing but supportive of content creators and excited about the idea that they can perhaps enable someone who came up with an idea that was too bold or couldn’t get a shot somewhere else to finally kick down the door keeping them from telling their story.
“It is such an exciting process and such an exciting thing to be involved with that,” Jeff said. “I think that’s what wonderful about Legion M. There is nothing more exciting and more fun than being involved with something like this.”
“I think we are making history right now,” Paul concluded. “We’ll look back at this just like we did with MobiTV, like fifteen years from now and be like wow, remember that? When we just started and for the world’s first time fans actually were able to invest and go behind the scenes and get involved in the creation of content? Probably by then it will be the new standard, just like watching TV on your phone.”
We can all certainly hope that’s what happens, and that people like Paul and Jeff are the ones who stick around for a very long time. Until then, don’t miss your opportunity to get involved with this fantastic idea from the very beginning. For more about Legion M and to make your own reservation to join the Legion, visit the official website.