Legion M is raising eyebrows and raising capital all over America. ComiConverse had the opportunity to sit down with the company’s founders to find out how they are changing the game in regards to fan-funded entertainment content.
Legion M, the very name sounds as though it was plucked from the pages of some fantastic Marvel or DC comic book. The project is the brainchild startup experts Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison, who were the braintrust begin the enormously successful media company MobiTV. The Silicon Valley pair are hoping they have tapped into something special by creating their very own legion of content-crazy fans, who will help them develop a new wave of multi-media content.
The Legion M project was made possible through the passage of the JOBS Act in the United States, which opened up new investment channels for individuals to be involved venture projects. Early indications are that Scanlan and Anniston may have once again tapped into an incredible opportunity, and ComiConverse was pleased to sit down with them to discuss the thinking that went into the creation of Legion M.
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Legion M: An Interview With The Founders
ComiConverse: Thanks for speaking to us. Tell us about Legion M.
Paul Scanlan: The impetus for the company really came about from the JOBS Act, which is new legislation that’s really for the first time allowing this kind of investment for projects. Fans are hungry to have a bigger voice in the creation of content. So we really feel the timing is perfect.
Fans are getting tired of all of these Hollywood retreads.
ComiConverse: So, you have a few big names on board, including actor Seth Green. What’s been the reception from other folks in the industry about Legion M?
Jeff Anniston: The reception has been fantastic. Its funny, because when we launched it was a nervous time. We were bracing for people who might attack this.
Paul Scanlan: We’ve been there before. When we launched MobiTV, the who industry told us we were smoking the drapes when we wanted to put TV on cell phones. We’re used to it.
Jeff Annison: But in this case, the reaction across the board from producers, creators, press, everybody has been positive. The question we keep getting is, “well, why hasn’t anyone done this before?”, and the answer is that (with this type of crowd funded content company) its never been possible before. This is the first time in history where this type of project is possible.
Paul Scanlan: The one industry that has been negative is the financial industry. When you talk to Wall St. about the fact you’re going to have a million shareholders, they say “That sounds like a nightmare.”, but not for us. That’s our ambitious goal. We want as many shareholders and people involved people as possible. We want an entire legion. We want that community.
Jeff Anison: I think the difference is that those people are simply looking at it as a way to raise money. That’s not what this is. We could raise money traditionally. We want to go about raising it this way, because that’s the foundation of the business.
Paul Scanlan: As Jeff said, in many ways, raising money in more traditional ways would be easier. We want investors with emotional and financial involvement in our success.
ComiConverse: Has the rise of social media been an important factor in this calculation? One million investors would obviously mean one million people chirping away about Legion M projects on social media.
Paul Scanlan: That’s exactly it. The whole thesis is that with one million fans invested, that we can create new properties or even bring back old franchises that have gone away, and bring those into the marketplace and light-up the internet. The idea is that when we release a movie or a TV show, all these things are measured by their immediate impact. The entertainment industry isn’t a very patient one, so you have to demonstrate immediate traction and interest with fans – or else forget it, you’re done.
So we really feel with with this legion of fans, we can light-up the internet, while at the same time paying close attention to the quality of content. With partners like Seth Green, we can blow this up.
ComiConverse: What was the lightbulb moment for you both when surveying what’s out there in terms of professional and amateur content in popular culture?
Jeff Anniston: At least for me personally, I do think there are some folks that are frustrated with Hollywood, but I think its probably a small group. When you look at a project like Star Trek: Axanar, these kind of Kickstarter projects are generating huge amounts of money from fans that want to be a part of something. They want a stake in it. When you add the ability to participate financially and be involved it changes everything.
We want to support young up-and-coming creators, but we also want to partner with big Hollywood studios.
Paul Scanlan: This is one of the things that has helped create some receptivity in the industry. When people first hear about Legion M, they might think “Oh, that’s a threat.”, but when we’re at the table with people we emphasize that our goal is to use this formula to add value. People call us disrupters, and certainly what we’re doing is new and innovative, but we’re not trying to displace anyone in Hollywood. We’re huge fans of Hollywood. But we have something that a lot of the other players don’t have. Not just money, but money from a highly activated fan base.
ComiConverse: With your ear to the fan base, is part of Legion M’s goal to identify opportunities for projects that are, perhaps, not being picked up by big studios?
Jeff Anniston: We want to be diversified. We’re looking at everything. We’re looking at virtuality reality. We’re looking at feature films and television. We’re looking at all kinds of different stuff, but its the ability to consult the Legion on these projects that represents our competitive edge.
ComiConverse: Was part of the thesis here to build a hybrid between kick-starter and a Hollywood studio, something that people within the industry would feel was a little more credible than the traditional crowdsourcing route?
Paul Scanlan: We certainly hope so. First let me say that we’re huge fans of Kickstarter and crowdsourcing. Its awesome for creators and entrepreneurs. We’re taking it to the next level. We are allowing fans to come in and own a piece of an entity that is going to be creating more than one project. Often on Kickstarter you’ll be looking at supporting a specific title or property. One of the most important differences between us and Kickstarter is that when you’re looking at their rewards-based donation model, you’re typically getting content as an immediate reward for your donation. The problem with that model is that it can break the commercial model for that content. For example, once you’ve given away the DVD to your core fans, and then you go to try and monetize that successful content, the distribution channels are quick to ask where the benefit is for them – if your biggest fans already own the content for themselves.
By being an equity owner, by getting equity in exchange instead of the actual content, it preserves the commercials model. Hopefully, if we are successful the value of that equity expands and grows. In the meantime, our legions of fans are still going to pay to go see the movie they helped make in theatres. They’ll be promoting it on social media and they’ll be bringing their friends. So, in effect, we are adding huge value, as the distributors are now more likely to be interested in the project, knowing there is a passionate fan base eager to light it up.
ComiConverse: Is part of the role for Legion M to be a source of feedback for the production company, so that your fans and investors can help you identify projects and opportunities that have, perhaps, gone unnoticed by other studios?
Paul Scanlan: Being part of the Legion isn’t just a passive process. Our ideal investor is someone who is activated and sharing feedback with us. We want to be gathering data before a project is launch, but also while its in production. We want to have that resource, people that we can trust, to ask important questions to and help our projects succeed.
ComiConverse: Sounds like an intoxicating project for all of the fan-boy and fan-girl investors out there. Thanks for taking the time to chat with ComiConverse about Legion M.
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