They’ve made big movies including “Colossal,” starring Anne Hathaway.
Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison. Photo courtesy of Legion M.
Nearly everyone has had a moment of being a couch-bound critic. Reclined — and maybe covered in Cheetos dust — we’ve watched a movie or TV show and thought “I could have done a better job.”
Yet most household critics will never get the chance to be part of a Hollywood production. Now Legion M, a startup film production company, is offering fans something tantalizingly close.
And it could change the culture — and business — of how content is made.
Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison founded Legion M in 2016 with the idea of bringing the power of film production directly to fans. Their company is owned and funded directly by investors who contribute as little as $100 through a process called “equity crowdfunding.”
“Everybody has got a little bit of ownership,” says Annison, Legion M's president.
It may sound like a far-fetched idea, but the company has already produced a handful of critically-acclaimed titles, including the cult hit “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis.
Additionally, they have a number of projects in the works that are generating buzz, including “Bad Samaritan” starring David Tennant (“Doctor Who,” “Jessica Jones”) and the surprising Sundance Film Festival favorite “Mandy” starring Nicolas Cage.
Scanlan and Annison say demand is steadily growing from those who want to become investors in the company. After it launched, Legion M had an initial investment round of around $1 million. That number has grown to more than $3 million from 7,000 investors. Additionally, there are an estimated 30,000 members of the larger Legion M community, which includes those waiting on a list for the chance to become paid investors.
“The power of fandom has really yet to be tapped as much as it could be,” says Jeff Walker, a Legion M community member who is on the waiting list to become a future investor. “All the top shows and films are genre. For me, how can you have too much?”
Part of that interest is financial; investing in a film that goes on to make a profit could prove to be a wise investment. But Legion M investors just as often are looking for what Scanlan, the company’s CEO, calls an “emotional ROI.”
“Our goal is to get you more than that $100 back but also an emotional return on investment,” he said.
Outside of films, the company is also putting together a TV show called “Pitch Elevator,” in which contestants would literally pitch their ideas for a movie or TV show on camera while riding an elevator on a studio set. On the show, Legion M investors would vote for their favorites pitches. The finalists would then take their ideas to a panel of experts. Finalists and winners would be awarded cash prizes and additional funding if their pitches go into production.
Despite the fan-driven nature of the company, Scanlan and Annison made it clear that Legion M investors won’t be micromanaging productions. Instead, the company’s leadership team presents potential projects and ideas that investors then vote on. The winning projects receive investor funding. “It’s not art by committee,” Annison says. “We’re not asking people to invest in our taste of movies.”
If the company continues to grow, it’s possible that in a few short years Legion M could be sitting on a roster of a million (or more) investors. If you do the math, it’s easy to see how this community-owned style of business could turn Legion M into a powerhouse.
“It’s like having a really big microphone,” said Samantha Sherman, a Legion M investor since 2016. “How often do you have an opportunity with people of varying degrees of backgrounds and interest to having their voice heard?”
But their goal isn’t to dismantle the Hollywood machine as we know it. “We’re not disrupting the studio system,” Scanlan says. “They’ve been receptive to what we’re doing. Increasingly, people are coming to us.”
For now, they’re focused on steady growth and carefully investing in quality projects. And like any Hollywood venture, it’s always possible the final result won’t be the huge success its members are hoping for. Except that this time, they won’t be the ones wondering how it could have been done better.
“It might be a nightmare, but it’s our nightmare,” Annison says with a laugh.