At Phoenix Comicon this past weekend I had a chance to speak to a brand new company that is dreaming up big ideas for the future of entertainment production.
In the 117 degree heat I met with Paul Scanlan and David Baxter from Legion M under a tent set up on 3rd Street between the two main wings of the convention center. Baxter looked about 5 seconds from heat stroke, wearing armor and carrying a stuffed chicken. I immediately knew these were my kind of people.
When I first looked up Legion M I was amazed that I hadn’t heard of them yet, because this is one of those “crowdfunded” ideas that I think has the potential to turn industry’s on their head and I always love to keep my eye on those and the inevitable screeching that comes from the established industry. Much like Uber and Lyft have challenged (and left in the dust) the taxi industry, Legion M is set to bring a new idea to entertainment that will get fans involved in the process of making media.
The founders of Legion M, Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison, have been disruptors in markets for a long time. They co-founded MobiTV long before the idea of streaming media on mobile phones was a regular part of life.
Scanlan told me that one of their greatest frustrations with MobiTV was that they were unable to take investment from friends and family in a way that would allow them to profit from the business because of 80 year old SEC regulations.
They spun off another business a few years later, New York Rock Exchange, which was created to “brings fans to the same side of the table as the bands and music they love” as Scanlan put it, by allowing them to buy shares of songs by their favorite artists. This allowed them to get certain perks and advantages as share owners (similar to how investing in a kickstarter project can get you first access to a new prototype or an early release of a book).
Still this didn’t allow them to do quite what they wanted, but it wasn’t until early in 2016 that Title III of the JOBS Act changed the SEC rules for Equity Crowdfunding and allowed them the freedom to start Legion M and “take crowdfunding to the next level” as Scanlan put it. Previously crowdfunding didn’t allow for people to make an actual profit in the same way that Venture Capital firms could with investments in companies, now regular people with incomes in the lower tax brackets can invest and profit the same way Mark Cuban can…on a smaller scale obviously.
Paul Scanlan is taking advantage of that and giving fans the opportunity to be truly part of the process of making films and bring a legion of fans (and owners) into the creation of entertainment and authentic advertising and marketing.
The idea behind Legion M is, according to Paul Scanlan, isn’t seeking to disrupt the Hollywood machine. They seem themselves as a resource that can add value to the Hollywood entertainment industry as a whole, rather than displacing the industry they want to make fans a part of the equation in a way that no one has attempted before.
Financially and creatively.
Now of course that doesn’t mean that every investor gets creative control of a project. Too many chefs, as they say, do tend to spoil the meal and as Scanlan said in our interview “great art isn’t created by committee” so you can’t expect to have creative control over the finished product that Legion M makes, but fan/investor (fanvestor?) input is going to be important to the company in the form of focus groups and polling from their “legion.”
The “legion” will also be potentially able to be involved on a more creative basis with jobs and project idea submissions, among other things, in the future. Which could obviously open the door to a lot of great content that previously couldn’t find a home in Hollywood because the people involved in the project didn’t have the money or resources to get their ideas to the right people.
From two completely different sides this idea is exciting for me. There’s the free market concept of innovation and competition that makes me incredibly intrigued, but there’s also the side of me that remembers how crowdfunding gave me a Veronica Mars movie a few years ago and wonders how many more fantastic movies and series we might have a chance to see out in the world if fans had a legitimate ownership of those projects (and a chance to profit off them) rather than just Hollywood production companies who are to “overly risk averse” (as Scanlan put it) to give us anything but the same rehashed reboots, sequels, and prequels over and over again.
Could Legion M be changing the future of entertainment? Stranger things have happened and given the history of the founders of Legion M, I think we should be watching them carefully in the future and maybe investing a little money ourselves.
To find out more about Legion M and their partners (including Seth Green of Robot Chicken fame) please check out their website and wefund page.