The Sun: What is Legion M’s involvement in the upcoming film Mandy starring Nicolas Cage?
Paul Scanlan, co-founder and CEO of Legion M: We’re one of the investors, partnering with SpectreVision, Elijah Wood’s production company, and RLJ, who is distributing the film in the United States.
Sun: What can we expect from Mandy?
PS: Have you seen the trailer?
PS: Yeah, so we’ve been saying that if you like the trailer, you would be pleasantly surprised by the movie. But if not, it probably isn’t for you. So watch the trailer before going to the movie for sure. It’s like a double black diamond ski trail, you know — it’s an action horror with a lot of blood and violence. We don’t expect the film to have a mass market but rather a passionate and energized following.
Nicolas Cage, whether you like him or not, gives a performance of a lifetime. We also think that Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) could be the next Stanley Kubrick of our generation. I mean, the film premiered at Sundance, then received a four-minute standing ovation at Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year, so I think he [Cosmatos] is on his way. [The late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s] score adds so much to it. We are actually planning to release the soundtrack with the movie on September 14th.
Sun: You briefly touched upon this, but what are the risks of producing a more “niche” film like Mandy?
PS: I think “mass market” does not necessarily mean “large market,” like a niche and specific audience does not have to be a small audience. In fact, heavy metal is the most listened to genre around the world and there’s a huge market. You wouldn’t expect that, now would you? So yes, we do have reasonable expectations for the film.
Sun: What other projects does Legion M have in stock?
PS: In 2017 we invested in Colossal starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. The movie made a statement, and it really is the kind of movie we want to be known for. We also have Bad Samaritan, directed, produced and independently distributed by Dean Devlin (Independence Day), which is in the festival circuit right now. I’m very excited about this film called Field Guide to Evil, a film that was screened at SXSW earlier this year. It’s a lower budget anthology film with eight directorial voices, each telling a dark folklore from a different country or region around the world. All these segments come together in this film to create some sort of a dark mythology. It’s like Black Mirror, but a film.
Sun: Could you talk a bit about your business model?
PS: We’re a private entertainment company owned by thousands of investors. The minimum investment is $100, but the average investment is actually closer to $500. You can also join the Legion for free. Everyone has a voice; we don’t differentiate based on the amount of money invested. This is so that the direction of the company isn’t skewed by investors with large amounts of capital. However, the final decision on some matters rests with management. This is because we, as management, are privy to information that often is not publically available, which means that we’re best qualified to make these choices. But we promise that the decision-making process is always transparent and open to inspection.
Additionally, we have three ways to ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard. We have M-poll to gather thoughts from the community, then the Scout program where people interested can help to identify potential projects. “Pitch Elevator” is a pilot series we’ve produced where fans are welcomed to pitch an idea for a movie or a TV series and win a development deal with the company.
Sun: Who are your competitors, if any?
PS: We are so new that I don’t think anyone else is doing it. We’re adding a new layer of value to the market. I can’t really see any players in the industry in the same exact space as us right now.
Sun: What are your thoughts on streaming, and is Legion M open to first run film streaming as early as premiere night? I know that you co-founded Mobi TV, the first streaming service to bring TV to mobile devices ever.
PS: Mobi TV is in a different space that isn’t focused on large scale theatrical releases. But there will be a VOD push for Mandy on the 14th along with a one night only event screening on the 13th. I was in the streaming space previously and it’s a good space but Legion M is more focused on content.
Sun: I think we can all agree that Hollywood is pretty saturated with sequels and spinoffs and other franchises now. What do you think Legion M can do to change the current landscape?
PS: I agree, Hollywood is saturated and studios are increasingly beholden to their Wall Street owners. This is because it has to do with their bottom line, which means that studios prefer to make films with existing fanbases, like Marvel films. This is fine — there’s a market for those films and they need to get made. But these Hollywood studios are still filled with creative people, looking to make good movies. We can come in as an investor on some of these films and take on some of the risk, making it financially feasible for the studios to come onboard. We also think that Legion M’s community offers a built-in fan base which could allow us to kickstart new franchises.
In the end, we hope that Legion M can become a movement that will have positive ramifications on the industry. Our end goal is to unite and create a community of passionate fans and game-changers.
Sun: How’s Legion M doing now?
PS: We’re doing pretty well! There are a few things we are pretty happy about. One is the quality of our community. People are very passionate, supportive and open-minded, which is great. We currently have roughly 40,000 people in the community, and 10,000 of them are investors.
Another is our ability to establish a brand or a name in the industry. Hollywood is a very exclusive and hard-to-penetrate space, where big studios run the game. But we’ve gotten strong and favorable reactions from companies like Lionsgate, and some of them have reached out to us about future collaborations. We always say that we’re just at the beginning of a marathon, but we are optimistic.
Sun: How did Legion M manage to foster such a large community?
PS: Our philosophy is that having fun can be good business.
Word of mouth in the beginning. Then for each film we are involved in, we host meetups where investors can come and bring their friends and families. We also go to festivals like Sundance where we have booths and give away freebies. We’re also regulars at comic cons, where we’ve found passionate fans who are interested in our community. Finally, we advertise on Facebook, targeting people we think might join the Legion.
Sun: What kind of projects are you looking for in the future?
PS: So far we’ve been focused on horror films since we believe that fear is a universal emotion, and the horror genre has a robust international market. In the future, we’re looking to do 10 to 15 films every year. Our community has also expressed interest in expanding to more mainstream films and possibly television.
Sun: What suggestions do you have for student entrepreneurs and filmmakers who are trying to break into the industry?
PS: We welcome future filmmakers into our community and we’re always open to share industry insights with our investors. We make videos and update the community on the production of our films from script to development to casting. We’ve also invited investors to Sundance and other film festivals. Parents have actually bought shares for their kids who are interested in filmmaking. There’s also a lot of networking opportunities since we have cinematographers, producers and people from all aspects of the industry on our platform. Not to sound self-absorbed, but Legion M is a really great place to start.
Sun: Any final thoughts?
PS: I’d like to encourage people to see Mandy on September 13th, when it will be shown on over two hundred screens at Regal and Alamo Drafthouse theaters across the country. We consider Legion M a community that everyone is welcome to join, and you can always join for free. Eventually we’re looking to bring one million fans together in this community, as the “M” in our name suggests.
Ruby Que is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Varun Belur is a senior in the College of Engineering. He can be reached at email@example.com.