Legion M President Jeff Annison talks pioneering media company and new project ‘Mandy’

The president and cofounder of the first fan-owned entertainment company sits down to discuss Legion M and their newest investment in the film ‘Mandy’

| September 12, 2018

Photo courtesy of Legion M

Marking the rise of a fascinating new business model with the potential to change Hollywood forever, entertainment company Legion M has created one of the world’s first fan-owned media platforms. Allowing fans all over the world to invest in a broad slate of film, television and digital content, the company strives to make the audience the number one priority. Here to break down just what Legion M is all about, the Niner Times got a chance to speak to co-founder and president Jeff Annison about the company and its goals. Also giving us the latest on their most recent investment, the supernatural thriller “Mandy,” Jeff Annison spills the beans on why Legion M could be the next revolutionary startup.

Legion M introduces one of the world’s first entertainment companies owned and invested in by fans. Fans are able to get involved with and even own stock of the company just by investing as little as $100. That money is then pooled together to go into a variety of diverse projects. How did a company where people all over the world can easily invest in original content come to fruition? How is a company like that even possible?

While there’s plenty of business talk and logistics that go into how Legion M was formed, the primary goal of the company is to give fans a say in what Legion M does. We wanted to create a media company made up of people who are emotionally invested in the process of content creation. Under new rules enabled by the JOBS Act, fans can now invest as little as $100 to own a piece of the company. While that process always comes with its risks, there is reward in the ideas and projects Legion M seeks to endorse. Investing in the company is only half of it, however. Legion M has always strived towards creating an authentic grassroots buzz for the projects they’re involved in. As we partner with more and more creators, we can provide marketing, development, financial backing and most importantly fan engagement.

Risk is always a major factor when investing in something like this. One often has to weigh the risk vs. reward before putting money into a project or company. Legion M is made possible by new rules entitled in the JOBS Act, a process called equity crowdfunding. How is Legion M changing the game in the ways the general public can invest in projects?

Equity crowdfunding is all about allowing the general public to invest in pre-IPO startups like ours. Prior to the JOBS Act, most of the population was forbidden from investing in startup companies. Unless you had a net worth north of $1 million or an annual salary of more than $200K, you were excluded. Now, even with some limitations here and there, the JOBS Act promises that all of us can have the chance to invest like the 1%. Of course, you have to know the risks of investing in something like a company. We ourselves took a risk on investing in our latest project “Mandy,” which we entered early at the script phase. That being said, the risk and reward of investing in something like Legion M is never guaranteed. While most startups fail, those that succeed often change the world. That is what we seek to do with Legion M.    

You work with a number of people besides the fans on Legion M and its projects. From co-founder and CEO Paul Scanlan to a variety of diverse production companies, Legion M has grown tremendously since 2016. How has your past experience working as an entrepreneur influenced how Legion M came to be?

Legion M marks the third company I’ve started with Paul Scanlan. In 1999, we launched MobiTV, one of the pioneers of digital streaming on mobile devices. We ended up winning an Emmy for Technical Achievement in Advancing Television for our work on that project. From that experience, and the ones that followed, I’ve learned that one of the most essential parts of being an entrepreneur is a willingness to take risks. I’ve also learned that most startups fail, as I said. Even the likes of Google, Tesla and Disney all took risks when building their companies. Investing is already a risk vs. reward business, but there was no question in the prospects of what Legion M could become.

After launching two years ago, the company has amassed nearly $5 million with an ever-growing number of fan investors. Did you ever see Legion M taking off like this? What are some of the major goals you have for Legion M as it continues to grow?

One of our main goals can be found right in our logo. The “M” with a line over it is the Roman numeral for one million. Our “master plan” so to speak is to become one of the most influential companies in Hollywood, with over one million shareholders backing what we do and what we produce. If we can achieve that, we’ll have hundreds of millions of dollars to develop new projects, with over a million people who have contributed to the process. Another goal of ours is to “open the gates of Hollywood” to the fans, giving them the opportunity to spearhead some ambitious projects in the future.   

Legion M resides on somewhat of a different playing field as Hollywood. The majority of major Hollywood-produced entertainment, be it film or television, is run by massive conglomerates. Legion M on the other hand strives towards prioritizing individuals who are passionate about budding projects. How has Legion M worked to differentiate itself from the Hollywood formula of content creation?

Hollywood is a notoriously difficult place to traverse in the entertainment business. What we find in content creation, and the investment process as well, is that every project is seeking an audience. Putting the fans at the forefront, we can back a wide variety of bold and inventive projects from some of the most promising creators out there. Among Hollywood, which is such a massive world to step into, there are limitations along with those huge companies. In essence, it’s a “hit-driven” enterprise, where the lines are drawn between the artistic side of filmmaking and the business side of entertainment. That can be a complicated street to walk down.  

Poster Courtesy of RLJE Films

After working on such films as “Colossal” with Anne Hathaway and “Bad Samaritan” with David Tennant,  the company’s latest investment finds itself in the seedy, 1980s revenge tale of “Mandy,” starring THE Nicolas Cage. How did you come across this project and what drew you towards it personally?

“Mandy” is not a film for everyone. It’s dark, visceral, outlandish, but there’s plenty of fantastic potential there. It comes from independent director Panos Cosmatos, who has made a name for himself as the Stanley Kubrick of our time with his startling visual style. At Legion M, we love the idea of supporting up-and-coming filmmakers like Panos, and giving them the chance to showcase their unique talents on-screen. With “Mandy,” which stars such an enigmatic character as Nic Cage, the potential of the director mixed with what Cage could convey as an actor was very promising. Toss in a heavy metal score from the late composer Jóhann Jóhannson and there’s something distinct there.   

Films like “Mandy” have the tendency to garner substantial cult followings after their release. “Mandy” has already received plenty of buzz at both the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. While smaller, more obscure films like this often don’t see much return at the box office, they still have life among the fans. Do you see “Mandy” becoming a cult classic? What do you hope people take away from the film?

As I said, there’s definitely something special about what the filmmakers behind “Mandy” have crafted. Aside from its great cast in Nic Cage, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache, the film has the obscure, sensational aesthetic of what we like to call a “midnight” movie. From an investment standpoint, “Mandy” has a lot of potential to gain a following from not just its premise, but the film’s riveting 1980s-infused soundtrack as well. While we can’t possibly predict how the general public will receive the film next week, we hope the passion behind the project will resonate with the fans who brought the film to light in the first place.  

Legion M continues to grow in the content it provides, from major releases like “Colossal” and “Mandy” to digital content with fellow creators Kevin Smith and Stan Lee. How has Legion M worked to broaden their reach into a larger variety of projects?

Discovering creators like Panos Cosmatos, as well as working alongside more-established names like Kevin Smith and Stan Lee, of course contributes greatly to broadening Legion M’s horizon. Support from our fans and the passionate audiences that continue to engage with us also goes a long way towards bringing more and more projects to our door. “Mandy” is just the latest vastly-imaginative and highly-promising project we’ve invested in, and there’s plenty more to come.     

“Mandy” hits select Charlotte-area theaters Sept. 13. You can get tickets to a special one-night only screening for the film here

You can learn more about Legion M and how to get involved here.

 

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film, Television

Tyler Trudeau is a junior Architecture major from Raleigh, NC, who spends most of his time writing about film and TV, running in 90 degree heat, and bingeing Netflix shows. You can find more of his film criticism and editorials at his personal website below.

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Tyler Trudeau is a junior Architecture major from Raleigh, NC, who spends most of his time writing about film and TV, running in 90 degree heat, and bingeing Netflix shows. You can find more of his film criticism and editorials at his personal website below.

Twitter Author's Website