Interview Exclusive! Legion M CEO Talks ‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot’, Stan Lee & Giving Fans a Voice!
As the first media company in history designed to be owned by fans, Legion M is revolutionizing the entertainment industry! Teaming up with top Hollywood creators, Legion M provides the development, financial and marketing support necessary to produce movies, TV shows, VR experiences and more.
“An entertainment company owned by fans is more than just a fun idea — it’s the foundation of a business model with the potential to change Hollywood forever.” – legionm.com
In addition to several successful projects featuring some top-notch talents, Legion M recently announced their latest investment in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Social media was already buzzing over news that the sequel to Mr. Smith’s 2001 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back will begin filming this month, and as fans themselves, Legion M joined in their excitement! So how did all this happen? Find out as Fan Fest News had the awesome opportunity to chat with Legion M Cofounder/CEO Paul Scanlan.
Linda Marie: Hi Mr. Scanlan, I’m glad we finally have the chance to talk. Lot’s of exciting things happening for Legion M!
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, it’s been a wild ride. We’re grateful for the support and the reception that we’ve had. As an entrepreneur, when you start something you’re always optimistic about doing what you’re doing, which is why you do it, but then you just never know sometimes. You can think something’s a really good ideal, and the rest of the world doesn’t agree with you. We’re grateful because it seems like there are a lot of people that agree, and we’ve been lucky enough to find some really good partners to team up with, and get in on some good projects. We’re super excited to work with Kevin Smith. It’s like a dream come true. Like wow!
Linda Marie: That’s amazing! I definitely want to talk to you about that (working with Kevin Smith) but first I’d like to know how Legion M began?
Paul Scanlan: Yeah. Well, Jeff (Annison) and I, we’re the two cofounders of Legion M. We started another company 18 years ago called MobiTV and we had great success with that. We’re entrepreneurs and when we think of ideas, we think about how we can kind of make it happen and make it a reality. One of the things that we felt like … do you want the long story or the short story?
Linda Marie: I’m very interested, so…
Paul Scanlan: I’ll tell you the long one.
When we started the company, we did what any young entrepreneurs would do at the time, we went out and we raised money with our friends and family. They were putting in not huge amounts of money, but enough for us to build a prototype and do what we needed to do. [But then] when we met with the lawyers, we quickly realized that unless our family members were meeting the SEC’s definition of accredited investor, they legally weren’t allowed to invest in our startup company. We thought that was such a weird rule.
We did the right thing [and] we paid them back. We paid them a little bit of interest because we had their money for two or three months. Then we just went to the credited investors and venture capital and angels. We ended up growing a massive company, met a lot of success and grew the company to 100 million in revenue and offices around the world, 400 employees and sky-high valuation.
Linda Marie: That’s amazing!
Paul Scanlan: But the people that believed in us early on (friends and family) weren’t allowed to participate and it just felt like really a strange rule in an economy that’s dominated by startup growth… to know that the average investor hasn’t been allowed to participate.
So, this is the back story. In 2012 an act went before Congress to update these securities laws and to make it fair because you can imagine that would occupy Wall Street and the wealth divide… the fact that wealthy investors can invest in the next Uber and Twitter and Facebook but no one else can. It’s kind of like an unfair advantage. The Jobs Act enabled you to basically take a startup public and go out and raise capital. It’s like crowdfunding with equity. In 2012, the bill passed. [In] 2016, Jeff and I were ready because we believed that a fan owned entertainment company [could work].
We were doing streaming in television and aggregating content. We grew into 20 million paying subscribers. It was an incredible experience. We won an Emmy from the television academy. We had all kinds of success there. So we started thinking, “Wow, with these new securities laws and [the fact that] we love the cross-section of entertainment and technology, how compelling could it be to unite fans together to co-own a company?”
“The way we think of the world, we often look at it as not just sort of how things are but how should they be?”
The reality is that most of our entertainment companies today are owned by Wall Street. That’s not necessarily all bad and it’s not that we are hating on Wall Street, it’s just that Wall Street is purely driven by the bottom line. What that means is they’ll only really make big bets on built-in audiences. So you get a lot of sequels, a lot of reboots, a lot of things. They’re amazing versions of those movies a lot of times, not always, but…
Linda Marie: I know what you mean.
Paul Scanlan: So we wanted to build our audience into our shareholder base. If you look at our logo, [it’s] the Roman numeral for one million. Our long-term goal is to unite one million fans together and literally take over Hollywood.
Linda Marie: Fantastic!
Paul Scanlan: We’re very clear with anyone that chooses to invest. First of all, you can join for free. There’s never any pressure to invest. If you do decide to invest, it’s $100 minimum because anything less than that it’s just hard to manage all the processing and logistics and the cap table and all that. We’d be perfectly happy if everyone invested $100. If you think about it, when we reach our goal of one million, and it’s probably going to take us a few years to get there, but we’ll have raised $500 million to invest in entertainment projects that have one million people emotionally and financially invested.
“We don’t see the fans just purely as a way to raise capital. We literally see them as the source of our super-power.”
For us, having that community of people invested in the project is not only good when we release our films or our TV series, it’s also really helpful in guiding us toward what projects we think are the most relevant and the most compelling. But it’s our super-power, it’s not Jeff or me, everybody is part of this community. We think of it almost as a movement. It’s also like a way of life. We just had this amazing tribute that we put on for Stan Lee.
Linda Marie: Stan Lee! I was jealous, I wanted to be there. (laughs) And the Hero Initiative, I’ve supported them as well.
Paul Scanlan: Oh man, it was awesome. I think probably half the crowd there was Legion M. It was an honor that we were asked to produce it and we were able to bring Kevin Smith in to emcee. It was a night to remember. We ticketed it. It’s a charity, so we’re raising money for the Hero Initiative. But all the costs are netted out so we’re able to put on that event, we’re able to invite our community and the public to come and be there to celebrate Stan but we’re able to do it in a cost-effective way and raise some money for a good cause.
Paul Scanlan: Stan was a big fan of our company. One of our initiatives or objectives with Legion M is that we like to prove what we call ‘the immeasurable power of fans’, that individually we’re all fans so when we come together we have power.
About 18 months ago, we were friendly with and we were talking to the Chinese Theater management and we wondered, “Has no one ever gotten Stan Lee’s imprint?” We asked where his handprints were. And management said he didn’t have them here, no one’s ever done it or taken them. I thought, “That’s incredible!” [They said], “We would love it but a studio would have to pay for it.” We said, “No, screw that. We don’t need a studio to pay for it. We’ll rally the fans and we’ll give it to Stan for his birthday.” We’re going to make it a fan event and we’re going to have all the fans there and we’ll ticket it to help offset the cost and we’ll have a big party that night in a Hollywood mansion. We were able to create this absolutely amazing experience for all of our community or whoever wanted to come. The Chinese Theater said it was the most publicized handprint ceremony and the most attended.
It was just a huge, huge event and, of course, Stan was just as gracious as ever. Came to the party and spoke up on stage and walked around the party and met people. It was just one of these mind-blowing experiences that were also a demonstration of, “Hey, look! We can do these things! We can be as powerful as the studios are but we can have that power for ourselves and to be able to do things that we want to do.”
Linda Marie: I love the idea of fan involvement. How does the process work exactly?
Paul Scanlan: We’re not always raising money. We don’t always have a round open. We allow people to join for free and there’s never any obligation to invest. If people choose to invest, what they’re saying is, I believe that there’s a financial ROI and that’s why they’re investing. If you want to participate or give us your feedback or be a part of the community, that’s totally free. We’ve got over 60,000 people in the community at large and now, probably over 15,000 of them are invested
There are maybe a few isolated cases where we might say, “Okay, now we’ve got an allocation of premiere tickets or something. We want everyone to have access to them.” We’ll do like a lottery. We might do … 70% of these tickets are going to go to investors and the other 30% will go to anyone in the community. Obviously, it’s important that we have some people investing.
Linda Marie: Well yeah.
Paul Scanlan: That’s what we need to do. But it’s been great. I mean honestly, the way we look at it is we never want people to feel pressured to invest. We want them to invest because a) they understand what we’re doing, and b) they believe in it so much that they think that their investment is going to be worth more in the future.
Linda Marie: How do you go about choosing the projects? Could you describe the process and then talk a little bit about getting involved with Kevin Smith and the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot movie?
Paul Scanlan: We have several tools in our arsenal for collecting votes and insight and feedback from the community. In fact, we just rolled out one of them. We had kind of done some trials with it before but at Sundance this year, we rolled out something called ‘Scout’. The Scout platform goes back to that whole notion that we don’t just think of the community as a way to raise capital, we really do want their insight.
When we went to Sundance last year, we had a film there that we had invested in that ended up being the best-reviewed film at Sundance, which we were really excited [about]. This year we went hunting for a new film. Sundance is kind of a film market. A lot of these films are available for acquisition. We have a lot of friendly distributors that really like the idea of a fan-owned entertainment company and teaming up with us. So instead of them funding films and asking us if we want to get involved, we went to Sundance with the distinct objective that collectively, as a community, we were going to find something that we could engage in.
So what we do is we take 117 feature films at Sundance this year and populate our Scout platform. We put that out to everybody in the community. You don’t need to be at Sundance [to participate]. What it does is it allows us to get a read on what films are playing at Sundance this year [and which] sound the most interesting. You’ve got the cast, you’ve got the short description, you’ve got some artwork, sometimes you might have a trailer. The way it works is, it’s all game-ified. So before we get to Sundance, we have an indication of what our legion, what our community is interested in.
Then when we get there [Sundance], we invite our community, not everyone can make it, but everyone’s invited to come out. We have a lounge every year. We take over Red Banjo Pizza and make it the least pretentious place at Sundance. And it’s a total blast! Honestly, everybody that comes through our lounge, including all the talent, they all say that we have, by far, the most fun lounge.
Linda Marie: “We can relax now…” (laughs)
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, we can relax. It’s very chill. Again, we have sponsors that help pay for it. I mean you could be a free member of Legion M, go to Sundance and have [access to] a lounge on Main Street that you get to hang out at… free food and drink, right? Our lounge just keeps getting more popular. This year we had a [huge] line! (laughs)
Linda Marie: I bet! (laughs)
Paul Scanlan: We have an expression at Legion M…
“Having fun can be good business.”
Going to Sundance, having that experience for our community, it’s mind-blowing. Of course, everyone pays their own way to get there. We can’t afford to do that. But once we get there, we give them a Legion M pin, and then they get themselves into movies. We’ll give them daily updates on the Scout reports, saying, “Hey, if anyone here is able to, here are some of the movies that you should try to go to.” Then we go see those movies. So it’s kind of like in the first round, you’re judging a book by its cover, literally. That’s all you have to go on. But then we have people, maybe a few hundred actually in Park City, going to see movies and writing explicit reviews after seeing it.
We like to say, “All these other distributors are there. They’re making million-dollar decisions based on zero data.” It’s just purely their own taste and their own kind of experience and what they think is their ability to guess what the audiences want to see. Jeff and I might have some good insight and we have David (Baxter) and Terry (Lubaroff) on our team and, of course, we all have opinions. But you don’t need to look too far to notice that those decisions aren’t always very good. So, we want to have this really valuable data that can inform us.
“The way we look at it is we’re playing chess at Sundance from a business standpoint while everyone else is playing checkers.”
Linda Marie: Ah, that’s a good way to put it. I like that. It’s smart.
Paul Scanlan: So we rolled it out in its official capacity for Sundance and I’ve got to tell you, every distributor that we work with, that we have a friendly relationship, is dying to know this data.
Linda Marie: Of course they are.
Paul Scanlan: It’s one of these things that it’s now an asset for the company and it’s something that is fun to do but it’s good business, too. And ultimately, when we’re at scale, we might be looking for and buying our own projects.
We also have another version of Scout called ‘M-Pulse’, which is a separate platform because … Scout’s really designed more for finished film and film festivals. M-Pulse is where we’ll put up multiple TV series and movies and things that we’re developing. So, we can get input on loglines and if we’re considering taking on a project, or if we’re actively developing a project, we let our community prioritize it. One of the things that we’re really excited about is that we won’t be limited to one franchise. Instead of creating the next Star Wars movie, we have the opportunity to create the next Star Wars franchise.
We’ve already demonstrated success. We have all this information so we can safely talk to the distributor and say, “Hey, look. Here are the results and we, accounting for X amount of it.” In some cases, it might be … let’s put it this way, without going into the details, our impact on a project is already about a million dollars in box office and it’s growing. We know how many people are in our community. We know how many of them went to see the movie. We know how many of them brought friends. We know how many friends they brought. So we’ve seen what our impact was, on the box office and on the commercial success of our first film Colossal and we saw what it was on Bad Samaritan. We’re able to, for the most part, measure it. Going in, that’s like an insurance plan for a film.
“If we announce that we’re involved in a project… it has to be good.”
And if we grow, [right now] we’re a fraction of the size that we intend to be long-term, so if we’re already at a million, imagine when we’re a hundred times bigger than we are today.
Linda Marie: I’m impressed with what you’re already telling me. The idea of getting that much bigger though, I mean it’s mind-blowing.
Paul Scanlan: I really do believe that Legion M has the potential to be one of the most influential entertainment companies on the planet. Like Disney and Netflix and these companies. But not only that, we will be owned by fans. So all that value isn’t going to Wall Street or these investors, it’s going to fans. It’s our value. We’re the ones that buy the tickets. We’re the ones that determine what is good content. We’re the ones that stream the content. We go to Comic-Con and celebrate the content. It makes sense that we should have our own entertainment company.
Linda Marie: Yeah, I agree. It’s funny too because (before the interview) you talked about researching Fan Fest News. We’re [also] run by fans, you know what I mean?
Paul Scanlan: I know. (laughs)
Linda Marie: It was started by fans. I’m a fan.
Paul Scanlan: For fans, from fans, by the fans.
Linda Marie: Yes.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah. We share that common thread.
Linda Marie: It was inevitable, this interview I feel like.
Paul Scanlan: Exactly. What took us so long? (laughs)
Linda Marie: I don’t even know. (laughs) Let’s talk about the Jay and Silent Bob project.
Paul Scanlan: Well, the whole incarnation of this, it started way back when we did the handprint ceremony for Stan Lee. We know that we have a lot of Kevin Smith fans in the community and then there’s probably a lot of people that have never heard of Kevin Smith. That’s just because we have such a broad base. When we were doing the handprint ceremony for Stan Lee, we had [also] developed an interview series, a virtual reality interview series. We shot the pilot episode and it was … this is how we originally got in touch with Stan Lee. We had had some interaction with him in the past but when we created this new VR series we thought, what better icon of our time than Stan Lee?
This was two years ago. We actually used dual 8K cameras capturing literally twice the resolution of an IMAX screen in a 3D setup [for the interview]. The idea is that for future generations we want to put you in the room with Stan Lee at a resolution that is indiscernible or meets the threshold of what the human eye can perceive so it’d literally look like real life. Now today, it’d be our headset. We don’t have that technology capability, but the cameras do and we can store that data. We chose Stan and we got to know Stan. He’s such a lovely person. We asked him, “Look, we want this to be an intimate interview. It’s not a Comic-Con panel, it’s an interview with a friend. We’re going to do it in your house.” He invited us into his home. We did it in his man-cave.
Linda Marie: Ah, Stan’s man-cave!
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, we haven’t even published it yet. We captured it. We have it and we’re working with his family to figure out what we want to do with it.
Linda Marie: Sure.
Paul Scanlan: But we [had] asked him, “Who do you want to interview?” And he said, “Kevin [Smith].” Without hesitation. He’s like a son to him. They had a very close relationship and you can see it in this interview. We’re like, “Wow, okay. Well, we can call Kevin Smith.” He’s like, “No, I’ll call him.” And, of course, Kevin was flattered to be asked to do this. So now we’ve got Kevin and Stan and that was the beginning of our relationship with Kevin Smith.So, Kevin does the interview. Of course, he does an amazing job. We’re all there.
“I mean literally, people getting choked up on set because they’re talking about such important, profound moments in Stan’s [Lee] life.”
His wife, Joan, was there. They both talked about when they met and fell in love. It’s just a really heartwarming…
Linda Marie: I can’t wait until this comes out!
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, really it’s an amazing interview. So we got to know Kevin and Kevin’s like, “Man, I really like your company. That’s (Legion M) such a good idea. I’d love to stay in touch.” We’ve just been in touch with him ever since and then when he mentioned that he was working on Jay and Silent Bob, he approached us and said, “Hey, I’d love for you guys to get involved.” We were excited to do it. For us, it’s two-fold. We believe that we can really help Kevin and this project and we also believe that working on this project can help us because we have a decent amount of Kevin Smith fans in our community.
There’s an even bigger amount of Kevin Smith fans that have never heard of Legion M and to give them the opportunity to get more. They’re now anticipating this film but if they join Legion M and get involved, they have an opportunity to really engage even further with Kevin and with this film.
Linda Marie: I know fans are going absolutely crazy about this right now.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah. It’s going to be fun. The other element, as I mentioned to you earlier is that Legion M wants to be known for is originality… pulling away from all the sequels and reboots.
Linda Marie: I feel like we’re in a reboot renaissance.
Paul Scanlan: Exactly. So what’s so great about this project is that it is a film making fun about sequels and reboots while being a sequel and a reboot at the same time. It’s like “Inception”.
Linda Marie: I love it. I love it.
“We read the [Jay and Silent Bob Reboot] script and we’re like, Oh my God, this is so perfect!”
Paul Scanlan: I can’t reveal anything but some opportunities…
Linda Marie: Oh come on, it’s just us.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah. (laughs) We’re excited because, of course, Kevin’s welcoming us with open arms and wants to engage the Legion and get them involved. It’s going to be really fun!
Linda Marie: Just by talking to you I get a feeling that you’re a nerd from way back right? I mean, come on.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, well it’s interesting. First of all, when I studied film and when I graduated, there were two really important films. Clerks had just been made and I thought it was just pure genius and really remarkable how he made that film with such a low budget. [There was] another movie called Cronos, from Guillermo Del Toro. It was one of his first, I wouldn’t even call it major releases. It was in Spanish. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie?
Linda Marie: I’ve not, but I know of it.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, it’s the thing that really launched his career. He’s a huge fan of Legion M and he, unbeknownst to us, had his manager contact us and invited us to his house on a Sunday afternoon, to his Bleak House in L.A. We spent two hours with him just talking about the entertainment industry and movies we love and he showed us all around. It’s not a small house, it’s probably a 4,000 square foot house. And it’s filled with movie memorabilia and things that he’s collected through the years. He’s got Hellboy stuff in there and… I mean it’s got everything! The Cronos jewelry, I guess you’d call it. It’s amazing. It’s like a museum.
All this is happening, it’s very early and we had just announced the company… I think we’d done our first round. [Then, while] I was walking my son up to the bus stop one day and I couldn’t stop talking about how I’d met Guillermo Del Toro and what a nice guy he was. At Legion M, we have a very straight, ‘no asshole’ policy. Guillermo’s very well known for being just a pure soul. He’s just all heart. He’s the guy that gives you a big hug and remembers your name. He’s just that kind of guy. Kevin’s the same way.
So anyway, I’m walking my son up to the bus stop and he looked up at me and he’s like, “Dad?” He’s like, “Do people ever start companies just so they can meet their heroes?”I was like, “It’s kind of funny, Grant. I’m not sure. That’s not why I started this company but I am grateful that it led to that.”
Honestly, if you look around through the Legion, so many of our community had met and interacted with Stan Lee and it’s already the same way with Kevin Smith. I mean Kevin’s been to a lot of our events. He did our premiere. He introduced and emceed the premiere of our last film. We call it, “Opening the gates to Hollywood.” It doesn’t need to be this kind of castle with the moat and the gate and everything around it. It should be more kind of inclusive. That’s why when we go to Sundance, it’s all about not being pretentious and just mixing things up and having fun.
Linda Marie: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve met some incredible people just through writing and I enjoy what I’m doing, I enjoy talking to people. I feel when you’re really going after something that is your passion, doors open.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, it’s true. Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s funny because I’m teaching a class on entrepreneurship, just like an evening thing at Kellogg Business School, Northwestern. They have a campus here in California. Just a half-credit course, but I’m teaching basically future entrepreneurs what is it about starting a company that can create the kind of innovation and propels a company forward towards success.
Linda Marie: Yeah.
Paul Scanlan: Honestly, I think of it as a culture, really. It’s one of the things that we really care about with Legion M. We have our whole kind of guiding principles for the community and what we want to be known for. And it starts with Jeff and I and everyone we hire to be a part of the team needs to understand this. That ethos, if it’s genuine and authentic and it’s compelling and other people are attracted to it, it’s how you create success.
Every nine to 12 months we double in size. If we keep doubling at that rate can you imagine when we get to 300,000 investors, right? So it’s a big stretch from where we are today. But we’ll be able to move $18 million in box office per film that we can make our own movies. We’ll have enough money to finance our own movies, we’ll have enough money to distribute them and we’ll have the community to ensure that they’ll be successful. And some movies might do $10 million and other movies might do $100 million. We don’t know. But to know that you’ve got… we have an expression that, “We can’t make a bad movie good. But we can make a good movie a hit.” Even the most confident filmmaker knows that finding an audience, there are a lot of really good movies out there that never find their audience.
Linda Marie: I agree with that 100%. I know a lot of people in the industry who are always struggling, believe me.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, no. It’s hard. It’s hard, especially … really a lot of times the deciding factor, it’s kind of like in music, is if you got picked by the distributor with money, you know?
Linda Marie: That’s the key.
Paul Scanlan: In our case, we want to be that company that if we choose a film, we’re helping a film find an audience. And then that feeds itself. The more we do that, the more films come to us. We’ve had films and projects offer us an equity stake in their project without even investing to incentivize. We usually say, “Look, if we’re going to back it, we’re going to back it. We’re going to put some money in and then we’re going to help it be successful.”
Linda Marie: Makes sense.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah.
Linda Marie: Well, congratulations on everything that you guys have done this far and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Paul Scanlan: Well, thank you. We feel like we’ve literally just scratched the surface. We keep telling our people, “Look, it’s the top of the first inning. We have a long way to go.”
Who’s ready to join the Legion?! Visit legionm.com to learn about all their exciting projects and how you can take part in determining your entertainment destiny. For now, check out this message from our favorite pop culture guru, Mr. Kevin Smith!