Legion M, the world’s first he world’s first fan owned entertainment company, recently announced a partnership with Alamo Drafthouse to provide another voice on their advisory board and create a distribution channel for their content. And when Bleeding Cool caught up with founders Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison last week, the future of content was certainly on their minds.
With film and television as their focus, Annison said one arena they are making some inquiries in is virtual reality. “I think the technology has come a long way,” he said. “I feel like the equipment has gotten to the point that it is real. You look at all the money being poured in by mainstream companies and when you experience it, it’s a solid experience.” At the moment, VR is still a niche market, but Annison sees a potential there and an opportunity to establish an early foothold in content. “It is a new frontier of entertainment and storytelling,” he continued. “We’ve come across some really cool opportunities with some really cool people.”
“It is also compliments everything else we’re doing,” added Scanlan. “We feel the other avenues and projects will take up the majority of our time and resources, but we have some specific ideas in VR that we think will have a long-term lasting impact.” Scanlan said he hopes Legion M will be able to “establish ourselves with a franchise and do something on a perpetual basis.”
Both have tried a number of VR headsets and experiences. Scanlan mentioned one which made a lasting impression was a VR experience made in support of the last year’s Robert Zemeckis film The Walk. “It’s basically the high wire between the [World Trade Center] towers and you get to walk out on it. They had fans blowing on you and a little weatherstripping on the floor so you get a tactile response with your feet,” he explained. Once inside the headset, the reality of being on top of the World Trade Center was immediate and visceral. “Your heart starts racing and you loose your balance and you feel it. It’s absolutely hilarious.”
“There was a percentage of people who would not step onto the ‘high wire’ even when they knew, logically, that they were still in a movie theater,” Annison added. “The evolutionary alarms sound off.”
That intense reaction makes VR a compelling new platform, but both agreed it may yet be sometime before something like a feature film would make use of it. “They way we look at it, you’re still talking about ten-to-fifteen minute experience at maximum,” Scanlan said. “Being in a virtual world has its limits right now.”
In the more immediate future, Legion M will enter the television arena, either in its streaming or broadcast avenues. “The type of content we’re getting into is less likely to be broadcast because of the material we’re looking at and the boundaries we want to push,” Scanlan said. “But I wouldn’t rule it out.” As monetization and reach are always primary concerns, the opportunity to bring a Legion M show to broadcast would be seriously considered. “Because of our background and understanding of where our demographic is, we slightly favor the streaming area,” Scanlan explained. But he also quipped, “We wouldn’t rule out a fatter check that came with broadcast.”
Annison noted their advisory board includes people from Stoopid Buddies Stoodios, who specialize in material for Adult Swim and Scott Landsman, a Sony Pictures Television veteran with many years of experience in selling television shows to the broadcast networks. “It’s really about finding the properties and figuring out the best way to bring it to people,” he explained.
Eventually, the company hopes to be able to turn around and allow people to bring content to them. “We’ve had a lot of people express interest in sharing their products and having us evaluate their creative ideas,” Scanlan said. Though their primary objective is still getting the initial community and the financing together, they intend to iron out a submission process that may utilize the community itself. “We have a lot of people writing in saying they’d love to show us their scripts, but we also get a lot of people writing in saying they’d love to read scripts,” Scanlan said. “For us, the key is to find a way that everyone in the community contributes and puts their energy into it.”
Of course, submissions are tricky from a legal perspective, as Annison pointed out. But once they iron out the best way for the company and the prospective ideas to be protected, they may introduce a concept competition with a celebrity judges. Scanlan also hopes the submission process also evolves into a way for the Legion fan investors to really have input in finding new talent.
And that interface with the fans is part of the reason the team will be Phoenix Comic-Con over the weekend. “It’s an opportunity to get in front of fans face-to-face,” Scanlan said. “It’s so rewarding to get a chance to talk to people and hear the questions their asking and figuring out what aspects of Legion M people understand.”