Interview with Legion M President Jeff Annison at San Diego Comic Con

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Legion M had a huge presence at San Diego Comic Con. From panels, events, screenings and even having their own amazing Legion M lounge in the heart of the Gaslamp district of San Diego Legion M was definitely a big part of Comic Con.

 

I started actively following Legion M a while ago. Their ability to leverage crowd sourcing for funding to data collection and analysis (AKA member feedback and input) positions Legion M in a very strong and somewhat unique position within the entertainment industry.

 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Annison, President and Co-Founder of Legion M, at the Legion M lounge where we discussed the goals of Legion M, the importance and emphasis of the Legion, and what three things Legion M looks for in a potential project.

 

JG (James Gavsie): I have to tell you, there’s a lot of people at Comic Con talking very passionately about Legion M. They’re passionate about the business possibilities and how they can become involved.

JA: That’s good to hear.

 

JG: So my first question is what had to happen with Legion M in order for you to have such a big presence at Comic Con? What metrics and/or numbers did you have to hit in order for you to come to Comic Con in such a significant way?

JA: That’s a really great question. It’s interesting because this is our third Comic Con. The company’s been around for just over three years and we’ve come such a long way. The best answer is that the people of Legion M, the Legion itself, is why and how we’re here.

What’s allowed us to get to where we are today is this total virtual cycle. Because what happens is that people get excited about one of our ideas and then they get enthusiastic about, you especially online, and they support it. And that ends up opening doors to creators. 

 

JG: Sounds like the power of Legion M again comes down to the legion of fans who are part of all of this.

JA: Absolutely. Having a legion behind the company opens up a lot of  doors and that allows us to get involved with projects the fans like and can dig their teeth into. We feel like it’s a snowball only type of thing. We are as bullish as ever. If we can continue doing what we’re doing, we think it’s only a matter of time before Legion M can be one of the most influential entertainment companies. Can you imagine if we can get to one million fans as shareholders?

 

JG: Actually, I can easily see a time where Legion M has a million fans who are also shareholders.

JA: Well, we wouldn’t have put that number as a target if we didn’t think it was achievable, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk at all. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s kind of like a video game, you know, you pass level one and you got to level two and there’s a bigger box and then you go to level three. And the bigger you get the more different the challenges become. We’re in new territory as I think nobody’s ever done this before. So many people told us at the beginning that this is impossible, you know, for so many different reasons. Startups are funny in that they’re really humbling and you realize you’re fighting day in and day out, like 24 seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

 

JG: For some reason I get the feeling that you’re up for this fight.

JA: You better believe I am! Look, there are so many reasons that a startup fails. It’s only when you get the right combination of ideas, talent, and execution. The macro vision for Legion M was once considered a swing for the fence. We took a swing and hit the ball.

 

JG: Ok, that’s the macro, Give me the micro. What’s the one year vision?

JA: So one of the biggest things that we look at is the size of the legion and the analytics. And so far each year we’ve been about doubling. So it’s exponential growth. So I would hope that a year from now we would be at least double the sun. Our community right now is probably about 100,000. So it’d be looking at here probably about 200,000 or more. The bigger the base the bigger and better projects we can pursue. 

 

JG: Let’s take a little sidestep here. You just spoke to a gentleman from Ohio before I walked into the Legion M lounge.

JA: Yes. That was really cool to hear someone came from Ohio to Comic Con to support Legion M!

 

JG: What was also really cool was how you took a lot of time to talk to him and made him feel great about coming out to be part of al of this. Well done

JA: Thanks. He’s a great guy and I was super happy to meet him!

 

JG: Tell me about Comic Con. What are some of the highlights?

JA: Honestly for me personally, it’s just the community. It’s talking with a guy who flew in from Ohio talking with this woman who is here 20 minutes ago that was crashing on the couch of someone that she met through the Legion M Facebook group. Talking with these people that are here for the third year in a row who are staying at the same Air BnB in oder to support Legion M. It’s so great when you see these connections happening with people and understanding that it truly is a community more than a corporation. Personally, I think that that’s for me the most rewarding part.

 

JG: So what are some of the things know you guys, I know we can do a wonderful job of saying, what is your audience asking for on top of, Hey, here’s what we’re doing. Please back us. Give me the question. What is your audience ask for?

 

JA: They want creativity and originality. The common thread is just the passion for creativity and for storytelling and for entertainment.

 

JG: How many projects are currently in the works for Legion M?

JA: As in right now?

 

JG: Right, right now.

JA:  Maybe 50 projects in there, seven or eight of them or ones this year. We’re literally making decisions on some of them today. 

 

JG: In the spirit of Comic Con I’d love to discuss your first entry into the comic book world, The Girl With No Name. You had a very successful crowdfunding initiative with it and have gotten a lot of traction with that title. When a lot of independent publishers are having challenges with their titles Legion M walks in and nails it on their first try. What’s Legion M’s secret formula for comic books?

JA: We had a great experience with Kickstarter. We set our target at six thousand dollars because that’s about the average cost for a comic book project. And this was not an established IP (intellectual property). It wasn’t like we had a huge comic book writer or anything like that attached to it.  And we just had no idea what to expect and somehow we did $135,000 worth of presales. 

 

JG: You set a target for $6000 and somehow…SOMEHOW get a $135000 worth of orders? How did that happen?

JA: There’s a couple of answers to that question. So I’ll say first that we look at comics probably a little bit different in that right now at least the comics have been a step in the process. So Girl With No Name is not a comic book franchise. It is intended to be a film. And I think that you recognize that like wow, you know, a comic book is a lot like storyboards and the ability to get storyboards out to the public and to allow them into the process where they can give you feedback is huge. And now we’ve got feedback with data. We see it as a great way to bring the audience into the process so that we can make a better movie. Part of the reason why comic books make such great television shows is because it allows you to see what’s successful, right? If you’ve got an original story and you go straight to screen with it you’ve got a one in whatever shot for it to be successful. With comic books, however, the whole world has already voted through sales. 

 

JG: And just to be clear it’s not like every member of Legion M pre-ordered a Girl With No Name.

JA: Right. We knew that a percentage of people within Legion M would purchase it but that we would still need a focused marketing effort to go with our Kickstarter campaign. 

 

JG: Okay. So here’s a big question. All of a sudden Marvel and Disney comes to Legion M and says, we need you to handle our next big superhero film.

JA: (laughing) Okay…

 

JG: What film would you want that to be and how would you do it?

JA: Okay. So this is like pure fantasy here but pretty much any marvel project I think we could get behind. As far as how we can, we would do it. It’s, it’s good. It’s the same way that we attack everything. 

 

JG: Great answer. What are the ideas that resonate with Legion M executives right now? Let’s say someone wants to bring you a concept. What are you looking for?

JA: That’s a good question. Our needs are constantly evolving. We look at opportunities where we can bring our edge to bear if there’s a project that involves the community. So, we’re way more interested in, for example, a project that is going to create opportunities for our community to get involved. You know, one of the projects on their slate right now is Positive TV, which is a project we talked about with the people behind the  ‘Chicken Soup for the Souls’ books. 

We tend to be more interested where it’s working 50 / 50 between projects.

 

JG: What doe 50/50 mean?

JA: It’s defined as somebody else’s project that we can jump in on to add value to it, like the Jay and Silent Bob movie. That film was going to happen with or without us. But we felt like we love Kevin Smith and tt was an amazing opportunity to get involved with him. We want to do more with them. That one was a no brainer, right? There are a billion ideas in Hollywood right now. The reality is that the idea is not where the value is.

 

JG: That’s so true!

JA: Anybody can tell you an idea and that idea could be wonderful or it could be disastrous. And it all just depends on the execution. So what creates value? What creates value is not having an idea, but it’s executing on that idea. And that starts with maybe a treatment or a script or getting somebody attached to it or getting financing. And so, you know, for us, like the ideas are great when you’ve got a ton of those. But if he, you know, frankly no studio wants to hear our ideas because they’ve all got their own ideas. So it’s really about kind of adding that value to it.

 

JG: So it’s got to be much more than just the idea.

JA: Right. 

 

JG: But it sounds like if they have the financing, the attachments or the following you would be open, right?

JA: Yes. Anything that will add to the equity and success of the project, we would be open to possibly taking a look at it. Yeah. I think there’s a section in our SEC filing that actually talks about how we rate and evaluate projects. 

 

JG: Is there an internal system Legion M has of deciding on projects?

JA: Absolutely! In fact, here’s really three metrics that we look at. The first is can this help us grow? Because our number one point is getting to that 1 million investor fan base. The second will this make money?

 

JG:  Right. That makes sense.

JA: I mean at the end of the day we’re a business. We’re in this to make money. We’re looking for ways that we can kind of push the ball forward and make money on projects that give us the best and kind of quickest path to that. Then the third one is, frankly, does the project position us strategically to take advantage of current opportunities or does it open doors to better ones.

 

Written by James Gavsie

Producer and Host of the Who Would Win Show

Twitter and Instagram – @jamesgavsie