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Legion M screens crowdfunded debut “Mandy”

Courtesy of Legion M

Courtesy of Legion M

by Stephan Early, Staff Writer

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Changes in crowdfunding laws are expanding the reach of companies looking to take advantage of this innovative way of raising capital funds. Some companies are taking the idea of crowdfunding and building their whole company around it, and Legion M is a new kind of media studio bringing that philosophy to film, television and virtual reality

Legion M’s goal is to make and promote content funded by fans. With the company’s theatrical debut and third overall release, Legion M enlisted director Panos Cosmatos and star Nicolas Cage to helm the dark and disturbing tale of “Mandy.”

“We saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a whole company from the ground up that was designed from day one to be owned by fans,” Legion M co-founder and president Jeff Annison said.

Legion M is relying on their model of a built-in fan base to push their films forward in pre- and post-production phases of making movies.

“I think that they’re taking this thing and instead of making it one for all and turning it into an all for one kind of thing” pre-film major and third year student Brendan Mokler said  “Where all the people are backing this one thing.”

Some might consider this to be a risky business model. Relying on the loyalty of fans to fund an entire company as opposed to a single film is a step some may find hard to take.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if someone crowdfunded a certain director or actor’s style of film,”  advertising sophomore Donald Bloodworth said. “If they are trying to get into different genres of movies it seems less feasible.”  

Others believe only time will tell if this model will be successful.

“It depends on if this company is successful whether another company would be able to make it work,” marketing senior Jasmin Escobar said. “If it fails then people are going to know that it’s not a market to enter.”

As risky as this approach may be, Legion M shows no sign of backing away from what they say is the cornerstone of their vision.

“We’ve got the ability to kind of build in an audience into anything that we do,” Annison said, “That gives us the power to create new franchises and tell new stories that are truly innovative and outside the box.”

While the film is being released to a limited run in theaters, it has also debuted in on-demand platforms for in-home viewing simultaneously. This is part of the disruptive edict Legion M is attempting by letting fans choose their film watching experience.

When the film was shown at Cannes Film Festival in May, it received a four-minute standing ovation and garnered high praise for its cast and director. But during a showing at a fan release event at San Diego’s Mira Mesa Stadium 18 theater on Sept. 13, it received mixed audience reviews.

This was an expected response. According to Annison, they anticipated a divisive reception to the bold film due to art’s subjective nature.

“You don’t make great art by committee,”  Annison said “You make great art by finding and investing in great artists and getting out of their way.”

The polarizing effect “Mandy” seemed to have on the event’s audience seemed to prove that the Legion M is holding tight to their style of filmmaking The film is ripe with visually provoking and possibly overwhelming violent scenes. It’s a dark and twisted ride that often-pulled audible cheers and gasps from the audience.

Kenny Mitchell, an attendee of “Mandy’s” San Diego screening with a familial connection to Legion M, used an expletive to describe the way the movie messed with his mind.

“I can also understand, if you’re not reading between the lines or you’re not looking deeper how this movie is just not for you,” Mitchell said.

Much like many movies on Cage’s resume, the role of Red Miller lends plenty of space for his over the top style that moviegoers have come to expect from the film icon.

“I mean, people just want to see Nicolas Cage just do Nicolas Cage things.” Mokler said “However, if you want to make the next Godfather, Moonlight, or Lady Bird I don’t think that crowdfunding is the best way to go about that.”  

Supporting cast members like Linus Roache, Olwen Fouéré and Bill Duke also bring equally shocking performances to add to the film’s overall unsettling aesthetic. Panos Cosmatos marries these performances and utilizes a gritty style of filmmaking to bring “Mandy” to life.

“Mandy” is playing in select theaters and is available on-demand for in-home rental. Other Legion M titles, such as “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis and “Bad Samaritan” starring David Tennant, are also available on-demand and via select streaming services.  

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