TIFF 2017 Recap
Legion M’s quest to find our next Colossal started with one of the year’s major film festivals -- the Toronto International Film Festival. Legion M already has some history with TIFF since Colossal screened and was bought by the film distributor NEON last year and we teamed with them and made history, moving the needle with over 40 meetups around the country.
Paul, our fearless CEO, and David our skyscraper sized development executive flew to Toronto with a long list of films to see and dozens of meetings set up over 5 days. Arriving late the night before the festival began we quickly got settled in to our shared hotel room, which didn’t have 2 separate beds! Rather than repeat the events of Trains, Planes, and Automobiles Paul gallantly agreed to sleep on the fold-out couch since at 6’8” David’s legs would have been hanging in the air.
The first day of the festival we met up with Rao, one of Legion M’s actively engaged investors and went to get our festival passes and tickets at the main festival headquarters at the Hyatt. The streets were packed with film fans, eating, hanging out and most of all hurrying from film to film. The excitement was palpable. Our first film was the atmospheric Killing of a Sacred Deer (Paul wrote Sacrificial Beer on our calendar to lighten the mood!) by Yorgos Lanthimos which stars Collin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. Paul and David each reacted differently to the film but both agreed it was absolutely absorbing and incited a lot of discussion. The film is being distributed by A24 the folks who brought us Moonlight and we had a meeting set with them.
We also checked out Mary Goes Around, a Canadian film about a substance abuse counselor who happens to be an alcoholic. Not a good fit for the Legion but enjoyable. The end of our day was perhaps the most exciting as David and Paul went to the Midnight Madness screening of Bodied, the epic battle rap film directed by Joseph Kahn and produced by Eminem. Paul and David both laughed out loud along with a super psyched audience which applauded at the film’s end. The best way to describe it would probably be Scott Pilgrim meets 8 Mile. Definitely a contender to be a Legion M supported film from their perspective.
Our second day was filled with films and meetings. First up I Kill Giants, a fantasy about a young girl forced to confront the loss of a loved one. Paul and David both felt it didn’t quite come together for them. We met with Marada Pictures that has a super cool TV series that’s going to be on Netflix. We talked about getting involved with either the series or some other comic book properties where they controlled the rights. Afterwards we saw Three Peaks which is a slow burn psychological thriller which was very well made, but maybe too slow a burn for our tastes. That evening we met with an executive from Landmark films to talk about Legion M co-hosting a series of screenings of some classic cult films like Clockwork Orange, Monster Squad, Harold and Maude, and Strange Brew.
That night we hosted our Legion M Meetup at a local pool hall and got to meet some new investors and folks who were interested in learning more. The night ended with Paul and Rao going to a Bodied party while David went back to the hotel get some much-needed sleep.
Saturday was our busiest day of the festival starting early with a screening of one of the most anticipated films of the festival Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age story starring Saoirse Ronan. This is a charming film that’s going to be a serious Oscar contender but probably not right for Legion M. Next came our meeting with A24 to discuss Death of a Sacred Deer and The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s very well received ode to earnest but really bad film-making. We hadn’t seen the film but we knew from the festival buzz that this could be a perfect film for Legion M. The premiere got a standing ovation! We then met with an executive from Fox Searchlight to talk about Guillermo Del Toro’s very unconventional love story Shape of Water, one of the most talked about films of the festival. We were told there was a chance to get into the Fox party on Sunday night and an opportunity to connect with Guillermo who we had just learned had won the top prize for Shape of Water at Venice Film Festival!
Later that afternoon Paul squeezed in a screening of The Ritual which was scary and really well done, though the last act seemed to go pretty over the top with the film’s monster being revealed and taking away some of the mystery/suspense.
That night we had a funny star sighting as Nic Cage walked out of a restaurant and into a waiting limousine right in front of us.
Sunday was our last full day at the festival and in some ways, it was the most productive. We started with a meeting with Bleeker Street who had made Logan Lucky and talked about some really cool upcoming films that might make a good fit for Legion M. Then David had a separate meeting with Sunshine producer Julia Rosenberg. They all met up for The Cured starring Ellen Page about a family dealing with the aftermath of a zombie outbreak. Definitely had some potential as a Legion M film.
Paul and David then met up with an executive from Mar Vista, the folks behind Bitch and talked about some projects for Legion M. That lead straight into a meeting with Hindsight (formerly known as Prescience), the company behind King’s Speech where we had a good discussion about ICONS.
Then we heard the news, we got invites to the party!
That night we got to do some major networking with the Fox executives and met up with Guillermo plus one of our actor investors, the amazing Doug Jones who stars in The Shape of Water as the creature! It was a joyous reunion and lead directly to a warm hug between Paul and Guillermo who remembered us from our visit to his bleak house at the very start of Legion M! David reconnected with a number of actors he knew including Zachary Quinto, Michael Shannon, Nic Hoult, Andy Serkis and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz! Paul spent quality time with Guillermo’s manager and various Fox Searchlight executives to start navigating the waters (pun intended). It was an amazing evening for Legion M and rekindled connections that may well lead to some future films for the company.
The final day went by fast. David had to leave for the airport in the am while Paul went to the first screening of Shape of Water to confirm what we both believed, that this would be a great film for Legion M. He wasn’t disappointed and left directly from the film to the airport to get back home. Throughout the weekend, we had heavy dialogue and back and forth with our partner Neon about films we liked and what they liked and opportunities to lock arms once again.
In summary one of the key take-aways from the entire weekend was that A LOT of our time was spent meeting with important potential partners that we have hand-selected as companies we’d like to team up with. Not only were we able to get meetings with all of them, every meeting was immensely positive. Back in our early months of introducing Legion M (a year ago), a disproportionate amount of time in meetings was spent explaining what we were doing and why it mattered. Fast forward to now and that is no longer the case. Literally 100% of the meetings were emphatically positive with lots of words of encouragement and validation of our plans enabling the discussions to lead directly toward how we can work together – and these are some of the industry’s top players. We felt extremely validated and left Toronto feeling super productive and more encouraged than ever.
Onward and upward!