At New York Comic Con last year, Legion M, the world’s first fan-owned entertainment company, announced plans for Girl With No Name, a female-led western action-adventure movie produced by Co-Op Entertainment's Laura Ivey (Walking Out, Ithaca) and directed by Co-Op cofounder Tanya Wexler (Hysteria). Legion M is the project's executive producer.
Girl With No Name will have an interesting road from concept to film. In late February or early March, we’ll see the property as a special 40-page comic book published by Legion M called A1Shot, developed by Dave Elliott at AtomekART. In addition, Girl With No Name has a mostly female-led creative team which extends to the comic, headed by world-renowned comic artist Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose) doing the Girl With No Name promotional poster and cover art, and comic artist Dani Strips (2000 AD) creating the book's interiors. We got a chance to chat with Legion M COO Terri Lubaroff about the project, the team, and going from comic book to film.
Can you tell us all about Girl With No Name?
Sure! It’s based on a screenplay that was written by a man called Alex Ranarivelo. It’s an excellent screenplay. It’s a western and it’s so badass and just happens to have a female protagonist. And there’s no apology for being female, which is kind of unusual because when you’re in the western genre, women are either [sex workers] or schoolmarms or waitresses. In this screenplay, the way he wrote it, this young girl is raised by her uncle after she’s been orphaned, and he doesn’t put any of those societal constraints on her. So she really, as she becomes a young adult, she gets to explore what it means to be a human in the late 1860s, rather than what it means to be a woman in the late 1860s. With that comes this level of confidence that you don’t normally see in female characters where she has a path, and she is singularly-minded, and she’s going to accomplish it at all costs. It’s one of those screenplays that you read where you’re like, why hasn’t anyone made this yet? Because it’s so awesome. There’s a great director attached to it by the name of Tanya Wexler, who did Hysteria and just finished Buffalo. When we had the opportunity to read the screenplay, we were like, what can we do for this story to kind of bring it from the 1860s to 2018? And we thought, oh wouldn’t it be great to do a comic book, and take a snippet of the screenplay and explore that world. We put an editor on the comic book and put together an all-female artist team. The format of the comic book is unique. It’s called a one-shot, which means it’s fully self-contained story in one book, which is unusual for comics. We’re super excited to get this done and out!
How did you go about finding everyone to sign on?
On the comic book side, having come from the comic book industry, the big question that we asked was, are there women out there that have always wanted to draw a Western and have just never been asked? Because not a lot of people think, well, I have this very masculine story. I should hire a woman for this. That’s not where their minds go. Our editor who is a very well-renowned comic book publisher and editor by the name of Dave Elliot out of the UK said, “I might have the right two people for the cover and the interior art.” He called them and said, “I kind of recall you being interested in this genre. What do you think?” They couldn’t believe they were being asked. They grew up on Westerns. Their dads had introduced them to the genre and they always loved it, and to be asked to draw one, it was just an immediate yes. And from there we just put together the rest of the female team. It is pretty extraordinary to have that on a book.
Would you say there are any Westerns in terms of comics or film or TV that sort of give us a hint about the tone of Girl With No Name?
You know what? Actually, I can probably name a movie, but it’s not a Western. The way Tanya wants to direct the film is more like directing 300. So it’s very visually striking. It’s graphic in its nature. It’s a lot of black and whites and something that you’ve never seen before. That’s the goal of this project.
Do you have sort of an idea of a rating? It’s early, of course, but is there sort of a level here yet?
Yeah, I don’t know. I mean there is definitely a level of violence and it depends how we shoot it. It’s probably too early to say right now. The book does have some violence in it, but I have a 12-year-old daughter and she’ll probably be the first person I show it to. Inappropriate or not, she’ll probably be the first person I show it to! [laughs]
Are there any other characters you can give us a little info on?
Yeah! The background of the book is the girl with no name — and you never learn her name in this project — is orphaned at a young age when two outlaws kill her parents. Her uncle very reluctantly brings her in and raises her, but it’s very much a hate/hate relationship between them. And over a period of time, he starts to appreciate who she is. He learns that she’s a crack shot and that kind of brings them together. They develop this sort of father-daughter relationship. Right when he, who is a bounty hunter, is about to hang up his guns for good, the same bounty hunters that killed her parents kill him. So the uncle is a very prominent character in the story. Very influential on who she is and how she lives and how she views life and how she views death. I think what we do with that character, we’re just starting to discover him through the development of the comic book. What we do with that characters is going to be something special. Then there is a sidekick. This is the part of the script that I love the most. There is a sidekick named Bonaparte who could not be more awkward. He can’t shoot a gun to save his life. He’s really good-looking and really funny, but he’s kind of eye candy...And it’s not meant to be funny. It’s still a serious part, but he plays that typical role that women usually get in Westerns, and I love that. We’re turning it on its head.
It’s probably way too early to think of casting, but do you have anyone in mind?
That’s such a good question. We actually do have some casting attachments which I can’t talk about because the casting attachments have been there for a little bit, and I don’t know moving forward if they’re going to stick. We’re looking at the characters now and figuring out what we’re going to do. I can tell you that the character of Bonaparte is going to be a really good-looking, handsome actor. [laughs] The character of the uncle is going to be someone who we would all want to be our curmudgeonly awesome uncle. And the character of the girl with no name, she could be in her late teens. She could be in her early teens and we’re figuring that out as we develop the book. I don’t even think I could put something out there right now because in six months, it might not be correct.
Can you tell us about Legion M and how it’s different from other production companies?
Oh, sure! Legion M is the world’s first fan-owned entertainment company. What that means is that we’re building the company from the ground up to be owned by fans. We’re doing that by offering early-stage equity in the company. So, for the first time since the Great Depression, people who are unaccredited investors can actually invest in startups. And that’s where most of the growth in our economy comes from, is that startup funding and that startup growth. But everyday, average mom and pop people were excluded from participating. So when the law changed in 2016, we were the first company to launch using these new laws. We’re building a community of people that have one thing in common, and that’s that they love entertainment and that they want to change the way things are done in Hollywood. So the ability to do new and different things from different points of view like Girl With No Name is purely because we have a fan base that is supportive of it an asked for it and is talking about it. We’re super pleased to be involved with it. I think because we’re part of the fanbase, we were able to bring something new to the table and that’s what we try to do with all of our projects.