Johns is best known for the 2000 Academy Award-nominated indie horror flick Shadow of a Vampire and several other films, is debuting with a slate of projects and The Shepherd, a completed short for Disney+.
The Shepherd, starring John Travolta and Ben Radcliffe, is based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth and followed the story of a pilot flying home solo for Christmas in 1957. Iain Softley (Backbeat, Hackers) wrote and directed, and Alfonso Cuarón and Bill Kenwright are co-producers.
Argo will also house scripted assets and development projects from Corona Pictures and Corona Television, the businesses Johns established with Rupert Jermyn in 2009 that produced teen horror Truth or Dare and Tim Roth-starrer The Liability and whose TV arm received investment from Fremantle. Johns purchased Jermyn’s share of the assets when the latter left the industry in 2019.
Projects include several unnamed international drama co-productions, some of which have network backing. TV projects comprise a “landmark drama”; a limited series about family and identity, based on real events; and an original dramedy series from screenwriter Daniel Hayes (Vs.) that follows “a young woman, an outsider, struggling to decide which tribe she most aligns with in life.” Features include a new work from director E. Elias Merhige.
Johns is best known for feature films but recently returned to TV production, where he started his production career, as line producer for Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani Channel 4 comedy-drama Chivalry. Most Argo projects will be geared towards TV but the company sad it take “a media-agnostic position for projects at the outset, first working out how best to tell the story.”
“Argo is about taking risks,” said Johns. “There’s plenty of safe stuff out there already and that’s not me: I am passionate about creating ‘filmic TV’ that breaks new ground. Argo will always be authentic, distinctive, and diverse in every sense of the word – successfully crossing conventional boundaries. I also have a soft spot for finely crafted limited series, so expect to see a number of these in future announcements.”
Johns plans to work with UK talent in regions – the areas of the UK outside London – and said he was “on a mission to find and nurture new voices who can help create surprising, original content.”
His TV career started in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, establishing Pilgrim Films. It was one of the UK’s first indies, it produced commercials and scripted and unscripted programming for the Tyne Tees, Yorkshire TV and Granada franchises. He later teamed Bharat Nalluri and Neil Marshall to produce his first feature film, Killing Time, and was more recently supervising producer for Bill Kenwright’s Off the Rails, starring Dame Judi Dench, Kelly Preston and Ben Miller.