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Corona TV co-founder Richard Johns sets up Argo Films to produce ‘filmic TV’

Corona Television co-founder Richard Johns has set up a new indie in the UK focusing on film and TV projects, including a recently wrapped Disney+ short film starring John Travolta.

Richard Johns

Argo Films will now be home to the scripted assets and development projects from Corona Television and Corona Pictures, the businesses Johns established with Rupert Jermyn in 2009.

The film company produced teen horror Truth or Dare and The Liability, while the TV company received investment from Fremantle in 2015. Johns purchased Jermyn’s share of the assets when the latter left the industry.

Argo Films launches with a slate of TV series and feature films already in development, including several international drama coproductions, some paid for by broadcasters.

Scripted TV projects include a soon-to-be-announced limited series about family and identity, based on real events, and an original dramedy series from screenwriter Daniel Hayes (Vs.). Features in the pipeline include a project from film director E Elias Merhige.

Johns has recently completed a short film for Disney+ under the Argo Films banner. The Shepherd, starring John Travolta and Ben Radcliffe (Anatomy of a Scandal), is based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth and tells 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 coproducers.

Most of Argo’s current projects are destined for television, where Johns started his production career and recently returned as line producer for Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani’s Channel 4 dramedy Chivalry.

The producer added that Argo is “creatively driven” and “takes a media-agnostic position for projects at the outset, first working out how best to tell the story and then deciding whether it will most suit film or TV.”

Johns started his career in TV in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, establishing Pilgrim Films. One of the UK’s first indies, it produced commercials and scripted and unscripted programming for the Tyne Tees, Yorkshire TV and Granada franchises.

Johns then teamed up with Bharat Nalluri and Neil Marshall to produce his first feature film, Killing Time, starring Craig Fairbrass. His next film, Downtime, also with Nalluri as director, was made for Channel 4 Films, Scala and Ima Films. Most recently, he was supervising producer for Bill Kenwright’s Off the Rails, starring Dame Judi Dench, Kelly Preston and Ben Miller.

Johns, Argo Films’ founder and CEO, said: “It’s truly exciting to officially announce the launch of Argo Films, especially as the projects already well underway speak volumes about my ambition for the company, and the amazing creative collaborators I am so lucky to work with every day.

“Argo is about taking risks. 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 added: “I’ve worked all over the world on numerous big international projects, but the wealth of talent we have in the UK, especially tucked away in the regions, is incredible. With Argo, I am on a mission to find and nurture new voices who can help create surprising, original content, and I’m diving deep into the regions on my quest. Rural areas, in particular, are always overlooked, and I am excited to have already identified fresh new writers with unique perspectives on my home turf in East Anglia.”

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