Richard Johns’ recently launched Argo Films has linked up with Malaysia-based production firm Double Vision to launch an Asia-focused scripted outfit.
Sympatico will develop and produce film and TV series “that smashes stereotypes and organically integrates East and West for global audiences,” according to the new firm.
Two shows are already in advanced development, including limited series Emergency, which is being produced with Fremantle and follows a controversial British SAS commander and a local undercover agent in a Communist unit as they race against time to stop all-out war in 1951 Malaya.
The Last Kapitan, set in 1920s British colonial Penang, tracks the son of the island’s reigning Kapitan Cina and leader of the island’s Chinese community as he returns from the dead to exact revenge on his father, who wronged him years ago.
Four movies are also in the works, including a remake of Johns’ thriller Killing Time, robbery drama Cabut, modern day Western Tudung Girl and Berjalai, a fact-based drama about a local Iban tracker and a British solider trying to survive in the jungle.
Sympatico said it expects to go into production on at least two projects in 2023, with conversations “well underway” with international broadcasters, streamers and other potential partners on others.
Argo was launched by Johns (The Liability, Shadow Of A Vampire) last year, with the label housing the scripted assets and development projects from Corona Pictures and Corona Television, the businesses he established with Rupert Jermyn in 2009 that were backed by Fremantle.
Double Vision is led by Min Lim and is responsible for Asian versions of scripted formats The Bridge and Liar.
Lim said: “”Too often, Southeast Asia has been portrayed in a mix of styles on screen with, for example, iconic establishing shots of Kuala Lumpur ‘s Twin Towers soon giving way to a location that resembles Vietnam, mixed with Hong Kong by way of Vancouver.
“And stories set here are frequently told from a Western perspective with ‘white saviour’ characters leading the charge, side-lining local voices.
“Richard and I are equally passionate about authenticity: so, if we have a production set in Malaysia it will be filmed here, and the characters will speak proper Malay. And more importantly, we will have Asian characters as true and equal leads in stories that are as much about them and their country as it is about their Western counterparts.”
Johns added: “Not only do territories such as Malaysia have their own unique culture, people and locations but it also has an industrious and skilled production sector and a highly competitive film and TV production incentive.
“After exploring the region’s potential for myself and knowing Min’s vision and determination to work these assets in the international marketplace, Sympatico is on course to deliver some cracking scripted content with the sort of high production values, distinctive stories and universal themes that are essential for broadcasters and streamers looking to offer something different to their audiences.”