Producer primes Col TriStar TV pact

Johnson seals three-year, seven-figure deal

Film producer Mark Johnson (“What Lies Beneath”) has sealed a three-year deal with Columbia TriStar TV to produce primetime series at the studio.

The seven-figure pact keeps Johnson’s Gran Via production shingle firmly within the Sony TV stables. Columbia TriStar and CBS Prods. are producing Johnson’s latest series “The Guardian,” which airs Tuesdays this fall on the Eye.

Although fairly new to the TV world, Johnson has already managed to land three series on the air, starting with the 1998 Ken Olin vehicle “L.A. Doctors.”

Under a previous deal, Columbia TriStar produced “L.A. Doctors,” as well as Johnson’s short-lived mob skein “Falcone,” both for CBS, where Johnson also has an overall deal. Johnson also produced the pilot “HRT” last spring for CBS.

“Our association with Mark has already yielded a number of projects,” said Tom Mazza, President, Network Television, Columbia TriStar Television. “We’re delighted to continue our relationship with him on ‘The Guardian’ and into the future.”

Johnson said he has “had a really good experience with Columbia TriStar.”

“I like Tom Mazza and his whole crew,” Johnson said. “They are clearly bright, and we seem to share a stylistic and thematic concentration. It made perfect sense for me to stay there.”

Address still CBS

Johnson also continues his relationship with CBS, where Gran Via has a pilot commitment already in place for fall 2002.

“When we did ‘L.A. Doctors,’ I truly was a babe in the woods,” he said. “CBS took me by the hand and showed me how TV worked. I’ve learned so much from (network execs) Leslie Moonves and Nancy Tellem and Nina Tassler.”

Johnson said he and his team — president Tiffany Daniel and TV development director Lindsay Sloane — will continue to focus on creating dramas but may get their feet wet in comedy as well.

“Our goal is to stay in the one-hour form,” he said. “It’s what I know best, it’s (what) the writers whom I talk to (know best). But at the same time I love TV comedy. I’d like to cautiously get involved in that world.”

Busy with bigscreen

Meanwhile, Johnson is also busy on the feature side. Gran Via just wrapped production on the upcoming drama “Dragonfly,” starring Kevin Costner, and is also producing the films “The Banger Sisters,” starring Susan Sarandon and Geoffrey Rush; “The Rookie,” with Dennis Quaid; the Dustin Hoffman/Susan Sarandon comedy “Baby’s in Black”; and “The Notebook.”

Johnson’s credits also include films such as “Diner,” “The Natural,” “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Bugsy” and “Quiz Show.”

Johnson, who’s repped on the TV side by Broder Kurland Webb Uffner, said he now hopes to duplicate his feature film success on the small screen.

“I want very much to be successful in TV,” he said. “The work in TV these days is every (bit) as strong or even better than what’s being done in the feature world.”

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