Dallas Sonnier has fond childhood memories of his father, who was a cinephile and doctor, taking him to see such movies as Predator 2 and Pulp Fiction.
“I was a movie fan from day one,” he said. “I (soon) started to try to figure out (the business side of cinema).”
The Highland Park native’s lifelong love of movies led him to found Cinestate entertainment studio. He recently received the Stodghill Award from Dallas Film for long-term philanthropic efforts on behalf of the craft.
Sonnier also recalled students in his high school class pinning the locations of where they were going to college on a map and his being the only one on the West Coast.
“I was a movie fan from day one.” -Dallas Sonnier
He started classes at the University of Southern California while still a student at Highland Park High School. He was the first student to graduate with a major in the business of cinema through a joint venture between USC’s film and business schools. The program focuses on the production and representation areas of the entertainment industry and continues today as the Business Of Cinematic Arts program.
Upon graduating from USC, Dallas started work with United Talent Agency.
“I would read all the scripts that came in,” he said. “I met a lot of agents.”
He moved on to represent actors, writers, and directors at The Schiff Company before co-founding Caliber Media with longtime friend Jack Heller. They produced movies including the western Bone Tomahawk, which premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, as well as a series of action movies.
Dallas returned to his home state in 2015 after more than a decade in Hollywood and founded Cinestate in 2016. Since then, the entertainment company acquired horror film fan publication Fangoria, produced four movies under the Cinestate label, and four under the Fangoria Presents label. Cinestate also has a podcast network and six published novels.
“I built a company here in Dallas to give credit where credit is due,” Sonnier said. Cinestate produces “creatively unfiltered genre movies that don’t pander (or) apologize and don’t create a disingenuous safe space for the audience.”
He said he hopes to grow Cinestate into a full-fledged movie studio that finances, markets, and distributes movies.