Dallas Sonnier is an American film producer, publisher, and entrepreneur. He is best known as the founder of Cinestate and, from 2018 to 2020, the publisher of Fangoria magazine. He has producing credits on the films Bone Tomahawk (2015), Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017), The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (2018), and Dragged Across Concrete (2019), among others. In 2018, he purchased the rights to Fangoria and relaunched the defunct magazine as a print-only publication; he additionally expanded the Fangoria brand to encompass a publishing and film production company.
Beginning his career as an agent, Sonnier later gravitated towards production, initially founding the California-based Caliber Media with partner Jack Heller. Wanting to bring major film productions to the state of Texas, he returned there in 2016 to found the Dallas-based production company Cinestate.
Dallas Sonnier was born Joseph Albert Sonnier IV in the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, US. His parents, Becky and Dr. Joseph Sonnier moved from Shreveport, Louisiana to Dallas, Texas, shortly before he was born in 1980. Sonnier’s nickname originated with his parents referring to him as “the Dallas baby” and the moniker stuck with him throughout his life.
Sonnier developed an ambition to begin making movies while still in high school; to this end, he began taking continuing education classes in screenwriting at Southern Methodist University during the Summer before his senior year at Highland Park High School. He attended film classes at the University of Southern California while still in high school, and later as an undergrad, becoming one of five students to inaugurate the school’s joint business-film program, introducing him to studio executives, entertainment attorneys, agents, and talent managers. During this period, he learned about aspects of the film making process beyond writing and directing.
After graduating from USC, Sonnier obtained a job with United Talent Agency, beginning in the mailroom and working his way up to Agent Trainee. After a few years, he left the agency to join a start-up management firm run by David Schiff. In 2008, Sonnier and Jack Heller, a USC classmate, founded Caliber Media. While attending San Diego Comic Con, the pair met former wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, eventually collaborating with him on nine low-budget action movies that were sold to distributors and premiered on DVD and video-on-demand. Caliber segued into other independent projects before raising funds for two years in order to shoot Bone Tomahawk; the script had been written by one of the pair’s clients, S. Craig Zahler, whom they had been managing for two years.
Zahler’s script attracted Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins, but the interested financiers wanted the script shortened. After several years of negotiations, Russell’s agents were ready to move on if the movie was not fully financed in a matter of months. To secure financing for the film, in 2014, Sonnier took a new mortgage on his house. The film failed at the box office, but found success in ancillary markets like DVD sales and VOD rentals.
Following production on Bone Tomahawk, Sonnier departed Caliber to found Cinestate, a production company based in Dallas, with the intention of bringing film production to Texas. Sonnier would go on to collaborate with Zahler for two more films, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete.