Story Time

Dallas entrepreneurs embark on new kind of entertainment venture

Dallas entrepreneurs embark on new kind of entertainment venture

Deep Vellum's Will Evans (left) is partnering with film producer Dallas Sonnier on an entirely new entertainment venture called Cinestate. Photo by Rambo

Few people will be upset to close the book on 2016, but for Deep Vellum founder and local publisher Will Evans, it’s been quite a year. Having made a success of his first independent bookstore and expanded his roster of international authors, Evans could have rested on his literary laurels. But instead, a fortuitous meeting with film producer Dallas Sonnier sparked an entirely new entertainment venture, and the duo are set to make a beautiful match between audio, books, and film with their new company Cinestate.

Recently wrapping up his Los Angeles-based production company Caliber Media, Sonnier decided to return to his hometown to raise his family. A casual meeting with Evans through mutual friends made the pair realize they had in common a love of universally intriguing tales.

“We realized in five minutes we shared a vision of taking awesome stories, books, and movies and getting them in front of as many people as possible,” says Evans. “Dallas asked, ‘What would you do if you have unlimited options?’ and I said I’d find a way to start making audio adaptations and films [of Deep Vellum books].” 

“I don’t know the first thing about book publishing, but I have sold several books of my clients when I was a manager in Los Angeles, and I felt there was a disconnect between the book publishers and movie producers,” adds Sonnier. “There was no reason they shouldn’t be working together to boost the story audience.”

Dallas’ location smack in the middle between the New York-based publishing world and the Hollywood film industry made it the perfect place to explore such an ambitious venture. 

“There’s a reason why these industries have never collaborated — they’re so far away,” says Evans. “The thing about Dallas we both love is how interesting the city is and how connected we are to the world — we’re closer to Mexico City than we are New York, and our audiences are international.” 

For their first project, Cinestate will release what the two call an “Audiostate” of the book The Narrow Caves, to be distributed through and Amazon. A natural evolution from a traditional audio book, it will feature a two-hour running time (rather than a typical nine or 10 hours), with top-notch performances from the likes of narrator Will Patton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Wyatt Russell, plus full sound design and a musical score. 

A fresh way to get never-produced film scripts adapted for the public, each Audiostate is like an “ear movie” that Cinestate founders anticipate will set a new standard in the entertainment industry. All of Cinestate’s three divisions — audio, film, and books — will create a home for authors working in all genres, giving them input on everything from book cover art to screenplay development. Writers who’ve had a taste of the film industry are already responding to the company’s literary-friendly focus.   

Sonnier and Evans anticipate a hit film could have a novel or an audio experience sequel, carrying the story forward into another dimension. The Narrow Caves, penned by author S. Craig Zahler, will eventually hit the silver screen, but Cinestate’s first feature, set for fall 2017, is Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99, starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, and Don Johnson. His novel Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child will come out around the same time from the company’s literary division. 

“The ultimate goal is to create the binge watching/listening/consuming experience for story lines in a story universe across the different platforms,” says Sonnier. 

“We’ve got some big stuff on the horizon, “ adds Evans, who has turned over the day-to-day operations of Deep Vellum to the company’s new executive director Anne Hollander, so that he can focus on Cinestate.

“We’re not in the business of leaking information, but it’s going to be really exciting with some mainstream Hollywood actors, and some cult classics. It’s an honor to work in a whole new medium and build out this new world.”