Dallas Film: Stodghill Award Goes to … Sonnier

Highland Park native and Cinestate entertainment studio founder Dallas Sonnier received the Stodghill Award from Dallas Film Jan. 22 at the annual Spotlight Luncheon at Four Corners Brewing Company—an event with a juxtaposition of sophistication and casual fitting for Sonnier himself.

The Stodghill Award (named for Anne and Steve Stodghill) recognizes people for long-term philanthropic efforts on behalf of the art of film. Proceeds from the event benefit Dallas Film’s Mercury One High School Film Labs, a series of six workshops meant to spark the interest of student filmmakers and teachers in area high schools.

Dallas Sonnier, Shannon Sonnier, Anne Stodghill, and Steve Stodghill at the Spotlight Luncheon. Photo courtesy of Dallas Film.

“We are thrilled the proceeds from this year’s Spotlight Luncheon will be used to enhance the education of Texas high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in film,” said Johnathan Brownlee, president and CEO of Dallas Film. “Sonnier actually helped establish and became the first student to graduate from a joint venture between film industry and business schools that allowed students to major in the Business of Cinema. Film education is a very relevant issue, and we too recognize the need to create more opportunities for learning if we want to position DFW as an economic hub for film.”

Sonnier started attending film classes at the University of Southern California while still a student at Highland Park High School.

Upon graduating from USC, Dallas started work for United Talent Agency, then moved on to representing actors, writers, and directors at The Schiff Company. He co-founded Caliber Media with Jack Heller before he came back to Dallas in 2015 and created Cinestate. Within three years, the company acquired horror film fan magazine Fangoria and became an entertainment studio with two creative labels, a podcast network, six published novels, the print-only magazine, and more than six features.

“It’s not just a movie studio, it’s personal for me. I realized that I needed to create a system with my own set of movie-making guidelines rather than try to conform Hollywood to my standards,” Sonnier said. “We are making movies without superheroes, or political ideology, or horrible CGI…our business and our artistic community here in Dallas are special in that we understand money…but we also understand how to support creative endeavors.”


Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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