Culture / Entertainment

Making Movies in Dallas — Production Company Fights to Film Locally

Their Latest is Militiamen Thriller With Plenty of Twists

BY // 01.19.19

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, a new indie film produced by Dallas production company Cinestate, opened at Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff Friday night. The thriller only will be playing at the theatre for a limited time so get your tickets for this weekend (January 19th and 20th) or next Thursday, January 24th.

The movie follows a former cop-turned-militiaman (James Badge Dale) as he investigates a mass shooting at a police funeral. Gannon then finds out that the shooter is a part of the same militia that he joined after quitting the force. Understanding that the shooting could trigger a chain reaction of copycat violence across the country, Gannon quarantines his fellow militiamen in the lumber mill they call their headquarters.

There, he sets about a series of interrogations, intent on finding the killer.

Written by first time feature writer and director Henry Dunham, the film’s script was found by Cinestate on The Black List, a website that hosts screenplays and makes them available for filmmakers to peruse. The production company found it by its original title Militia, and optioned it right away.

PaperCity attended the first screening and Q&A where Cinestate producers Dallas Sonnier and Amanda Presmyk were in attendance. The two Dallas natives talked about how this film could really be set in Anywhere, USA since it primarily takes place in a remote lumber mill.

“It’s so important for us to make films in Dallas because it’s our hometown,” Presmyk tells the audience. “The crew here is so talented and it’s important for us to be here and make films here and fight that good fight.”

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Sonnier mentions the fact that Cinestate, and the newest addition to their repertoire, Fangoria, both give directors final cut on their projects.

“We won’t make the movie if we don’t trust the filmmaker,” Sonnier says. This is a major incentive for directors and writers because at most other places, you’re not going to have that much freedom.

When asked about how Cinestate decides where they’re going to film, Sonnier explains that it all depends on the cost.

“We can make movies at a certain price point here because the community is supportive and because things are a little bit less expensive,” he says. “But eventually if we get up into a certain price point, we have to utilize a level of tax credit that simply isn’t supported in Texas.”

This has been a topic of debate in the film community for years, but Cinestate is still fighting to get it done.

“We’ve shot now three movies and another one starting March 17th or 18th, so it’ll be four movies in less than two years,” says Sonnier about their slate of films. Dragged Across Concrete, starring Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, will be released in late March. Brawl in Cell Block 99 with Vaughn and Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich are also Cinestate films.

The company also has a new film called Satanic Panic in post-production, which was shot in Highland Park.

“It was a real treat to film on Lakeside Drive” Sonnier notes. Another movie called Veterans of Foreign Wars will also begin filming soon.

Standoff on Sparrow Creek

But back to The Standoff on Sparrow Creek. I really enjoy a film filled with suspense and unexpected twists and turns, and The Standoff has that. Actors James Badge Dale (The Departed13 Hours), Chris Mulkey (On the Basis of Sex, Cloverfield), and Brian Geraghty (The Alienist, The Hurt Locker) lead a strong cast. The fact that the entire film was shot over night, in the dark also makes it stand out. There is no soundtrack, which allows the audience to just experience and draw their own conclusions. Diegetic sound, such as noises that come from the lumber building, create the atmosphere.

Another thing to note is the reason for the title change from Militia to The Standoff on Sparrow Creek. Sonnier explains that he “didn’t have an intense reaction to the original title. But the world changed and Henry (writer-director) was more sensitive to the title.” Sonnier says that their support of the creator ranges from the final cut to marketing.

The film has been compared to The Thing, Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects. It premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September and is already receiving pretty good reviews (79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes if you follow that sort of thing).

Don’t miss your chance to see the film on the big screen at Texas Theatre this week. You can also now rent or buy it on iTunes or VOD.

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