Cinestate Releases First 'Audiostate,' With Support From Audiobook Giant Audible

S. Craig Zahler, writer of The Narrow Caves.
S. Craig Zahler, writer of The Narrow Caves.
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Last week, we gave you the rundown on Cinestate, a new, Dallas-based entertainment company that is telling stories across multiple mediums: films, books and audio-narratives.

The latter will include straightforward audiobooks, yes, but primarily a cutting edge new product it's calling an "audiostate." Yesterday, Cinestate released its first such product, a horror story called The Narrow Caves, through Audible.

It's written by S. Craig Zahler, who's best known for the 2015 film Bone Tomahawk. That project starred Kurt Russell, whose son Wyatt reads one of the main parts in this story about two college students who discover a dark entity living in the woods.

What makes an audiostate different from a typical audiobook is that it's produced like a movie, only without the visuals. There are a narrator, actors reading parts, a professional film sound design and an original score.

Cinestate co-founder Dallas Sonnier got the idea for the audiostate concept when he was reflecting on how many great, unproduced scripts there are sitting on servers in Los Angeles.

“In any given year, you sell about a thousand screenplays – I’m talking about the agents and the mangers to the studios, to the producers – and only about 100 of them get made, max,” he says.

Sometimes the reason is that a certain script is risky or would be expensive to make as a movie. Sonnier saw an opening in the market to take those scripts and produce them in a way that would appeal to the huge population of people who listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

"The exciting thing about audio is that it’s a growing market in a crazy way," Cinestate co-founder Will Evans says. "E-book sales have really plateaued, if not going down."

Even with all of the extra moving parts of audiostates, they're still far more economical to make than movies.

“It’s sort of a modern radio play, infused with an audiobook and the most well-produced table read,” Sonnier says.

The use of scripts creates a different listening experience than an audiobook.

“A script is written to sell. It’s written to energize an actor to say yes to a project. It’s written to energize a financier to put money in, and so it’s written in this form that has an amazing pacing. It’s driving the train to finish line,” Sonnier says. “It’s not like a book where you’re bathing in 700 pages. It’s like a shower of 120 pages till the end. That felt a little more in tune with the modern audience.”

Cinestate partnered with an East Dallas audiobook production company, Spoke Media, to produce The Narrow Caves, which also stars Vincent D’Onofri (Full Metal Jacket). Sonnier has a proprietary relationship with the writer, and the script had always been one of his favorites.

“It was so dark and weird and awesome, which doesn’t make that any easier to turn that into a film,” he says.

But he adds that by building a fanbase with an audiostate, the intellectual property of a given script may become valuable enough to justify a full-scale movie production.

Listeners will pay to download audiostates — the bigger budget requires that — in this case, through Audible. Sonnier cold-called Audible to tell it about his invention and set up a meeting, and it's backing Cinestate.

“If not the first, we’re one of the first products that they didn’t create in-house that they are getting behind with a real marketing push, with real dollars spent,” he says. “They kept reminding me of that fact. I was like, ‘Gah, you guys keep bringing this up a lot … I hope that’s a good thing.'”

Sonnier is excited about this unique concept Cinestate has devised, but he's not afraid of a little competition. In fact, he hopes more companies catch on to audiostates and enter the market.

“I want it to be a habit-forming experience,” he says. “To become a habit-forming experience, you have to have more product. And we can only produce as much as we can produce. “

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