Gary Cogill. Photo by Chris Arrant

Gary Cogill. Photo by Chris Arrant

Gary Cogill made a big career change two years ago, from a job he loved to a job he loves even more.

East Dallas neighbor Gary Cogill’s new office Downtown slightly resembles a shrine to the film industry.

“It’s kind of a man cave, basically,” Cogill quips as he shows it off. The walls are decked out with memorabilia — from old movie reels to signed posters to letters and notes from world-famous actors. Each piece has a story, something to reminisce about.

“I found this the other day,” he says, holding up an envelope. “It’s a letter written to me by Wayne Newton. Who gets a letter from Wayne Newton?”

Cogill undoubtedly had a rich and colorful career as a film critic at WFAA-TV for 24 years. The Emmy Award-winning journalist traveled the world, reviewed more than 10,000 films, and chatted it up with about 30,000 actors, writers and directors. Decades ago, landing the job as a film critic with Channel 8 was a dream come true for Cogill.

“It was what I really wanted to do,” he remembers. “I got into reviewing films because I didn’t like film critics. I thought they were really weird, and they served themselves and not the film.”

But as much as he loved his job — and you don’t have to be psychic to recognize he obviously loved his job — Cogill switched gears two years ago from reviewing films to producing them with Lascaux Films. His first film, “Words and Pictures,” is coming out late this fall or early 2014, and it’s been quite a journey for Cogill.

“I’m absolutely fascinated every day,” he says. The dream of becoming a movie producer had been hovering in the corner of his mind for a while, and three years ago, he finally decided he was ready to take the leap of faith.

“It’s empowering for me. Power to me is not power over someone; it’s the power to do what you’re convicted to do,” Cogill says. “If my true conviction is to make movies, I don’t want to go to my grave saying I never even tried to do that. Now I know what it takes to do it. I also know I’m in and out of the fetal position about everything every two or three weeks because that’s what it takes to do it. All I can say is: You got to put your big boy pants on and go.”

So he went. He finished out his contract with WFAA in 2010, and then dove head-first into producing films with Lascaux. He originally thought it would take a while to find a screenplay — and producers shouldn’t even attempt a film without a good screenplay, he says — but it all came together surprisingly quickly with “Words with Pictures,” which is a film about a charismatic English teacher and a stoic art instructor battling a crippling case of arthritis. They rival over which is more important, words or pictures. Both are equally important, and the unlikely pair fall hopelessly in love.

Lascaux snagged international actor Clive Owen for the English teacher and Oscar-winning Juliette Binoche for the artist. Between that and director Fred Schepisi, Cogill figures they’re poised for greatness. “Here’s how this goes: An English actor, a French actress, an Australian director,” he says. “We’re making a film that takes place on the east coast of Maine that we shot on the west coast of Canada, filmed by 19 people from Dallas, Texas. That’s just crazy enough to work.”

Lascaux is also producing a documentary called “The Stark Project,” about the creation, evolution and fall of the Stark Club in Downtown, and they’re working with the young creators of “Beware of Christians,” which has been a Netflix favorite, on their next movie, a Christian comedy called “Believe Me.”

“I was in a wonderful, wonderful career, but what I really wanted to do was test myself and find out if I could do this,” Cogill reflects. “And the answer is yes. It’s magical. When we get to actually see this in the movie theater, it’s empowering.”


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