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Posted July 7, 2014 by Jeff in Flicks
 
 

Q+A with “A Brony Tale” Director Brent Hodge


In A Brony Tale, director Brent Hodge and executive producer Morgan Spurlock explore a unexpected phenomenon, namely that so many men love the cute, cuddly and colorful equine creatures featured in the cartoon series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The film, which comes to theaters on July 8, 2014 and to Video on Demand on July 15, 2014, captures the craze by following Canadian actress Ashleigh Ball, the voice of several of the cartoon’s characters as she deliberates whether to attend the 2012 BronyCon event in New York City. The film is the first title in the new “Morgan Spurlock Presents” line of documentaries to be released by Virgil Films in conjunction with Morgan Spurlock’s Warrior Poets and theatrical distributor Abramorama. Hodge phoned us from his San Francisco home to discuss the movie.

Talk about how you happened upon the subject and came to the decision to make a film about Bronies.
It’s so funny to talk about now because it’s been two years since we started it. It seems so normal now. I remember it being so strange. Ashleigh is a good friend and we had done some work with her band. We were out at dinner one night in Vancouver. I asked about voice acting because I knew she booked Care Bears and some big shows. She told me she booked My Little Pony and she said the crazy thing was that it had gotten really popular and she kept getting emails from guys. I couldn’t believe it. I remember watching it and I thought it was so crazy that guys would like the show. She sent me some emails that guys had sent her. I told her we had to start filming, even if it was just for her journals to show her kids. It was hilarious. I reached out to the Bronies and before I knew it, I was in the community.

Was it difficult to convince Ashleigh Ball to let you follow her around?
She’s been a good friend of mine for years. It just felt like we were jamming out on some stuff and having fun. When she got invited to that BronyCon, I said it was full on and I would be in her face and at her house. For her, it took a little while for her to understand who these guys were. She was totally creeped out at first. I thought it was funny, but I never had to get the backlash like she did. As a fandom, the convention we went to was 800. That was in 2012. In two years, it expanded. The 2014 convention had 10,000. It’s a startup company. Think about that magnitude. We got in early. We were very lucky.

She mentions that she initially thought Bronies would be a bunch of pervs. We don’t see any in the film but was that just because you left them out?
I tried to find the pervs. I wanted it to be a shockumentary. I didn’t find them. I asked and pried. There’s weird stuff you can find online but I never came across it. I self-funded the whole thing and thought I was going to show whatever I came across. Really, they’re in it for the community.

They’re a fandom. They’re the next Trekkies. They’re nerdy — that’s undoubtedly true, but they embrace it. It’s kind of neat.

How much footage did you end up with?
I had a total of 60 or 70 hours. It was a lot. I interviewed 50 Bronies and narrowed it down. I picked and chose. I had one guy who was the second manliest Brony. He wasn’t as manly as this guy with a handlebar mustache. I didn’t want to include both of them. I needed the best of the best. I wanted you to relate to them. So whether you’re in school or you’re a DJ or whatever it is, I wanted you think for a second that you could be that guy. It’s all walks of life basically, which was also shocking. I thought it would be 20-year-old kids only. There are young and old. Family guys, you name it.

How did it all start?
This isn’t in the film but there was a guy called the Brony prophet. He went online and made a comment and claimed that there would be a massive fandom and it would take over. And then he vanished off the face of the Internet. I hear all these stories. There’s so many of those and they’re really an Internet culture. It’s so weird.

Much of the plot revolves around Ashleigh’s invitation to the Brony convention. How apprehensive was she about attending the event?
I think me going was a good comfort zone for her. She might have been more apprehensive if I wasn’t going to go. She wanted it to be filmed and documented. For guys like me and you,  it might be different. She’s never had this attention from this age group. They’re not interested in her; they’re interested in her voice. She’s cautious of the whole thing. At the end of the film, she was quite cautious but in the last two years, it’s really diluted because it’s become quite big.

She’s great.
She’s a filmmaker’s dream. She can put her heart on her sleeves. She is very intimate. She performs as a voice actress and it’s the same in the documentary. She’s very natural.

What do you hope people get out of the movie?
That’s a hard one. I meant it to be entertaining and it’s fun and comedic.  I want people to leave feeling good. Morgan’s team got involved I was so honored. His films take on big social subjects but he doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself. I wanted that. I wanted people to see that there is a fandom and that we should accept it and that people are different and that’s fine. You can feel good about that and celebrate it. We look over friendship. A lot of the guys have had a hard time making friends. They’re always been the odd man out. They’re moving into their late twenties and they’re finally getting accepted. Friendship is magic and that’s a relevant part of the film. We underestimate how much your friends can help you out.


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.