by Jeff Niesel
One night a few years ago, writer-director Brent Hodge was having dinner with his friend, actress Ashleigh Ball. She mentioned in passing that she was getting lots of fan mail from adult males who were avid fans of My Little Pony, a cartoon about a unicorn pony named Twilight Sparkle. Hodge immediately became interested and was shocked to learn that adult males (dubbed “Bronies”) were superfans of the show.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he says via phone. “I remember watching [the show] and I thought it was so crazy that guys would like it. 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.”
One of the biggest communities was in Cleveland. While the resulting documentary, A Brony Tale, doesn’t make it explicit, Hodge shot lots of footage at a Brony convention that took place just outside Cleveland. While the movie isn’t opening here, it is available on Video On Demand. 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.
“I went to a convention in Cleveland,” Hodge says. “It looks like I only went to New York but I filled it in. I went to another convention to fill in the gaps and add b-roll. It was called Canterlot Gardens. It had 2000 people at it. It’s since been cancelled. It was pretty crazy. It was high school bronies. A lot of those interviews I did were in Cleveland. Some guys I met in Cleveland instead of going to their houses. They have Facebook groups and Twitter groups. The Meet Up app is the biggest one.”
In the end, Hodge estimates he had 50 to 60 hours of footage that he trimmed into the 80-minute film that documents a strange fringe group of guys who are in touch with their sensitive sides. While Hodge says he originally set out to find the Brony perverts, he came up short in that department.
“I tried to find the pervs,” he admits. “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 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. 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.”
So what does he hope people get out of his film?
“I meant it to be entertaining and it’s fun and comedic,” he says. “I want people to leave feeling good. Morgan’s team got involved and 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.”