On May 14th 2012, a kickstarter was created by Michael Brockhoff to fund a documentary called, “Bronycon: The Documentary.” The initial enthusiasm for a documentary centered around the community was quite high, causing the kickstarter to earn $300,000, well more than its set goal of $60,000 in a short amount of time; the Brony documentary became the 5th largest crowd-sourced documentary on the website. Eventually the film’s scope was expanded and renamed “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult fans of My Little Pony.” For many of the film’s supporters, the documentary represented an opportunity to present to the public an image of the fandom that would hopefully remove the social stigma that has followed them since their inception.
This article is written by an independent source which has been edited and added to by the mods at Brony Drama Recorded.
Before we begin with this article, we should let readers know that this drama is not easily categorized and the main problems that surround the documentary is the issue of piracy, the film’s subjective view of Bronies, and tensions between the staff and the online community. There are other issues as well but these three stand out, without further ado let us begin.
The film was first screened on November 4th 2012 at a theater in Downtown Disney for $100 with the offer of a Blu-ray shipped to customers and a Q&A afterwards with the production staff. People were originally skeptical of the price of the ticket but were overjoyed that the film was coming close to being finished.
However it would be around two months before the team completed post-production. The film first became available to the public on January 20, 2013; instantly available to kickstarter backers, it was also available for digital download at $12.99. To date, about 10,000 units have been downloaded from the site. However, almost immediately the film had been pirated by early viewers and spread onto torrent sites, as the producers had not protected it with DRM. The piracy became rampant enough that the kickstarter page reported that,
"We are shutting down production… this refers to canceling plans to invest more time and money into releasing a disc with additional material and segments that have already been shot but didn’t make it into the film… Because the piracy within the Brony community is rampant and pervasive we’ve come to the conclusion that investing any more time and energy would be not be worthwhile… “
They had said they are not planning on creating any more features with the unused content of the film due to piracy but were still going to release the bonus content, the DVD + Blu-Ray, and try to get the film on sites like Netflix and Itunes.
Needless to say the backlash was still significant.
Warranting another response from the team, clarifying what they are doing with the Blu-Rays + DVDs, stating that the staff involved did not make as much money as most people think they did, and that they still "stand by our opinion that those who feel justified in downloading the film for free because "others already paid on their behalf" are just plain wrong."
One of the recently fired freelance contractors, Nicholas Ha, posted on reddit his experience working on the film, he also explained (in sections) the issues involving the Budger, Piracy, and the Content of the film,
(Keep in mind that he states that, “I am going to be VERY candid, because I do NOT represent the documentary.”)
"…anyone who thinks this entire documentary was an opportunistic money grab scam, frankly, has no idea what they’re talking about… we spent more money than we got from the Kickstarter working on this project…
…The people I REALLY have issue with are the ones who DL’d the film, watched it, and for whatever reason decided they didn’t want to pay the money for it. The people who threw it out onto the internet for all to jump at and see without paying a dime. The people uploading it to YouTube. It doesn’t matter whether you liked it or not. It doesn’t matter whether you felt we deserved to be paid for our work or not. The product you just stole and distributed was NOT a free product… For those who are saying “It was already paid for by the brony community,” NO, IT WASN’T. It was paid for by around 3000 individuals who all got a copy of the film and a ton more. If you are one of those 3000 individuals, you got your copy. If you aren’t, THEY did not pay for YOU, they paid for THEMSELVES. And if you pirated the film, you stole from them too……Why is the film so positive? Because from what I can tell, the producers saw almost nothing but positivity… You guys see us explaining that positivity as a circlejerk. But to us, it was fact. Plain and simple. They truly believed it. You could see it in their eyes, in their devotion to making this film as good as they possibly could…We wanted to cover the essence of bronyism; would you say R34 represents the essence of bronyism? It certainly doesn’t represent me. I may not disagree with it, but I certainly don’t associate myself with it… You don’t NEED to have an intrinsic understanding of a documentary’s subject matter to buy a documentary on it. That’s kind of the POINT.
He also makes another post on the same thread explaining who he is, and his involvement in the entire film.
I was responsible for logging over 250 hours of footage (watching it all the way through and then typing up a description of it); syncing audio and video between the camera and our recording equipment; spot-checking the film to make sure every shot looked nice, and making suggestions to make things look better; putting together major parts of the film from scratch, including Dan’s and LaserPon3’s segments and Tombstone’s concert; looking for music to use as BGM and art to use in the background of our green-screens; designing the DVD cover (which you can see at the end of this blog post; I hope you like it); subtitles for the entire film and all of the bonus segments; designing the website for our screenings and Grayson drives; and creating the trailer (which was heavily modified beyond my control; essentially, the one you see on YouTube has quite a few differences from the one that I made).
For the most part, I did NOT take part in pre-production. I was not present for any of the film shoots (aside from John’s and Tara’s interviews and all of Grayson’s shoots). I did NOT have creative control over the documentary.
Contrary to Ha’s claims and explanations there was still back lash against these explanations. For example people stated that the fandom is based around piracy and that is why it spread so fast over the internet. This is true insofar as in the early days of the show, before it was uploaded to Netflix, had DVDs produced or was sold on iTunes. The best way for people to see the show was on Youtube or PonyArchive. The website had been openly pirating the show before it was shut down by Hasbro. Torrents continue to be popular, especially for international viewers.
But what about the documentary itself? The documentary’s stated goal was to give the general public a chance to see bronies in person, and dispel beliefs that they were friendless nerds or potential pedophiles. While trying to dispel such beliefs is not a bad goal, critics were quick to point out that the documentary’s view was a very narrow one, even going so far as to marginalize the very people it attempted to represent.
Strangely enough, the documentary makes no attempt to cover the history of the bronies. Perhaps this didn’t fit into the producer’s goals, as its well documented that the first bronies came from 4chan, a website infamous for its raucous behavior and frequently exploitive material. They remain a major part of the fandom to this day, completely unchanged, a fact that would work against the film’s portrayal of the brony community as the nicest, kindest people on the planet.
In the opening minutes of the film, the narrator describes the previous generations of the show “My Little Pony.” Almost immediately, the narrator takes a pot shot at the more “girly” incarnations of the show. While this statement may have been made in jest, it certainly struck a nerve for fans of the older generations of MLP. Currently, there’s an ongoing feud between bronies (especially members of the 4chan board /mlp/) and fans of the older shows (primarily based in MLP Arena), with numerous bronies strongly attacking the older shows for not being as “great” as FIM. Even if the producers were honestly ignorant of this fact, it’s fairly hypocritical for them to try and push the idea that the community is inclusive and supportive of all types of people. Furthermore, “girly” is never said to be a bad thing by the show itself; Lauren Faust, the show’s creator, intended to make the show’s central message, “there’s more than one way to be a girl.” By rejecting the “girly” incarnations of the show, bronies reject the core message of the generation 4 show as well.
This was just one example of the documentary’s purported sexism that people take issue with. The Daily Dot covered the documentary and it’s reactions from numerous commentators. Many viewers felt that pegasisters, the female fans of the show, had been marginalized from the documentary by only focusing on the bronies and their alleged struggles to be accepted for liking the show. This is largely a result of the viewpoint the documentary chose to take.
MLP fan Steve Holtz snarkily characterizes the documentary’s attitude:
”’[H]ey we like something we’re NOT supposed to like, we demand an award.’”
Holtz, like many other fans, points out that the martyred perspective can only exist because the documentary emphasizes the fandom’s male participants. “I believe it went as far as it could with covering what it was aiming to cover,” writes Wanderer D on FIMFiction.net, in a post calling for female fans to create their own documentary which garnered over a hundred largely supportive comments. “I really believe that they never had the intention to go any deeper than media perception about the male aspect of our fandom.”
Female fans have limited screentime; the only females with significant presence are Lauren Faust, the couple from Germany, PurpleTinker (founder of Bronycon), and Tara Strong (Voice actress of Twilight Sparkle, and unofficially the “Queen of the Bronies”). Two of them are executive producers, and one of them is the founder of the convention; only one “normal” female fan gets more than a few seconds on camera.
During one of the animated segments, Tara does attempt to address pegasisters and the need for their inclusion, but in reality does very little; Steve Holtz points out,
“Oh, but thankfully Tara showed up to remind us that women do exist. Yes, she shows up as some pony temptress and flashes her pony ass, but she’s also here to remind you that women are only good for one thing.”
Even Faust’s appearance is called into question; the article writes, “The creator of Friendship Is Magic, Lauren Faust, is an executive producer on the documentary, and appears several times in the documentary. But in a lengthy post, lensflarepony on Tumblr points out that even her appearances may be disingenuous:
[T]he clips of [Faust] really show her talking more about what she thinks of male bronies rather than giving a strong description of her philosophy that she wanted to imbue into the show—being that there are many ways to be a girl, and that media made for girls and young women doesn’t have to be bad, and can be just as deep, relatable, and powerful as those targeted at male audiences.”
Many people as well have reported that many of the interviewees have requested to have their likenesses.
Beyond accusations of sexism, critics also complained of the narrow depiction of bronies themselves, claiming that the documentary actually perpetuated negative stereotypes of the community being a bunch of “autistic nerds with bad social skills.”
One of the main figures the documentary follows has asperger’s, another is a boy, Lyle, who claims that he doesn’t have many friends and had lied to his parents to attend Bronycon.
In some parts, the documentary “enhances the truth” on a few points. For example Lyle had been accompanied by his father to the Bronycon convention. Orginally his dad had been skeptical of his son liking ponies; the documentary tries to paint him as suddenly turning around and loving the show when he got to watch an episode. However, Lyle later confirms that his father never liked ponies, and still doesn’t like ponies. In fact, Lyle is being sent to boarding school despite nearing completion of High School.
This same problem also occured to with the couple from Germany as the woman’s father made it pretty clear he thought she was too old for ponies. However she lies to the camera and explains in English that what he really said was that he loves his daughter’s hobby, even though he said that he disapproved of it in German.
At some point in the middle of the documentary, one brony is talking about a story where he is not accepted in his hometown (there is an implication that this city in the American Deep South and full of stereotypical rednecks), and that someone had even fired on his truck because he had MLP decals on the back window. This story comes however out of nowhere and the guy making this claim cannot prove that it took place.
“The documentary doesn’t address things like the harassment of Yamino after the removal of Derpy or the explicit death threats in the lyrics of pony artist Yelling at Cats. Purple Tinker, the creator of the original Bronycon, is shown lauding the fandom, yet recently has spent much of her time across many social networks blasting bronies for transphobic language. Not facing these issues means that bronies cannot learn from these mistakes, or at least begin to discuss them and try to figure out why people think the way they do. It’s also misleading to the general public. It promotes an image of the fanbase that isn’t the entire truth. And if people aren’t getting the whole truth, then why should they believe the good things that are crammed hamfistedly into the doc?”
Without looking at bronydom through a lens of objectivity, the documentary risks doing more harm than good. When the positive side of the fandom appears heavy-handed and disingenuous, it makes the negative side all the more disconcerting when it finally creeps out from the shadows. In the end, the producer’s attempts to fabricate a narrative meant to uplift the community may be their own undoing.
Another problem with the Brony documentary is Michael Brockhoff himself. For a long time there’s been very little information about him outside of official statements. However, images recently came to light of him attempting to file lawsuits against various detractors of the documentary. For example, one detractor happened to be a backer of the documentary, but was upset in the change of direction that the documentary was taking. He posted the trailer on Youtube out of protest, as well as demonstrating how flawed the digital distribution for the documentary was. Brockhoff filed a DMCA claim against the backer. Below is the exchange;
Brockhoff began threatening similar legal actions to people who posted even clips of the documentary on Youtube.
(Its come to our attention that the kid who made the video, Matt Grub, was not making a video criticizing the Documentary but instead was insulting Purple Tinker’s gender. We still are including the links, due to Brockhoff’s abrasive responses).
He even seems to think of piracy as some kind of personal attack;
Even in spite of the piracy, the producer of the brony documentary fully intends to release the film to the general public, including airing it on television and at the film festival Tribeca. In fact, a second kickstarter had been suggested in order to raise the funds necessary to get the remaining bonus content produced. More updates may be forthcoming in the future. It remains to be seen what happens next, and what the public’s reaction to this film will be. Whether or not the film’s critics will also be heard may be an important factor to how the mainstream will receive the documentary intended to represent the entirety of the brony community.
Its come to our attention that Michael Brockhoff has sent DMCA’s against the Tumblr blog fucknobronydoc. As a result the blog has announced their departure however Brockhoff tweeted saying that the blog does not need to go just stop using its copyrighted images.
On March 11, 2013 it was announced that the film is being sent to the Kansas City Film Festival. With this announcement being made.
We are extremely pleased to announce that the Bronies documentary will be featured at the Kansas City FilmFest on April 11 & 13. This is a monumental step forwards towards spreading the word about the film and what the Brony community is about.
In addition to the screenings, there will be Q&A’s with producers John de Lancie, Lauren Faust and Michael Brockhoff as well as VIP events.
More information will be posted at: http://www.meetup.com/Midwest-Bronies/ and tickets will be available soon at http://drafthouse.com/kansas_city/mainstreet
When we started this project, back in May of 2012, we designed the film with a vision in mind. While we could see the joy and love contained within the Brony fandom, some in this world could not. The documentary was a project designed to act as a safe, well meaning introduction to the fandom for those who had not yet heard of it, in order to show the world what this community could do, and give them an inside look at what goes on within. We feel the film accomplished this goal admirably, and our screening at the Kansas City FilmFest only reinforces that, and helps further these goals. We hope for many more opportunities like this in the future, so that we can help the public understand the fandom better.
Bronies are amazing, and the world agrees. We are just helping to show them why. Thank you all for your incredible support. Without you, none of this would be possible.
We look forward to meeting midwest Bronies and screening the film with a mixed Brony and general public crowd.
Mike & the Bronies Team
As of April 19, 2013 the Brony Doc crew decided to open another Crowd Funded Campaign to try to release the unused footage for the original film with a goal of $15,0000 as of this writing it already has reached 1/3 of its goal.
The article will be updated as time progresses. However the drama has simmered down quite recently.