|I first found out about ponyplay through - where else? - the Internet. As a visual artist who had been exhibiting a half-woman / half-pig character called Piglady, I was curious to see other examples of animal-human hybrids, and it didn’t take too much poking around online to come across the ponypeople. I was astonished! A whole subculture whose main hobby was dressing up like and role-playing as horses…even to my fairly well exposed and open mind, this was new. But this curious and often humorous manifestation of an animal-human hybrid piqued my ongoing documentary interest in how and why people find an identity in the pursuit of an unconventional desire. I wondered why do people do this? and decided to look into this unusual fetish.
Historically, counterposing humans and animals has allowed philosophers and artists to explore ideas about nature, sexuality, and socialization. But what does it mean when that self/other paradigm is compressed into a single subject that is both animal and human – when the human becomes the animal? And in a culture where the model for human erotic expression is more akin to a cyborg than to a beast, what benefit might someone find in role-playing as a horse? I was curious to find out how this fetish might allow its enthusiasts to connect with both the opposite of what it is to be human and the quintessence of what it is to be human. I wanted to find out what the feelings and motivations behind the behavior were.
It took some time to find characters who would let me film them. Although erotic – and often even kinky - imagery is everywhere in our culture, the truth is that for most people being candid about a serious fetish can negatively impact their standing in their community or threaten the perception that they are good citizens and/or parents. It was important for me not to fetishize the fetish itself by focusing on the “what” to the exclusion of the “why”. And while no amount of explaining could clarify the state of mind called “ponyspace” without showing what that is like for each character, I felt it was important for the film to move beyond voyeurism to allow the characters to ruminate on their experience. I wanted to humanize a complex subject and make a documentary that would surprise non-pony play people and allow them to connect personally to the characters rather than watching them at a distance as fascinating weirdos.
It was never my intent to make an all-inclusive film about this fetish. Rather, BORN IN A BARN is meant to spark a dialogue about identity, social release and mindstate, the need for affection and structure, and the erotic as a creative impulse. In the end, I see BORN IN A BARN as a movie about the remarkable ability of people to find beauty and acceptance in the most unlikely and intimate of personal expressions.