When Dustin Hodge was growing up in Erath County, he had a feeling that he was meant to be a storyteller.
He was right.
Hodge, a Dublin High School graduate who was born in Stephenville, is now 41 and lives in Pueblo, Colorado. He has carved out a career in films as a writer, producer and speaker — telling stories that might not otherwise have even been heard.
Since 2013, Hodge has been the show runner for 182 episodes of the National Little Britches Rodeo series that airs on RFD-TV — a rural lifestyle network available in 52 million homes.
Among his other credits are as a production assistant on the TV series “Prison Break,” and being a camera operator for “Cheaters” and “Eye for an Eye.”
“I’ve gotten to do a lot of neat stuff, and meet a lot of cool people,” Hodge said in a telephone interview with the E-T. “It’s fun. I try to catch everyone’s best, especially for the rodeo.”
Hodge’s career began when he was based in Dallas for about 10 years, working on commercials, music videos and short videos in the marketing world.
Hodge said that the story being told is everything.
“What are they doing that’s interesting? Why does this matter? I thought it was interesting when I was a teenager, but it seemed so weird,” Hodge said.
He first got a taste of his future line of work thanks to one of his teachers, Vicky Stone, who was an English teacher and is now retired. She allowed him to expand his school work to include making local movies and even commercials for his class.
In his early 20s, Hodge was visiting his mother in Arizona when a personal tragedy opened his eyes to the fact that we have no guarantee tomorrow will come.
He was in a vehicle his mother was driving when it was involved in a head-on crash. Hodge survived despite breaking his back in two places, but his mother did not. He was able to fully recover, and embarked on his career.
“That was a real turning point. I said, ‘I want to tell stories.’ I want to do something I care about.’ You could die tomorrow,” said Hodge, who had to spend 45 days in a hospital, then go through about a year of physical rehab after being told by a doctor that he wouldn’t walk again.
He also lost his voice for three months, but it came back.
“So I get the opportunity to tell stories for a living,” Hodge said. “It’s amazing to me, and every day is a new adventure.”
OFF TO COLORADO
When Hodge's wife, Texarkana native Donna Hodge, took a job at a university in Pueblo, they moved there. Hodge went to work as a producer for the local CBS TV station, and eventually got the opportunity to do the Little Britches rodeo series.
“I was able to take on other projects I believe in,” said Hodge, whose media projects have taken him to 30 countries. “I have a lot of flexibility that I don’t think I’d have (in Hollywood).”
He has been a producer on televised sports programs that included “Champs Boxing,” “Wrecking Ball Wrestling,” and mixed martial arts productions such as “The Art of War.”
His credits also include producing a feature documentary, “Da Bridge” — which he describes as “a conversation about hip-hop’s impact on society and its role in culture.”
He assisted in producing several short educational films, and was a consulting producer on a feature documentary, “The Arkansas River: From Leadville to Lamar,” which was on PBS.
ADVENTURE IN VIETNAM
Last year, Hodge decided to travel to a remote area in Vietnam to spend a couple of weeks interacting with people who live there in Pueblo’s sister city, Ba Long. Hodge focused on the library there, which was a sister library of one in Pueblo, and filmed two separate videos about the importance of “community spaces,” he explained.
“It was such a great trip,” said Hodge, who will celebrate 10 years of marriage with Donna in December. “Every once in a while I’ll get it in my head that I want to do this story that matters.”
Hodge said that in March he has a trip to Dallas scheduled and hopes to return to Dublin, where most of his family still resides.
“That’s what shaped me,” Hodge said of his Erath County roots. “That’s where I learned how to work hard, care about people and be a part of the community.”
He reflected back to that time, before he discovered that it was possible to achieve his dreams — envisioning what he calls “the expanse of what’s possible.”
“A lot of times you don’t realize all the opportunities that exist in the world,” Hodge said. “You lock yourself in creatively. You get that sense of community, but you don’t get to see the expanse of possibilities — to see how similar we are … those common human elements that unite us all.”