Enter the Faun is the culmination of an intensive two-year collaboration between Tamar Rogoff and Gregg Mozgala, a young actor with cerebral palsy. As a choreographer, Tamar had always been interested in exploring the body, with non-dancers as well as dancers. Fascinated by Gregg’s unique physicality, she was inspired to choreograph “Diagnosis of a Faun.” Their creative exploration, at the intersection of science and art, led them to discover that his diagnosis and physical limitations were not necessarily fixed and immutable.
Many documentaries begin with a mission or a vision, and a story that absolutely must be told and shared with the world. Tamar and Daisy had that story, but somehow, as Daisy explains in her UNFILTERED blog below, she feels like it happened a bit backwards, almost like an accident – a case of art imitating life, imitating art.
Friends for over 20 years, Tamar and I have collaborated on many projects, including a documentary in 2001, also based on her choreographic work. We first met to discuss making this film in the summer of 2009, when rehearsals for her performance “Diagnosis of a Faun” were well underway. She had been working with Gregg for almost 2 years; one year spent focused on doing bodywork while training him to dance, and many more months of rehearsals. During that time, Tamar was recording parts of her sessions with Gregg with her small camcorder, as well as many of the conversations between them about both the physical and the emotional experiences of the work.
So, when we met to discuss the possibility of making a film, so much had already happened! His transformation had already begun to happen. For example, his heels had already touched the ground for the first time; and, he had confronted his fears of not being a “professionally trained dancer” partnering with “real” dancers. Soon, Gregg would be on stage in front of an audience, dancing the lead role of the Faun. As an actor with cerebral palsy, this “reality” was just about the last thing he could ever have imagined for himself.
Gregg and Tamar working on his alignment. Photo Credit: Andrew Baker.
We knew that we could hire a professional cinematographer (or in the end, multiple cinematographers) to record the remaining rehearsals and the performance itself, but how would we be able to tell the story of Gregg’s physical and emotional transformation when it had already happened? And how could we flesh out the story with new material that we would shoot and what would those scenes be? And who would we interview, and why? This couldn’t all be about past events; we wanted the audience to go on the journey with Tamar and Gregg as it happened. That is part of why I say that things happened “backwards” – because we weren’t shooting from the get-go – we knew that something remarkable had transpired during the time that Gregg and Tamar were working together, and in essence, we had to figure out, after the fact, how to re-tell the story for an audience.
Most of Enter The Faun was shot after the performance closed the following summer in 2010 (aside from what we called the “personal diary footage” that Tamar and Gregg shot themselves before the idea of a film even existed), so the film inherently has a structure of looking back – reflecting on the work done and the changes in Gregg’s Body (Gregg’s Body, one of the hundreds of potential titles that we didn’t end up using!) Through the newly shot interviews with the cast, doctors and family members, we look back on the relationship that Gregg and Tamar developed, along with their reflections during rehearsals and the production.
Gregg & Tamar stretching away from each other in a bodywork session. Photo Credit: Andrew Baker.
In “Diagnosis of a Faun” (the original stage piece) Gregg’s character was the Roman, mythic Faun – a character known for breaking boundaries. The character was a muse for Gregg and Tamar while they worked in the studio as they defied all of Gregg’s (and the medical world’s) pre-existing expectations for his future and for his body. The Faun also served as a muse for Tamar and I, as we began to amass footage of all sorts – mixing mediums and intercutting between the past and the present to create a reflection of two characters and their joint journey. The past was represented by Tamar’s “personal diary footage” as well as audio diaries that Gregg kept throughout the rehearsals and performances, and the present was shot by multiple professional camera people, each bringing their own unique photographic style to the canvas that somehow we managed to meld together.
While Gregg’s transformation in the film is a serious one, we wanted the film to have humor and levity of spirit. While shooting and editing, we were always wondering how to capture the spirit of the Faun for the documentary. We shot many quirky and fun scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor: beautiful super-8 footage of Gregg dressed in his loincloth in the subways, in Times Square and all around the lower-East side; the “dance-a-thon” in Tomkins Square Park where Gregg is dancing with Tamar in the grass. In one scene, Olympia Dukakis surprises Gregg for a dance, and eventually Claire Danes joins in!
In the end, the film, a labor of love, was 5 years in the making. Gregg and Tamar’s journey was even longer. Since its completion, Enter The Faun has screened at 25 Film Festivals, both nationally and internationally, and we’ve held countless outreach events that have reached communities in the worlds of medicine, art and disability – creating conversations about challenging the boundaries of both medicine and art – through the lens of art – by making a documentary. And so while obviously we set out to make a film and wanted to tell a good story, we didn’t choose the topic of “disability” or “medicine.”
From the performance of Diagnosis of a Faun. Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger.
Our hope is that the film conveys that you don’t necessarily need to accept the status quo and pre-existing medical diagnosis or ideas about what is or what is not possible. For those who do not have a disability or are not interested in dance, there should be something in this film that connects with everyone. It’s about challenging the labels we place on ourselves, re-thinking what we think we are capable of and defying people’s expectations.
With Tamar Rogoff, Daisy Wright is also director and producer of Enter The Faun. Daisy has been editing for over 20 years. Her credits include eight programs for the PBS series Frontline (one received an Emmy Award, another the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award); the Bob Woodruff special for ABC To Iraq & Back (Peabody Award, 2007); La Boda and Escuela for POV; Ultimate Power and Call of the Wild with Peter Jennings for ABC; the film Bye-Bye Babushka (Prix Joris Ivens Award), and numerous other programs for American Masters on PBS, City Arts on WNET, TLC, VH1, HBO, CBS Sunday Morning, CNBC, The National Geographic Channel, The Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Daisy also co-directed and edited both This Land is Your Land with Lori Cheatle (Whitney Biennial 2006), and Summer in Ivye with Tamar Rogoff (Hamptons International Film Festival 2001). She is currently working on her next documentary project, as well as working as a Paraprofessional in the NYC public school system.
Enter The Faun by Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright will have its U.S. television premiere Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 8 p.m. on WORLD Channel (check local listings), as part of the award-winning documentary series AMERICA REFRAMED. The film will be available and free to view online for audiences across the U.S. at www.americareframed.org from March 29 to June 25, 2017.