Community Spotlight: Mallory Weggemann and Jeremy Snyder
For more than a decade, Jay (Jeremy) has helped athletes make their unique impact, while Mallory has won medals, and hearts, on the international swimming scene.
This couple are always on the go, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with them and hear about their plans for the exciting times ahead.
For an athlete and a manager, starting a production company was not perhaps the expected route for Mallory and Jay. But as they explained, it was a natural step.
During his time representing US athletes at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Jay saw how athletes had the potential to positively influence societal perceptions, through their sport.
“It was eye opening to see where the Paralympic movement was in Europe, versus where it was, at that point, in the United States. It was drastically different, the exposure in Europe and the lack of exposure in the US,” he explained.
Inspired, Jay continued to work with athletes and brands in a way that aligned with the positive influences he saw in London.
Mallory described how a few years later, TFA’s work came to include film production.
“I was a client when Jay and I first met. Then, we fell in love and eventually got married. In that, we started to look at what we wanted our collective impact to be. We both have this desire, through our crafts and who we are as people, to make a difference.”
Mallory described how, in growing TFA Productions as part of the TFA Group, the couple found a way to combine the pursuit of their passions with making a positive social impact.
“The Paralympic movement is a passion for both of us. We also have a passion for utilizing the power of storytelling to change perceptions. TFA Group lets us dive into our two shared passions.”
How to tell a story
Although it began with the Paralympic movement, TFA Group now tells stories from across the disability community.
TFA’s approach to storytelling is designed to change how society talks about disability.
“As a society, we tend to follow this model of triumph over tragedy. But individuals with disabilities are living dynamic lifestyles that are not centered around the fact that they have a disability,” Mallory explained. “Society, entertainment and media has made the focal point the disability, and not the individual and the life they are living. When we’re telling a story, we have the checks and balances to ensure we are challenging those narratives.”
As well as the narrative, they also consider how viewers experience the story. Mallory used her own story as an example.
“Music drives how you emotionally perceive the content you’re watching. For my own story, becoming paralyzed at 18, media and entertainment wants to put sad music behind that story. Yes, it’s a heavy moment, and you can have music that sets the tone, but it needs to come from a place of empathy and not pity. So, for us, whether it’s through the visual, the narrative or the music, we ask how we approach each one of the mediums within, to tell the whole story.”
Click to watch trailer for The Blind Ascensionist
Telling Eone’s Story
Eone have worked with TFA on several projects, and Jay shared his thoughts on this partnership.
“We’ve known about Eone for almost 10 years. But it was serendipity at its finest when we connected with the Eone team just over two years ago. The first piece we did was about Christine Ha. It was the right fit for us, and we had the resources and team to bring this to life in a meaningful way.”
Click to watch Christine Ha's video on honoring disability
Christine Ha, the ‘Blind Cook’, and Eone Ambassador, kicked off our 2019 International Women’s Day campaign with the short film created by our friends at TFA.
“From our relationship then, it’s really evolved,” Jay continued. “Yes, what Eone have done with their timepieces is incredible, but also, they are storytellers. What Eone stands for is inclusion and ‘everyone’. We’re constantly looking for stories that stand out and can draw people into the brand and what they stand for. It’s been fun, the last couple of years. We’re grateful and honored for the trust Eone have placed in TFA to help share these stories with the world.”
TFA’s ability to capture the core of what we do in their content, has been game-changing, and working with TFA has been a great experience for the team at Eone.
TFA Group’ new flagship documentary, ‘WATERSHED’ has been years in the making and will launch in 2023. Mallory shares how the feature-length production is a labor of love, and while it’s an insight into the couple’s collective journey, it’s also, so much more.
“For WATERSHED, our story is at the center of it, which is really unique. Jay’s the producer, I’m the writer, we’re co-directors and we’re the production house. WATERSHED is about our collective story, but it’s also about humanity. How we as individuals process trauma, navigate through adversity and find that inherent strength that’s inside each of us. Because as individuals and as a society, we all face watershed moments. They become a part of us, but they don’t define who we are. So, while WATERSHED follows a current-day story, it’s also nonlinear, in that it has these very powerful contextual reveals in the story, which relate to that human experience that we all know of - navigating through life.”
Mallory and Jay are excited to finally be able to share this project with the world and we are certainly looking forward to its release in 2023.
While their work has continued to go from strength to strength, Jay and Mallory have also been on a very special, personal journey in the last year.
Earlier this summer the couple announced the wonderful news that they are expecting their first child in March 2023.
“With our life and careers, we’ve always said we want to build a lifestyle we can bring a family into,” beamed Mallory. “Now we know, that in March, Little One is joining our family, and we get to do what we love most with another family member.”
As they talk about being expectant parents, their voices are so full of joy, as you’d expect. At the same time, Mallory made it clear, that being open about what it has taken to get here, is extremely important to both of them.
“When you look at our IVF journey, there are two sides to it. There’s my side of the story, as a female with a disability. Then, in addition to that, we came into IVF because of male infertility, which Jay has been super open about.”
Share the journey
True to the values that drive their work at TFA, the couple wanted to share their story to open up the conversation and be there for others who are on a similar journey.
“There’s not a lot of men willing to talk about male infertility, and there’s not a lot of resources out there. There’s also not a lot of resources about females with a disability going through IVF. There weren’t people like us we could talk to, who could tell us what to expect. I think that’s why we wanted to talk about it. Maybe we could be that path for someone else.”
Mallory admits It wasn’t easy to share details about their infertility but explains why they believe it was the right decision.
“We get private messages from individuals or couples who share that they too, are on this path but their family and friends don’t know because they’re ashamed to talk about it. When we get those responses, we know as scary as it was to share this, we did the right thing.”
As well as sharing the journey to help provide information and support to other couples, Jay explained he had his own reasons for being so open about male infertility.
“For years, people kept saying ‘I’m sorry you can’t have kids’. They saw Mallory, who happens to be using a wheelchair, and they made that assumption. It was like a dagger in my heart, because they had no idea why our journey was going to be a unique one. Mallory was told years prior that we wouldn’t have any issues on the female side. We knew there would be work from my perspective and last fall we heard that IVF would be our only path to biological kids. We said ‘OK, well we’re going to be open about this because our nature is to start conversations to change perceptions about what is possible.”
Mallory and Jay spoke excitedly about their plans for Mallory to compete throughout her pregnancy, and after the arrival of ‘Little One’. (The couple affectionately use this sweet nickname for their baby!)
“When I look ahead to Paris 2024, I know Jay will be sitting in the stands with our kid while I’m racing,” Mallory said dreamily.
“Racing through a pregnancy is important, because when we lead with action, we are provided with this opportunity to show, not tell. Jay and I both feel that assuming it’s healthy for me and baby, the idea of racing, allows us to show, in a powerful way, what the human body is capable of. I’ll be 26 weeks pregnant at Nationals, so I will look pregnant on the starting block, with my wheelchair beside me and I’ll dive in! I think that will say it all!”
Looking ahead to parenthood
The couple are quite obviously elated about becoming parents, and when asked what they were looking forward to the most, Jay admits the simple moments might be the most cherished.
“Sitting in the rocker in our nursery and holding Little One, knowing that what was once just a room we dreamed of turning into a nursery is now home to our child we have long fought for. Watching Mallory as she nurtures and loves our Little One with the same care and compassion that ushered us through our journey to parenthood.”
Mallory added, “We have gone through such a long road to become parents and I think just that initial moment of bringing Little One into this world, seeing Jay hold them and being together as a family. We have long daydreamed about who they are, what they will be like and to be able to experience the world through their eyes will be such a gift.”
And they both agreed that they can’t wait to introduce their baby to their ‘fur baby’, Sam!
It was so special to hear Jay and Mallory speak about their journey, and we thank them for sharing their story with the Eone community. We wish them all the best for the arrival of ‘Little One’ and look forward to seeing Mallory and bump in action in the upcoming competitions.
And of course, we had one last question…
What is inclusion to you?
Mallory: “We can’t truly reach inclusion without accessibility, but inclusion is also so much more than accessibility. When we really look at it, accessibility is about ensuring each individual has equal access to the human experience. Inclusion comes once we have insured equal access and now, we as a society are truly integrated in a cohesive way, which represents our society in its totality and all individuals are seen as they are, equals.”
Jay: “Inclusion is ensuring all individuals are seen for who they are, and not diminished due to unconscious bias or misconceptions. In order to reach true inclusion, we must have authentic and accurate representation, which is the only way in which we not only create a path forward but change biases and misconceptions.”
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