Decades after her mysterious disappearance, the world discovers the trailblazing music of Connie Converse, a little known musician of the 1950s who may be one of America’s first singer-songwriters.
Connie Converse was a trailblazing singer-songwritter who bared her soul through thought-provoking music only to discover that 1950's America was unprepared for such candor from a woman. Discouraged, Connie packed her VW Bug and disappeared forever, leaving behind a body of work in a carefully indexed filing cabinet, hoping the world might someday be ready.
Elizabeth Converse was a golden child, on her way to achieving everything an intelligent young woman in 1940s America could dream of. But they weren't her dreams. So the one-time valedictorian quit school, moved to New York, and fashioned a new life as an artist. She changed her name to Connie, took up the guitar, and created a body of music now hailed as the first of its kind. In her own time, however, she faced the difficult task of bridging the divide between her own music and the cultural expectations of the day. After years of nurturing her disappointment, she once again packed up her car, said her goodbyes and disappeared forever; leaving behind the souvenirs of a lifetime, including diaries and personal correspondences, as well as her written and recorded music, much of which is discovered for the first time in the film.
Woman in the Sky is a documentary feature about the music and the mysterious disappearance of an artist now considered to be among the first in the genre of the American “singer-songwriter.” Her trials and triumphs, both personal and professional, offer a glimpse into the oft-unspoken costs of following one’s dreams, and insights into the radical cultural shifts occurring around her; from the era of Big Band and Doo-wop to that of Dylan and Baez - a time when popular music found its political, personal and feminine voice.
A contemporary narrator guides us through her own discovery of this incredible story. We discover Connie’s story at her pace, and through the reflections that such a quest provokes. Filmed exclusively in a black box theater, she remains a mysterious guide, exploring the contents of the neatly indexed filing cabinet that Connie left behind the day she disappeared. As she opens the drawers one by one, she is confronted by the gap between the “facts” that Connie left behind, and the legend that has been created around her - a legend that people around the world create and rely upon as a source of inspiration and comfort in the face of their own challenges.
Connie’s story remains as relevant today as ever. The isolation and domination endured by women of the 50s echoes through the marches of today where millions around the world decry the same misogyny, both overt and subtle, that arguably made it so much harder for Connie to succeed. Furthermore, the disconnect between expected gender roles and the pursuit of individual identity that Connie strove to overcome remains a critical issue for current generations.
Through creative cinematography, 8mm recreations and footage of works by contemporary artists inspired by Connie’s legacy, as well as our exclusive access to a storage room of Connie’s letters, recordings, and photos, we transform the story of this little-known woman into an engrossing portrait of America’s most volatile cultural era. In realizing this film, the team hopes that others can find common cause and inspiration through Connie’s story.
I had only been in New York for three months when I heard about Connie Converse for the first time. Having just moved to the city from my native France, and suddenly immersed in the city of a million possibilities, I struggled with my doubts. It was Connie’s will for emancipation, her desire to create for herself a life fully her own, that drew me in. I was both fascinated and inspired - and I found I was far from the one. Among her fans are people of all walks of life; some find common cause in her struggles, some empathize with her pain, many simply find their souls stirred by her music, and others still are fascinated by the mysteries surrounding her disappearance. For me, it is a combination of the above.
Emancipation is a central theme of this film and a subject I have found myself returning to often in my career. I’ve sought to depict people whose stories have long been neglected. My third film, “Griselidis Real, Dance Cards” was a feature documentary about an outspoken prostitute and activist. Connie, like Griselidis, followed her dreams and chose her destiny, even if it meant running against the grain of socially acceptable behavior. Such self-emancipatory efforts are not without risk or pain, as Woman in the Sky demonstrates through the stories of Connie, and the film’s fictional interlocutor, Claire.
This narrator, Claire is a composite image of the people I met who had hitched their personal and professional wagons to Connie’s beguiling story. In lieu of a traditional narrator, I created Claire to compare the allure and inherent risks of reinventing oneself today with the experience of doing so seventy years ago, when Connie first left everything behind, changed her name, and build a new life for herself in New York. And to show that without these modern day disciples, the second half of the story of Connie Converse might have never been written.
It is easy to look at Connie’s life and career in music and see it as a failure. While she certainly struggled to satisfy her creative impulses - a trait shared by most artists - to say that she was unsuccessful is to elevate mass commercial appeal as the sole criterion of judgement. Connie Converse wasn’t the kind of woman people wrote songs about in the 1950s. So she dipped her pen in a well of personal truths and crafted her own emotionally complex music - even if her feminine candor clashed with the cultural and commercial demands of her day, she was more concerned about living up to her own particular, and peculiar, artistic style. To be ahead of one’s time - steadfastly committed to a personal vision and disregarding popular opinion - is both heroic and inherently antisocial. In Connie Converse I find both a hero and an anti-hero, and as both a woman and a filmmaker, I am inspired by this complexity.
Natacha was born and raised in Paris, France. After receiving a journalist degree, she decided to pursue a career of a filmmaker, writing and directing several short narrative films before switching to a documentary genre.
Her first documentary, Ngwane, The Kingdom of Swaziland, shot in 2007 in Africa, was sold to TV5 Monde, several African TV channel and was screened at several international film festivals.
Later she directed Griselidis Real, dance cards, an exploration into the life and work of Grisélidis Réal (1929- 2005), a unique powerful woman who was both a popular writer and an outspoken prostitute.
Natacha moved to New York in 2012, and continued directing documentary films including Women of the Mountains and High on Nano.
Born in Belarus, Sergei began his career in storytelling as a journalist for his nation’s largest independent newspaper, since crushed by the regime. Upon moving to the United States, Sergei became a full time independent filmmaker.
His creative interests lie with, but are not limited to, topics concerning environment, social justice, and art. Collectively, Sergei has produced films that have screened at over 150 film festivals worldwide and won numerous awards, including Slamdance Film Festival, The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), San Francisco International Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Beijing International Movie Festival and Amnesty International Film Festival. Many of these films found national and international distribution. Sergei has also served as member of a jury at Cinema Mobile Short Film Festival in Belarus for the last three years.
Adam left his native Texas to study international relations at Georgetown University. It was during that time Adam was first introduced to the challenges of producing documentary content in logistically complex situations.
In 2005, while working for a human rights group in Beijing, Adam took on his ?rst role helping to produce a documentary in rural China. A year later, while managing the transportation and schedule of a candidate running for governor in Texas, Adam again assisted with the logistical demands of two documentary ?lm crews. In 2008, Adam created a multimedia and technology consulting company which he operated until leaving to pursue film full time. Adam now resides in Paris, France.
Alex discovered his love of ?lm while still in high school and moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Visual Arts (Film Emphasis).