Connie Converse was a little known musician in 1950s New York. Now, forty years after Connie’s mysterious disappearance, Claire hopes to find her own self-purpose amid the clues left behind by this woman who may be America’s first singer-songwriter.
Claire had never been to New York before she moved there with a woman she had met a few weeks prior. It was a time of firsts for her, and she could not have felt more lost. Especially once she found herself alone in the city, afraid to move forward but unwilling to turn back. And then she learned about Connie Converse, a little known West Village musician in the 1950s who had been missing for almost forty years. “This is it”, Claire thought, after everything she had abandoned to be here, she finally found a way of showing everyone that she isn’t just another average girl with average ambitions. She would solve the mystery of the artist now considered to be the first American “singer-songwriter”.
Connie Converse was a trailblazing musician who bared her soul through emotionally complex songs at a time when America unaccustomed to such candor from a woman. After years of disappointment, Connie had packed up her car, said her goodbyes and disappeared; leaving every trace of her life in a neatly indexed filing cabinet, waiting to be discovered once the world was ready.
Woman in the Sky is a documentary film following Claire as she uses the artifacts of Connie’s past, the theories of her whereabouts, and the recollections of the people who knew her long ago to unravel Connie’s disappearance. Along the way, Claire meets others who, like her, have been inspired by Connie’s music and relate to her struggle for recognition. Whether it’s the beauty of her music or her intriguing complex personal story, the recent rediscovery of her work has earned her global recognition far beyond what she enjoyed in her own time.
As Claire slips further into the bottomless mystery, she is torn between the impossibility of continuing her empty-pocketed pursuit and facing yet another failure - she is haunted by an unavoidable reality: for Connie to succeed she had to “fail”, and in order to be found, she had to disappear.
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).
His thesis ?lm, The Hate, earned “Of?cial Selection” honors at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and FirstGlance – Hollywood, winning “Best Editing in a Short” at the latter.
Since that time, Alex has worked as a director, producer, DP, cinematographer and photographer on projects big and small, short and long, commercial and artistic, on four continents.