Conn, Nicole 1959-
CONN, Nicole 1959-
PERSONAL: Born October 29, 1959, in Mesa, AZ; daughter of Frank, Jr. (an engineer) and Christa (a domestic engineer; maiden name, Rominger) Hoven. Education: Received degree from Elliott Business College, 1986.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Demi-Monde Productions, 4515 St. Clair, Studio City, CA 91604.
CAREER: Videospectrum (video company), founder, 1985; Demi-Monde Productions (film development and production company), founder, president, and chief executive officer, 1985—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship finalist, 1987, for Aunnie Cole.
(And director and executive producer) Claire of theMoon (screenplay), Demi-Monde Productions, 1993, published as Claire of the Moon: One Woman's Journey into Her Sexual Identity: A Novel, Naiad Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1993.
Passion's Shadow: A Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
The Bottom Line (novel), Naiad Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1994.
Angel Wings: A Love Story, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
She Walks in Beauty, Naiad Press (Tallahassee, FL), 2001.
Writer of screenplays, including Aunnie Cole and Cynara.
SIDELIGHTS: Film writer and director Nicole Conn's first full-length feature, Claire of the Moon, received critical attention upon its release in 1993, the same year the screenplay was published as a novel. Following her success with Claire, Conn went on to write a number of novels and plays.
After receiving a degree in business, Conn began a filmmaking career, founding her own production company in order to bring out-of-the-mainstream screenplays to movie audiences. As writer, executive producer, and director of Claire of the Moon, Conn oversaw all aspects of the story, in which a heterosexual woman discovers another side of herself at an Oregon writers' colony for women. Noel Benedict, a therapist and writer, and Claire Jabrowski, author of a satirical volume titled Life Can Ruin Your Hair, are assigned to share living quarters, and Claire's attraction to openly gay Noel becomes the focal point of the film. Other women who have signed up for the retreat include a romance writer named Tara O'Hara, and a homemaker and mother of twins who is writing a work of fiction in which men experience childbirth. The workshops are run by Maggie, who has purposely placed Claire and Noel together. The film's plot is fueled by the workshop sessions, where the issues of gender politics and sexuality are explored through dialogues among the characters.
Several reviewers commended Conn's portrayal of lesbianism. Jay Carr in the Boston Globe found the work to be "a brave, often ungainly, but always heartfelt lesbian love story." Los Angeles Reader's Paul Birchall called it "intelligent and beautifully atmospheric," and "a deep, philosophical analysis of the very definition of love and intimacy." Chicago Tribune contributor Johanna Steinmetz praised the serious tone of Claire of the Moon, but remarked that the characters "bog the film down with overheated and under-reasoned discussions of sexual identity." Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times of the same discussions, stated that "the dialogue is ponderous at such times, undercutting what might seem a more daring drama." Los Angeles Times, critic Kevin Thomas noted in particular Conn's directorial skill, pointing out that she "is able to create a series of poetic images that continually subvert the film's torrent of words. Like a good semanticist, Conn knows the crucial difference between the map and territory."
Passion's Shadow is Conn's novel about a lesbian triangle in which a mother, workaholic architect Lindsay Brennan, and her daughter, married interior designer Samantha, unknowingly fall in love with the same woman. The object of their affections, alcoholic Sondra Pinchot, is also a designer, and, until meeting Lindsay, had been heterosexual. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "despite the 'incestuous' overtones to the love triangle, this tale is really just a routine, if chic, romantic potboiler."
Conn followed with The Bottom Line and then Angel Wings: A Love Story. The latter is a New Age romance about an angel named Carlita, who is put in charge of the fate of two people. When Matthew's parents die in a car crash, he is sent from England to live with his eccentric aunt in Los Angeles. There he meets Clancy, a young girl whose life is made difficult by her alcoholic mother. They are to meet several years later, when they are eighteen, but the event does not occur, putting Carlita's future as an angel in danger.
Lambda Book Report's Joy Parks called Conn's next book, She Walks in Beauty, "something fine and rare, a book of substance, a meaningful story that will linger with readers long after the last page is turned." The book is two stories in one. Spencer Atwood is a successful filmmaker who escapes the pain of childhood abuse by chasing fame and female companions. When her own ambition causes her to lose everyone and everything that matters to her, she retreats to a cabin on the Oregon coast, where she throws herself into the job of clearing a path to the beach. The solitude and physical labor rekindle her longing to write, and she does, a novel titled Cynara.
Lilian Harrington, the protagonist and the creator of poetry considered too raw to be written by a woman, changes her name to Byron Harrington, a pseudonym under which she is able to be published. She meets Dorothy Parker and becomes part of the Algonquin Hotel crowd, then moves to Paris with her mentor, gay Parnell "Rabbit" Walbrook. Sylvia Beach publishes her poetry, and through Sylvia and Rabbit, she meets the famous lesbian writers of the time, including Gertrude Stein. In order to pay for her high-rolling lifestyle, Lilian, now Byron, writes pulp detective stories that become very popular in the United States, and also discovers her own lesbianism. She returns to the States when her father is close to death and where she must confront the brother who was responsible for her leaving. She then meets Cynara, the woman who gives her love and the courage to face the future.
Parks commented on the parallels in the lives of Spencer and Lilian/Byron, both of whom were abused as children, and both of whom have a need to excel in order to overcome their guilt. Parks called She Walks in Beauty "a richly layered, genuinely stirring novel that doesn't shy away from difficult themes. It combines one of the most fascinating and elegant periods in lesbian history with the money and power-driven crassness of current-day Hollywood. And best of all, it tells a tremendously sensual, magnificently human story that lets readers come away believing in the healing power of love and creative expression."
Conn once told CA: "Film is not about technical wizardry for me. It's about the ride you take in the dark. It isn't about larger-than-life action heroes who violently live through the impossible; it's about the incredible impact of the simplest moment. It's about the human condition with all its exquisite flaws. It's about raw, real, and uncensored emotion."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, July 27, 1993; November 28, 1995, Chastity Bono, review of Passion's Shadow, p. 76.
Austin American-Statesman, July 24, 1992, p. 6.
Booklist, September 1, 1997, Whitney Scott, review of Angel Wings, p. 56.
Boston Globe, September 23, 1992, Jay Carr, review of Claire of the Moon, p. 46.
Chicago Tribune, June 11, 1993, Johanna Steinmetz, review of Claire of the Moon, p. 3.
Lambda Book Report, November, 1997, Julia Willis, review of Angel Wings, p. 12; October, 2001, Joy Parks, review of She Walks in Beauty, p. 15.
Library Journal, October 15, 1995, Rebecca S. Kelm, review of Passion's Shadow, p. 86.
Los Angeles Reader, January 29, 1993, Paul Birchall, review of Claire of the Moon.
Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1993, Kevin Thomas, review of Claire of the Moon, p. F8.
New York Times, April 16, 1993, Janet Maslin, review of Claire of the Moon, p. C11.
Out Front, September 30, 1992, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, September 18, 1995, review of Passion's Shadow, p. 114; July 28, 1997, review of Angel Wings, p. 54.*