I’ve been asked numerous times why I made a film about a little known skydiver named Joan Carson.
Joan was a trailblazer and unlike any young woman I had ever met. She was a skydiver and motorcyclist when women didn’t do those things, and commanded attention when she wanted to. I was intrigued by her risk taking. I wondered why she continued to skydive after suffering two serious accidents. What drove Joan’s passion? What was the allure of skydiving? And ultimately, I wanted to know how and why she died.
I met Joan in the late 60s, attending the same high school in Redmond, Washington, and then lost contact with her for the next five years.
In 1973 I was managing a band in Seattle and they sent me to San Francisco to land them some gigs. It was there that a mutual friend had arranged for me to stay at Joan's place. At the time she was working as a waitress in Berkeley and skydiving on weekends at various drop zones around the Bay Area. Attired in mechanics coveralls, motorcycle helmet, ski googles, patrol boots and a parachute harnessed across her back she was a conflicting puzzle of beauty and the beast as she took off down the street on her motorcycle. But it didn't bother her -- Joan was on a mission.
Joan continued to follow her passion until she died while skydiving in Montana in 1981 at the age of 30.
Upon hearing of her death, I was stunned, and wondered why Joan had continued in the sport after her injuries...It all seemed so pointless...But was it? I had to know.
I posted a note on a skydiving forum and upon learning of Joan's accomplishments and wanderings during her short life, I was hooked. I knew then that Joan's story was universal and more than just my own personal interest.
I hoped that making a film about Joan would answer my questions and tell her story. As it turned out, her story unfolded on its own and is presented in the same order in which it was shot. We wanted to keep it that way so audiences could experience her story the way we did. For me, "Ride The Sky" provides some answers, however it also raises new questions.