Filmmakers

Nancy Svendsen, Director/Producer

Nancy Anne Svendsen grew up in small towns in Iowa. Since childhood she has been passionate about bringing people together to tell stories. Nancy earned a B.A. in English, Spanish and American Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota. She spent over two decades focusing her energy in leadership positions in various facets of the healthcare industry. Now Nancy has come back to her storytelling roots as an independent filmmaker based in Northern California. Nancy now combines her business acumen and experience running large organizations with her passion for women’s rights, the creative arts and storytelling. Nancy started Follow Your Dream Foundation Inc., a 501(c)3 organization, as a place to incubate and launch powerful stories that can influence people’s lives. In her film, The Glass Ceiling, Nancy shares the story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa – the first Nepali woman to summit Mt. Everest. Nancy believes the inspiration born of reaching for the impossible is transformational; sharing our respective journeys is our opportunity to touch the lives of those who may not yet know they need to hear the stories we tell.

Nancy is an active musician and lives in Marin County with her husband and their two children.

 Sharon Wood, Creative Producer

A longtime documentary filmmaker, Sharon Wood’s writing credits include the Peabody and Columbia-Dupont award winning The Celluloid Closet and Paragraph 175, as well as Oscar nominees Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press, and Super Chief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren. She independently produced, directed and wrote two shorts, Outside In Sight: The Music of United Front and Kheturni Bayo: North Indian Farm Women, both of which premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Between 2003-11, Wood was producer/writer for Lucasfilm’s documentary department, making 18 films on subjects from the Russian Revolution to John Ford to World War I’s origins, as well as Manifest Destiny, a series on U.S. foreign policy, which aired on public television. Recent producing and/or writing credits include Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly, And the Oscar Goes To… for TCM/CNN and The Battle of amfAR for HBO.

The Art of Nonfiction Movie Making, which Sharon co-authored with Oscar winners Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, was published by Praeger-ABC Clio in 2012.  A recent Fulbright Fellow, she is developing a film about an Ottoman travel writer.

Richard Levien, Producer

Richard Levien has been writing, directing, and editing award-winning films for 12 years. His editing credits include Barry Jenkins’ (“Moonlight”), short film “Remigration”, and “A Fragile Trust” about the worst plagiarist in the history of the New York Times, which appeared on Independent Lens. He also edited “D Tour”, about a rock drummer struggling with kidney failure, which won Best Bay Area documentary feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and appeared on Independent Lens. Levien’s short film, “Immersion” premiered at Slamdance, and won Best Bay Area short film at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Levien’s debut feature film as a writer/director, “Collisions”, won four SFFILM/KRF Grants. “Collisions” premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2018, and won the Audience Award (US Independent Cinema: Gold). Levien is from New Zealand originally. He is one of the few New Zealanders who played no part whatsoever in the making of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, or The Hobbit. He has a PhD in theoretical physics from Princeton University.

Andrea Pierpont, Associate Producer

Andrea Pierpont is a business consultant focusing on business strategy and development, marketing, and operations. Andrea spent 15 years in the corporate sector. More recently Andrea has been deeply involved in volunteer work for her local school district as the former President of the Larkspur –Corte Madera School District Board of Trustees and as campaign chair for a 26 million facilities bond to build and modernize local schools. Andrea earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from St. Lawrence University. She enjoys hiking, cooking, traveling and spending time with her two teenage daughters and husband in Marin County. She has been involved in the Follow Your Dream Foundation and the foundation’s film project, The Glass Ceiling, since 2009.

 Sari Gilman, Editor

Sari Gilman is an award-winning filmmaker with 20 years of experience. Her directorial debut, Kings Point (2012) was nominated for an Academy Award, won prizes at film festivals nation-wide, and aired on HBO. Most recently, Sari co-directed and edited the Netflix original Saving Capitalism, about Robert Reich.

Sari’s work has played theatrically and been shown on HBO, PBS and other television networks. She was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy for her work on Rory Kennedy’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib; and the first feature documentary she cut was Judith Helfand’s Blue Vinyl, which also aired on HBO and premiered at Sundance. Sari wrote and edited Trapped, which premiered at Sundance, had a theatrical release in March of 2016 and aired on PBS’ Independent Lens. She is currently developing a film about the wildly divergent views on Israel that exist within her own Jewish family.

Jeffrey Friedman, Consulting Editor

Jeffrey began his film career working with some of the most respected filmmakers in the business, on such films as Marjoe (edited by Larry Silk, Academy Award®, Documentary Feature, 1972) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973). He apprenticed with the legendary editor Dede Allen on the Arthur Penn segment of Visions of Eight (1973), and assisted Thelma Schoonmaker on Martin Scorcese’s Raging Bull (Academy Award®, Film Editing, 1980).

Jeffrey began editing on the NBC prime-time documentary series Lifeline (1978). He was associate editor on the Disney feature Never Cry Wolf (1983). He has edited numerous documentaries for television, starting with the PBS documentary Faces Of the Enemy (1987), for which he also received a co-directing credit. More recently he edited the HBO short documentaries Kings Point, (Academy Award® nominee, 2013) and Open Your Eyes (2016).

Jeffrey first worked with Rob Epstein consulting on The Times of Harvey Milk. In 1987 Jeffrey and Rob formed their production company Telling Pictures and began working as a filmmaking team.

Jeffrey and Rob co-produced, directed, and edited Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt (Academy Award®, Documentary Feature, 1989). They produced and directed the documentary feature The Celluloid Closet, which Jeffrey co-edited (Emmy Award for directing, 1995), as well as Paragraph 175 (Sundance Film Festival Documentary Jury Prize for Directing, 2000). Their documentary feature And the Oscar Goes To premiered on Turner Classic Movies in 2014, and subsequently aired on CNN. Their latest short documentary End Game premiered at Sundance 2018. In 2018, Jeffrey and Rob received the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award from the San Francisco Film Society in recognition of distinguished service to cinema.

HOWL was the the team’s first scripted narrative feature, an experimental hybrid they co-produced, wrote, and directed. Starring James Franco and featuring David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels and Mary-Louise Parker, HOWL premiered opening night at Sundance, followed by the Berlin and London International Film Festivals.

Their next dramatic venture was directing Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard, with Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Hank Azaria, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Noth, Juno Temple, and James Franco. Lovelace premiered at the Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals (2013).

2019 was a productive year for the team: their documentary short End Game was nominated for an Academy Award; Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; and State of Pride premiered at South by Southwest.

Jeffrey has taught in the graduate program at Stanford University and at California College of the Arts. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is co-author of The Art of Nonfiction Movie Making, published by Praeger in 2012.

Adam Keker, Story Consultant

Adam’s award-winning short films have screened at numerous international festivals including Sundance. He is the recipient of a San Francisco Film Society / KRF Grant in screenwriting for an upcoming feature film, National Park. As a cinematographer he has worked on over 100 documentaries and programs for PBS, National Geographic Channel, and many others, on location in China, Cambodia, Russia, Ukraine, India, Turkey, Bulgaria, and more.

Martina Radwan, Director of Photography

Martina Radwan, a native German based in NYC for over twenty years, has been the cinematographer for award-winning documentaries and features for over a decade. SAVING FACE, the 2012 Academy Award Winner for Short Documentary, earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Cinematography in 2013. Her recent work includes THE FINAL YEAR (TIFF 2017), THE FAMILY I HAD (Tribeca 2017), THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, THE PROMISED BAND, THROUGH A LENSE DARKLY, and HOT COFFEE.

Justin Melland, Original Score/Composer

Award winning film composer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Justin Melland primarily works in the demanding world of film and television, creating refreshingly inventive scores at his studio The Eleventh Laboratory, in Los Angeles, California. The Washington Post called out his score for The Kill Team by Oscar nominated Director Dan Krauss as “A brilliantly spare and evocative soundtrack”. The Hollywood Reporter also wrote of his score for Showtime’s Dark Net “And the antiseptic visuals, coupled with the droning score by Justin Melland, suggest Laura Poitras’ Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour with a slightly pulpier edge.”

Justin has enjoyed working with many highly respected, award winning directors. Twice his work with Dan Krauss has been nominated for an Academy Award. First was The HBO Documentary Films: The Death of Kevin Carter in 2006, and again for the Netflix Original Documentary : Extremis in 2016. Justin has also worked along side Oscar winning director Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss scoring their film 5B, and Oscar winning director Alex Gibney scoring his series for National Geographic called Parched. The Melland-scored film In Football We Trust won an Emmy Award in 2017.

Most recently, Justin scored the STARZ Original Series Wrong Man and the second most-watched Netflix release since Nielsen measurement began: Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes with two time Emmy Award winning director Joe Berlinger.

Ang Dorjee Sherpa, Principal Sherpa Advisor

Ang Dorjee Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa’s oldest brother, grew up in the heart of the Everest region of Nepal and began working with his father when he was 14 years old, leading international trekking groups on mountain climbing expeditions in Nepal, Afghanistan and throughout the Himalayas. He was one of the staff members of the “Man Who Skied Down Everest” expedition in 1970, which became a documentary with the same name about a Japanese alpinist who skied down Mount Everest. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1975.

Highlights of his climbing career include a 1971 Japanese expedition up Gangapurna (part of the Annapurna range of mountains in Nepal); a 1972 expedition, led by Reinhold Messner, up Mount Noshaq, the highest mountain in Afghanistan; a Spanish expedition up Mount Everest in 1974; he climbed Mount Noshaq a 2nd time with an Austrian hang gliding expedition in 1974; he was part of a Japanese expedition up Dhaulagiri in Nepal (7th highest peak in the world) in 1975 and another Japanese expedition up Mount Lhotse (4th highest peak in the world) in 1976. He was on an Italian expedition as a high-altitude guide up Annapurna III in 1978 and he climbed Pisang Peak (the 10th highest trekking peak in Nepal) in 1980 with a Nepali Mountaineering Expedition.

After spending his youth working expeditions, he attended high school in Kathmandu and continued to assist his father with periodic climbing expeditions on his time off from school. He came to the United States in 1981 and attended New College of California for three years. He became a citizen of the United States in 1999.

More recently he has climbed Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain, and also Ecuador’s Cotopaxi, an active volcano, in 2002. The next year, he climbed Huascaran, the 6th highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, and Alpamayo, both in Peru. The following year, he climbed Illimani, the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real (part of the Cordillera Oriental, a subrange of the Andes), in western Bolivia.

In 2010, he became a certified member of the National Ski Patrol and volunteers at Soda Springs Resort at Lake Tahoe, California.

He works for Blum Capital Partners, L.P. and serves as an assistant to Richard Blum who is the Chairman and Founder of the American Himalayan Foundation.

Tsering Rhitar Sherpa, Nepal Production

Tsering Rhitar Sherpa was born in Nepal. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at Delhi University, he studied filmmaking at theJamia Millia Islamia in Delhi from 1992 to 1993.

He made various documentary films, including “Tears of Torture” in 1994, a 27 minute documentary about a Tibetan nun traveling through the Himalayan mountain passes to escape Tibet.

In 1997, he made “The Spirit Doesn’t Come Anymore,” a documentary film profiling an old Tibetan shaman and his difficult relationship with his son, who would not continue the family vocation. This film earned him the Best Film Award at Film South Asia, 1997 (Festival of South Asian Documentary Films) held in Kathmandu, Nepal, and Best Indigenous Filmmaker of the Year at the Parnu Anthropological Film Festival in Estonia in 1998. This film was also shown at the Leipzig Dokfestival in Germany, Cinema du Reel in France, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong, Telluride Mountain Film Festival in the USA, Fukuoka International Film Festival (Focus On Asia) and Yamagata International Film Festival in Japan.

Tsering Rhitar Sherpa’s first feature film was “Mukundo: Mask of Desire,” in 2000. The screenplay arose from a newspaper article about a traditional woman healer who had killed a female a woman patient during her healing. “Mukundo is, in the filmmaker’s own words, ‘an expression and exploration of confusion caused by rituals and beliefs prevalent in the Nepali society.’ In 2000 “Mukundo: Mask of Desire” was selected by the OSCAR committee in Nepal to represent Nepal in the “Best Foreign Film” category.

In 2005-2006, Tsering Rhitar Sherpa made his second feature film, “Karma”, about two Buddhist nuns’ journey from the Mustang region. The film was shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Fukuoka International Film Festival (Japan), Tokyo International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival (Canada), Goteberg International Film Festival (Sweden) and Fribourg International Film Festival (Switzerland).

Tsering Rhitar Sherpa’s production company, Mila Productions Pvt. Ltd, provides production and post-production support to other producers (Nepali and Non-Nepali) making films in Nepal.

Vincanne Adams, Ph.D., Anthropology Consultant

Dr. Adams is Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. She began working in the Himalayan region in 1982 and is the author of numerous books and articles on the people and cultures of the region, including the books: Tigers of the Snow and Other Virtual Sherpas (Princeton); Doctors for Democracy (Cambridge); Sex and Development (Duke); and Medicine Between Science and Religion (Berghahn). Dr. Adams feels a special tie to the film because of her friendship with Pasang Lhamu Sherpa and her family. Vincanne’s unique perspective and subject matter expertise make her a valuable complement to the artistic team.