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.

Alison Levine, Executive Producer

  • Team captain, American Women’s Everest Expedition
  • New York Times Best-selling Author, On the Edge: Lessons from Mt. Everest and other Extreme Environments

Alison Levine is a history-making polar explorer and mountaineer. She served as team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, climbed the highest peak on each continent and skied to both the North and South Poles—a feat known as the Adventure Grand Slam, which fewer than forty people in the world have achieved. In January 2008, she made history as the first American to complete a 600-mile traverse from west Antarctica to the South Pole following the route of legendary explorer Reinhold Messner. Levine completed this arduous journey on skis while hauling 150 pounds of her gear and supplies in a sled harnessed to her waist. Her success in extreme environments is noteworthy given she has had three heart surgeries and suffers from Raynaud’s disease, which causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather—leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite.

In addition to having tackled some of the most challenging environments in the outdoors, Levine also spent time climbing the corporate ladder. She worked in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, earned an MBA from Duke University, and spent three years working for Goldman Sachs. She left Goldman in 2003 to serve as deputy finance director for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his successful bid to become Governor of California.

In 2005, Levine founded the Climb High Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of jobless women in Africa by training them to be trekking guides and porters in their local mountains so that they would have the skills to earn a sustainable living wage through climbing-related tourism. Her work in Uganda enabled the first group of local women to make history when they climbed Uganda’s highest peak—Mt Stanley, in the Rwenzori Mountains. Her work in Uganda is the subject of the PBS documentary Living Courageously.

Levine served as an adjunct instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership and is a strategic advisor for the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point, an executive education a program that shares West Point leadership best practices with senior level-executives from the public and private sectors. She was a contributing author to the book Leadership in Dangerous Situations: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services and First Responders (Naval Institute Press). She also serves on the board of the Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics at Duke University.

A sought-after consultant and keynote speaker on the subject of leadership development, Levine has addressed audiences ranging from Fortune 500 companies to professional sports teams to the prestigious World Economic Forum at Davos. She is the author of the New York Times best-seller On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mt. Everest and other Extreme Environments. Having spent prolonged periods of time in some of the world’s most dangerous and inhospitable places, she tackles the topics of creating cohesive teams, taking responsible risks and developing no-nonsense leaders that can succeed in times of uncertainty.

Stephanie Robinson, Executive Producer

Stephanie spent the majority of her career in health care investment banking at Alex.Brown & Sons, Bankers Trust and Deutsche Bank advising companies in the biotechnology and medical devices industries in the execution of merger and acquisitions, initial and follow-on equity offerings, private placements and debt financings. Prior to her investment banking career, Stephanie also served as a strategy management consultant to Fortune 500 companies with the Boston Consulting Group. In recent years, Stephanie has focused on service to her local community and currently serves as President of the Board of Trustees for the Ross School District and is a member of the Marin General Hospital Foundation Board. She currently lives in Marin County with her husband and three sons. A longtime independent film enthusiast and a member of the Sundance Institute, she is excited to help bring “The Glass Ceiling” to fruition.

Stephanie graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a BA in Economics and received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a JD from Harvard Law School.

Jan Katzoff, Executive Producer

Jan Katzoff has been an industry leader in the field of global sports and entertainment marketing and creative. As the Founder and CEO of San Francisco based SportsMark Management Group, he built a global management footprint and relationships with many fortune 100 brands and sports and entertainment properties including the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, CBS Television Network, LA Live and others. SportsMark went on to be acquired by Omnicom (NYSE:OMC) the 2nd largest marketing communications, advertising and public relations holding company in the world. For the past 4 years he managed the combined agency of SportsMark and GMR Marketing overseeing their global sports and entertainment consulting division based in San Francisco.

In addition to overseeing sponsorship management, strategy and activation for many prestigious global events, Jan has also transitioned much of his time and passion to documentary film making. Prior to joining the Glass Ceiling Team, Jan spent the past 3 years, as Associate Producer of the award winning film Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story and worked as a technical advisor on The Ice Bowl with Director Michael Meredith about the 1967 NFL Championship Game at Lambeau Field. Charged has been successfully distributed on Amazon, Hulu and iTunes while The Ice Bowl began airing on NFL Network in December 2017.

He has also produced several signature moments in Sports and Entertainment including Muhammad Ali’s 70th Birthday celebration for Athletes for Hope, The 100 Golden Olympians for The United States Olympic Committee and NBC and developed the music and entertainment strategy around many of the CBS Television Network’s high profile events. His consulting and project management assignments have afforded the opportunity to work in over 50 countries and under extremely complex environments including Russia, China and Brazil. He has also served as a long time member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, has done guest lecture series and teaching at Arizona State University and has served as an event advisor to the Make a Wish Foundation.

Jan and his wife Lynn, an accomplished photographer, are avid outdoors people. Between the two of them, they cover fly fishing, skiing, photography, golf and camping trips as often as schedules allow. Jan and Lynn split their time between the Bay Area and their mountain home in Whitefish, Montana.

Michael Zelman, Executive Producer

Michael Zelman is a physician living in New York City. After graduating from The American University in Washington D.C. he moved to Italy to study medicine.

Michael received his Doctor of Medicine and Surgery degree from the University of Rome in 1981 and returned to the United States to do two medical specialty residencies in Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology. Michael then practiced at Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital and Lenox Hill Hospital as a partner in Lenox Hill Anesthesiology LLC.

Over a 30-year career he held positions as Medical Director of the Operating Room and Chaired several hospital committees such as Quality Assurance Quality Improvement and the Ethics Committee.

With his wife, Jo Ann Ross, they are active in raising charitable donations for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Michael retired from his medical practice in the Spring of 2018 and has now joined The Glass Ceiling film team.

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.

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.

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.

Adam Keker, Story Editor

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.

John Dilley, Story Editor

John Dilley is an editor, story editor and writer based in San Francisco. Films he’s cut or written for have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Slamdance, on PBS, at the Cinémathèque Française, and at many other venues throughout the US and Europe. In 2014, he was selected by the IFP as an Emerging Storyteller as part of Independent Film Week in Lincoln Center.

RogueMark Studios, Animation

RogueMark Studios is an illustrated video and animation studio located in Berkeley, CA. Our team of talented illustrators, writers, animators, graphic recorders and storytellers collaborate with filmmakers, academics, and companies of all shapes and sizes to bring their stories to life with powerful visuals. The Glass Ceiling animation team is made up of:
  • Eliza Reisfeld, Lead Artist
  • Marisa Rafter, Animator
  • Abby VanMuijen, Producer

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.

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.

Kate B. Littleboy, Consulting Writer
Kate B. Littleboy is a Bay Area based online learning designer, writer and consultant for corporate clients, documentary film projects, creative artists and community organizations. As a consulting designer, she was hired by Warriors at Ease to conduct interviews, co- write and design an online course to certify yoga teachers working with US veterans who are survivors of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Her documentary treatments include the Emmy award winning “ New Environmentalists” for the Mill Valley Film Group. Narrated by Robert Redford, these short films highlight the achievements of passionate environmentalists awarded the Goldman Environmental prize for activism. She has written grant proposals for many documentaries including “The Sari Soldiers” about Nepali women caught in the conflict of Nepal’s civil war,  “Dreaming of Tibet”, a story of the spiritual resilience of Tibetan exiles and, “Troubled Water”, a film about a community’s fight for clean water in El Salvador. Earlier work includes scripting and directing “Aides Education for At Risk Youth” for Oakland Children’s Hospital.