Filmmakers The Glass Ceiling
- Nancy Svendsen, Executive Producer and Director
- Alison Levine, Executive Producer
- Richard Levien, Editor
- Tsering Rhitar Sherpa, Nepal Production
- Adam Keker, Story Consultant
- John Dilley, Story Editor
- Vincanne Adams, Ph.D., Anthropology Consultant
- RogueMark Studios, Animation
- Ang Dorjee Sherpa, Principal Sherpa Advisor
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 twin 8 year olds.
- 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.
Richard Levien has a PhD in theoretical physics from Princeton University, but has found his real passion in film. As a freelance film editor, he co-edited the feature documentary “D Tour”, which won the Golden Gate award for Best Bay Area documentary at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival, and appeared on the PBS series Independent Lens in Fall 2009. He edited the short film “Remigration” (directed by Barry Jenkins, “Medicine for Melancholy”) which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and appeared in the ITVS web series “Future States” in 2011, and did motion graphics for the short film “On the Assassination of the President” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He also edited the cult internet hit “Store Wars”, which was seen by 5.5 million people in the first 6 weeks of its release.
Levien’s first film as a director is “Immersion” (2009), a short film about a ten-year-old immigrant from Mexico who speaks no English, and struggles to fit in at his new school in the U.S. “Immersion” debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2009. It has also played or will play at the San Francisco International, Seattle International, Sarasota, Palm Springs Shortfest, Mill Valley, Chicago International Children’s and Media that Matters Film Festivals. It won the “No Violence” award at the Ann Arbor film festival, and the Golden Gate award for Best Bay Area short film at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
At the same festival, Levien won the $35,000 San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, the first in a cycle of grants that will infuse $3 million dollars into narrative feature filmmaking in the Bay Area in the next five years. Levien won for screenwriting and script development of “La Migra”, the story of an 11-year-old girl whose mother has been taken away by U.S. immigration police. He is working with author Malín Alegria on this project.
Levien was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1968. He enjoys a good cup of tea and follows the (mostly ill) fate of the New Zealand cricket team. He is one of the few New Zealanders who played no part whatsoever in the making of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
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.
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.
Marisa Rafter, Animator
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, 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.