: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


At 89, director and choreographer Rhoda Levine seeks to understand her legacy and finds it lives on in the careers of those she has guided.


An Uncommon Woman explores the life-work of opera, stage and television director, Rhoda Levine. 60-years behind the scenes, she has had a profound impact on the performing arts. Reflecting back on her distinguished career at age 89, Rhoda begins to understand what it means to leave a legacy.


An Uncommon Woman joins a class of recent documentaries about true breakers of the mold, some little known outside their spheres of influence. Films such as Seymour: An Introduction, a portrait of Seymour Bernstein, a classical pianist who stopped performing to teach; Bill Cunningham New York about the idiosyncratic New York Times fashion photographer; and Casting By, a biography of the unsung but powerful Hollywood casting director, Marion Dougherty. All impactive life stories that begged to be told. An engaging documentary could be made by simply having Rhoda Levine recount stories of her exceptional career directing opera, theater and television. Footage of her archived correspondence, annotated scores, libretti, performance notes, and audio/visual recordings would add context and depth. And because she worked intimately with some of the great artists of the second half of the twentieth century – from Luchino Visconti to Doris Lessing, from Beverly Sills to Edward Gorey and Philip Glass – Rhoda does not lack for riveting stories of artists at work. Or play. However, An Uncommon Woman uses such anecdotes and archival materials as springboards to grapple with the existential impulse to leave a legacy. This is brought to high relief for Rhoda who has seen many of her leonine colleagues pass on. Living alone with no descendants, she finds herself questioning the choices she has made. So, in Act One we unpack Rhoda’s charmed, secular Jewish upbringing and follow her into the prime of her creative, extraordinarily collaborative life. As her cat "Jeoffrey" acts as docent, wandering from one memento to another in her cluttered home, we watch as Rhoda revisits and reflects upon the artistic successes she has experienced during her distinguished career. In Act Two of the film, Rhoda walks, talks and dines with some of the cultural titans whom she has directed - or with whom she has collaborated. Facing their own thoughts of mortality and legacy, they share stories and reflect back on their great work together. These exuberant conversations, each a master class in creative fulfillment, nevertheless leave a whiff of melancholy behind. We return periodically to Rhoda’s home, the visible heart and mind of her life that, nevertheless, does not offer the solace of knowing what of one’s life will meaningfully survive. But, in the documentary’s Last Act, watching Rhoda at work, teaching her jazz class at the Manhattan School of Music, she revels in the joy she has seeing her young students blossom. It is in the last moments of the film when we hear a former student and accomplished mezzo-soprano call her “Rhoda the Great” that we, and Rhoda, know her legacy lies in the lasting artistic impact she has had. Manifest in the creative lives she helped build, in the careers she continues to nurture. For the last shot, the camera looks up at her window as her answering machine message plays: “Please repeat your message twice as this is a temperamental answering machine.”


David D. Williams - Writer, Director, Producer

David returns to the first love of his life: filmmaking. A graduate of Northwestern University with a B.S. in Communications, David pursued a post-graduate curriculum in Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University, having also studied French cinema in Paris through Tulane University’s Hermes School of Communications. A seasoned media executive in New York, David has created marketing and strategic campaigns for companies such as Ziff-Davis, The American Journal of Nursing (where he developed a loyalty-based catalog division), The Editor & Publisher Company and Primedia. A frequent industry speaker, he taught at the New York University Center for Publishing and has served on a number of New York City association and nonprofit boards. As President of Dylan Marketing/New York, a full-service marketing and communications agency, he created branding campaigns for a diverse client base. Accounts included Gilda’s Club of New York City; The Nation; The Jewish Museum of Boca Raton; Lighting&Sound America, among others. A dynamic and creative team leader, David focused the core competencies of the agency on re-branding and new product launches. Most recently, David served for seven years as Executive Director of the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy, the oldest parks conservancy in New York City. Now retained in a consulting role for the nonprofit, he writes a column on important Upper East Siders for OUR TOWN, a Strauss Media publication. 

David began work on An Uncommon Woman in 2015... and has not let up since!

Ann Meschery - Producer

Ann holds the Position of Director of In-Park Events with New York City’s Carl Schurz Park Conservancy. In this capacity she is responsible for producing the Summer Sounds Concert Series, Sunset Film Festival, Gracie Square Art Show and the Holiday Tree Lighting and Caroling Celebration. From 2001 till 2008 Ms. Meschery was General Manager of the American Russian Youth Orchestra (ARYO), a cross-cultural collaboration with Russia. Prior to that, her lengthy career in advertising included senior positions with Campbell Media Alliance, Bates Worldwide and McCann-Erickson, among others. Politically active throughout her life, she served on a number of New York and California campaigns, in both staff and volunteer leadership capacities, and was a member and past President of The Metropolitan Republican Club. She served two terms on Manhattan’s Community Board 8. She has participated, for 25 years, with the New York City Opera Volunteer Corps and is a past President. For ten years she served on the Board of Directors of Opera Volunteers International, an organization that provides resources and mentoring to opera company volunteers. On the OVI Board she was Director of Governmental Affairs and Strategic Planning. She holds a certificate in Arts Administration from New York University.

Lisa Gossels - Consulting Producer

 Lisa Gossels is an Emmy® Award-winning social issue documentarian whose films The Children of Chabannes and My So-Called Enemy have screened at 100 film festivals and garnered twenty awards and honors. The Children of Chabannes, which aired on HBO Signature and local PBS Stations, has been praised as “One of the most heartening Holocaust films ever made–splendid, informative and emotionally involving,” (Los Angeles Times) My So-Called Enemy, which aired on the WORLD Channel in the ITVS-curated “Global Voices” series, has been cited as “A provocative, balanced film that offers unexpected hope for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (Washington City Paper) Lisa became a documentarian because she believes in the power of film to effect social change. Beyond her documentary work, Lisa produces advocacy, promotional and educational videos for non-profits and corporations through her New York City-based company, Good Egg Productions. She consults documentarians on all aspects of filmmaking - from pre-production through distribution and outreach. Lisa has served as a Juror for the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, The Cleveland International Film Festival, The Ivy Film Festival and The Woodstock Festival – and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University.

Ramsey Fendall - Director of Photography

 An accomplished documentary and commercial director of photography, Ramsey was the director of photography on Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction (2014). Other films include Death of a Pop Star (2013); BAM 150 (2012); and Works of Art (2010).

Hiroshi Hara - Director of Photography

Hiroshi Hara is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York City whose work has been screened at film festivals around the world. He was raised in Los Angeles, where he first became engrossed by the power of images and storytelling after he was given his first mini-DV camera, and started making short films and music videos with his friends. Since then, his passion for film has blossomed into a career, prompting his move from California to New York, where he continues to write, direct and shoot today. 

Hiroshi's work experience has included narrative features, documentaries, television and commercials.  He has worked with artists such as Beyonce and Lady Gaga, as well as with National Geographic, Netflix, A&E, Bravo networks, MTV, NBC, ABC, W Magazine, Condé Nast, Thomson Reuters, the American Red Cross, Pepsi Shorts, Doritos, Bombay Sapphire, Ray-Ban and more.  He is currently involved in several feature film projects.

Barbaros Kaynak - Sound Director

Barbaros "Baros" Ali Kaynak was born on April 16, 1984 in Istanbul. At an early age, he studied music and composition. He has a Bachelor's degree in sound engineering from YTU in Istanbul. He has produced, recorded, mixed and mastered several music albums, EPs and singles. Since 2013, He has been working in films as a sound mixer, dialogue editor, sound designer and re-recording mixer In New York and Tri-State Area. He is known for "Where The Fire Burns", "Split", "Dobara Phir Se", "Major Arcana".  

Marc Smolowitz - Consulting Producer

Marc Smolowitz is a multi-award-winning independent filmmaker based in San Francisco. With three decades of experience in the film and media business, Smolowitz is a director, producer, and executive producer who has been significantly involved in 50+ successful independent films wearing many hats across the entertainment industry. The combined footprint of his works has touched 250+ film festivals and markets on 5 continents, yielding substantial worldwide sales to theatrical, television, and VOD outlets, notable box office receipts, and numerous awards and nominations. His long list of credits includes films that have screened at top-tier festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Tribeca, Chicago, Palm Springs, SF FILM, AFI Docs, IDFA, DOC NYC, CPH: DOX, Tokyo, Melbourne, Viennale, Krakow, Jerusalem, among others. His film company -- 13th Gen -- works with a dynamic range of independent film partners globally to oversee the financing, production, post-production, marketing, sales, and distribution efforts of a vibrant portfolio of films and filmmakers. Founded in 2009, the company is known widely for being active on some 10-15 concurrent projects, both independent and inside Hollywood, and it has successfully advanced Smolowitz's career-long focus on powerful social issue films and filmmaking across all genres. In 2016, he received one of the prestigious Gotham Fellowships to attend the Cannes Film Festival’s Producers Network and Marche du Film marking him as one of the USA’s most influential independent film producers. | Learn more about Marc's work here: | Marc's IMDB page:

Christina Kelly - Consulting Editor

Christina Kelly is a Brooklyn based filmmaker and visual artist. She was the film editor on Casper Andres’s feature films Between Love and Goodbye and A Four Letter Word, and assistant editor on Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart and Chop Shop. She has edited short documentaries for PBS, the UCLA Tune-In Festival, The Story Exchange and worked as a post-supervisor for In the Life Media. Her films and mixed-media works have been screened at the New Festival, Brooklyn International Film Festival, Animation Block Party, Outfest, Paris Short Film Festival, and the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. 


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UPDATE - April 06, 2022

As the project moves through the many stages of its post-production, we added two newl crewmembers:  San Francisco-based Marc Smolowitz, Consulting Producer; and Brooklyn-based Consulting Editor, Christina Kelly. Christina's two month assignment, compoleted in April, 2022, was to screen and organize the many hours of footage and, upon the completion of that review, create a 20 minute "work in progress" reel that will serve as an introduction to the film for those who are new to the project. This key asset, along with a bunch of ancillary materials, will arm our team as we race to complete the final film in 2022/23.

UPDATE - December 15, 2020

Early this year, we called it a wrap: filming was completed! A fortuitous development during a difficult, tragic year when, in the world of film, shooting was all but shut down. As we began our post production fundraising, we tackled a number of exciting challenges: we renamed the film, now AN UNCOMMON WOMAN; we built a new website; we produced a second trailer; and we worked with filmmaker Jilann Spitzmiller to build a strategic plan to premier the film on Rhoda's 90th birthday, June 15, 2022. 

UPDATE - January 10, 2020

Donor generosity will enable us to retain an archivist and researcher for the film. Key priorities include assessing the contents of Rhoda's 26 linear feet (72 boxes) of scores, drawings, photos, reviews, correspondence and notes housed at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts. These materails will flesh out the career and life story of our subject. Additionally, we will review the files she gave to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum concerning her direction of the world premiere of DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS, written in the Theresienstadt ghetto and concentration camp.

UPDATE - October 23, 2019

On June 1, 2019, we did a bit more filming. This time, we shot footage of Rhoda's 87th birthday celebration in the home of the director. Twenty or so family and friends gathered 'round to sing the Dutch birthday song, LANG ZAL SE LEVEN IN DE GLORIA ("Long shall she live in glory!") nosh and drink and reminisce and drink and view the film of the premier of Julian Grant's THREE LADIES BESIDE THE SEA, taken from Rhoda's children's book of the same name. And drink. The film of can be viewed on YOUTUBE: THREE LADIES BESIDE THE SEA by Julian Grant

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