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Thankful

Good evening and thanks for stopping by!

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that my financial situation almost kept me from accepting my spot at NYU Tisch last spring. But what I haven’t told you is that my financial situation almost kept me from entering my second year at Tisch.

The Truth

I had to use all my savings and resources on just making it through my first year of film school. My family, friends and even anonymous donors put a lot of work into making my dream of film school become a reality, and I did end up having enough money to make it through the year, for which I’m incredibly grateful.

As you now, my semester was filled with lots of stressful events that kept me busy, and the truth is that throughout the entire year I had no idea if I’d even be able to afford a second year at Tisch.

I chose not to worry about it, because I wanted to believe God would provide, somehow.

The Bread and the Bananas

My close friends started to notice this “economical scarcity” on my eating habits, while others probably thought I was “just on a special diet consisting of bread, bananas, yoghurt and peanut butter.” I’m not a big fan of either of those foods (certainly not after this year…), but I found that it was cheap enough for my budget and it gave me what I needed to keep going.

However, I received the most wonderful email a few weeks ago. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, chances are you already know, but I’ll tell you again.

I got to know I’ve been accepted as a NORAM Scholar and was selected as a recipient for a scholarship that will help me close the financial gap between what I get in funds from Norway and my Tisch Scholarship.

As a result, I’ll be able to attend NYU Tisch for another year!

It’ll still be tight, and I’ll probably have to sustain myself on a few more of those banana sandwiches in this upcoming year, but receiving this scholarship lifts a huge burden off my shoulders. Combined with my reporting job this summer, I might even be able to afford some actual meals.

God is so good, and he does, indeed, provide.

Here are some pictures from the award ceremony at the Nobel Institute in Oslo:


Three Lavelles. My sister had to work, and couldn’t make it to the ceremony. But the three of us had a great time.

 

Have a blessed evening,
Maria

 

Psalm 23.

Thank You

I left you hanging a little longer than I would have wanted after my previous post, but so many small details had to be put into place before I could share the big news. Now, however, it’s time!

I apologize to the few individuals who already know about this but started expecting some other big news after reading my last entry. If I already told you it means you’re a part of my inner circle, so try to see that as something nice.

If you’ve read the blog regularly, you probably know that the three letters N-Y-U have been the source of a lot of excitement—and despair—for me over the past few months. You may remember my post, “So very bittersweet,” about how I got accepted to the graduate film program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and about how I was $30,000 short and couldn’t go. I was heartbroken, but I told God that I wanted to walk on His path, with or without NYU. I let it go, right there in that moment and chose to trust His ways, while I started looking at other—and more affordable—ways to fullfill my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

But then, some things happened behind the scenes, and I wrote the follow-up, “Mysterious Ways,” where I shared that I was suddenly just $15,000 short. Changes in the budget and several donations from family, friends and strangers made the whole thing seem a little less impossible — but still not quite within reach.

In the weeks that followed, I was asked to do a number of interviews with the media, and I told all the reporters that “Yes, I’m going to NYU, and I look forward to starting my studies there in the fall.” When I didn’t say anything on the blog, some of you probably thought “oh, she must have found a way to pay for it then.”

At that point I had only told a few people about my secret because I wanted to wait for all the paperwork to to be completed. But now I can finally write the words:

Thanks to God’s amazing grace, my family’s support and the tremendous generosity of Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman, I now have the money I need to attend the first year at NYU!

I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m still blown away, and I realize that this sounds like one of those stories you only see in the movies: “Foreign girl without financial resources gets accepted to prestigious university, and a Hollywood-couple—whom she has never met—watches her zero-budget documentary and decides to give her the help she needs to fulfill her dream.”

This is the short version of the story, but the truth is that most of this happened without me knowing. My family did what they could to help me on my way, but when they couldn’t go any further and had to let it go, some people picked up that near-doused torch before the relay eventually ended up in Los Angeles where Mary and Burt ran the final leg of the race.

God surely works in mysterious ways.

I did not see this coming, and words cannot express how grateful I am. I laid down all my plans of going to NYU that day when I wrote the first post about it, but there was a way there all along. I just couldn’t see it on my own, and I needed help to run the distance. I don’t know how I’ll finance my 2nd and 3rd year in New York, but I believe there’s a way for that too.

I want to thank my family for doing everything in their power to help me make this happen, as well as my friends and the Augustana community for their support and encouraging words.

I want to use my talents to honor God, and I will do my absolute best to make sure these resources are well-spent.

Love,
Maria

Mysterious Ways

Good afternoon!

I just wanted to check in to share the most recent news, because things have changed quite a bit since my last post “So very bittersweet.

But first I want to thank you for your amazing support, encouragement, compassion, initiative and love. To see that so many people care about me and my education is just incredibly touching, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who truly want to see me succeed.

The past few days have shown me what the “Augie Advantage” really means. It’s not just that the faculty, administration and my classmates express their vocal encouragement, it’s that they go out of their way to find solutions. I haven’t received a single “Oh, that’s too bad you can’t afford it.” No, they’ve all approached me with “This has to work out. We’ll find a way!”

One of my favorite quotes came from Dr. Blank-Libra: “There is money. And the money must and will be found.”

 

So, some things have been happening behind the scenes, and I’ve decided to accept the offer and go to NYU!

 

I’m still about $15,000 short, and only God knows how I’ll get it, but I’m going.

Yes, I did receive some generous donations, for which I’m beyond grateful for and will tell you more about later, but the biggest change came from a sudden discovery that made it possible to rearrangement the budget. I can’t use the budget the school gave me, so I’ll probably have to live in a closet-sized room somewhere in Brooklyn and eat a little less, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Now I just have to come up with $15,000, somehow.

Augustana. Photo: Maria Lavelle

 

For me, the decision to attend NYU is not about the prestige of going to one of the best film schools in the world. It’s about learning from the best and strengthening the voice I need to tell the important stories.

 

Thanks again for your support!

Bless you all,
Maria

Photo: Mike Shafer

So very bittersweet

Hello all,

I have some news to share. As some of you already know, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in New York City these past few months, but I’ve been very careful with sharing what exactly I’ve been up to. Now however, I can finally tell you that I’ve gone through a long and complicated application- and interview process at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

I was first introduced to the NYU program at a Cinema Falls event in 2015, when the Oscar-winning filmmaker and Chair of the film department, Barbara Schock, was in Sioux Falls.

NYU has been in the back of my head ever since.

Their graduate film (Masters Degree) program is consistently ranked top 3 in the WORLD, which also makes it one of the most competitive film programs out there. When I first heard that they receive about 3000 applications, and only accept 38, I was, strangely enough, even more intrigued, and I gave it a shot.

So, last fall I wrote a personal statement, a mini script, a concept, a short story and sent in my film work, just “because it was worth a try.” Then, in February, I was invited to an interview with the faculty before a long wait followed, and —

— I GOT IN!

To say that Barbara’s phone call “schocked” me, would be an understatement. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, and I couldn’t believe I got to be one of those 38 individuals who would get to learn the craft of filmmaking at one of the best film schools in the world. I could suddenly see this golden path shining right in front of me, and becoming a filmmaker seemed easier than ever before.

Photo: Mike Shafer

 

But, there’s always a but.

Even though I got their maximum scholarship, I can’t afford to go.

If I include the financial aid and loans I get from Norway, I’ll have most of the tuition covered, but I’m still $30.000 short each of the three years because living expenses are crazy on Manhattan.

I honestly don’t know what to feel right now. I’m proud to have gotten in, but I’m also heartbroken to see this slip right through my fingers when I was so close.

But I try to tell myself that just getting in is an accomplishment in itself, and I give God, my family, Augustana, my professors Dr. Jeffrey Miller and Dr. Janet Blank-Libra, my friend Sarah Kocher and Julie Anderson Friesen at Cinema Falls credit for helping me get there. This would not have been possible without their help and support, and the journey has been fantastic.


I choose to trust God’s plan, and I’ve told him all along that I want to walk on His path, with or without NYU. I want to tell stories, and I want to honor Him with my work. Now I just have to find another   the   way to do it.

If I was put on this earth to be a filmmaker, I’ll be a filmmaker.

Photo: Mike Shafer

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

 

Now let’s see what He has in store.

Bless you all,
Maria

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