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What a journey

Oh Lord, do we have some catching up to do!

I didn’t mean to disappear from the blogosphere for this long, and I honestly don’t know how I can summarize these past few months in a single post — it’s been an adventure unlike any other.

Last time you heard from me was when I ran the home stretch of the fundraising campaign for my film “Holy Jail” (which, thanks to God’s grace and people’s generosity and their hard work is now in post-production with a premiere-date set for May 2019)! 

A lot of things have happened, and I’ve learned that living out of a suitcase for three months really isn’t that bad; not when you get to direct your biggest project yet, produce four films on three continents, meet new people, catch up with old ones, share a vision with devoted crew-members, receive an award from your hometown, learn how to do a backflip and spend lots of quality time with family and friends. 

I’ll tell you all about the film, the challenges and victories of the production and the lessons and revelations of the experience in another post.

But here’s just a quick ‘hello’ proving that I’m still alive and forever grateful for your support.

In the meantime, this is some of what I’ve been up to — in the form of photographic documentation.

***If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram this probably feels like a redundant post to you, so I won’t judge you if you stop reading. But feel free to continue 🙂 ***

In October, welcomed the talented and exceptionally hardworking cinematographer, Jall Cowasji, to Haugesund, Norway to begin prepping for the shoot of “Holy Jail”
Photo: Nikolas Hofmann.

Early morning-shoot outside the jail in Haugesund.
Photo: Zille Marie Bårdsen / Appex.

Here’s a behind the scenes video from the set, brought to you by TVH. English subtitles available if you hit one of the buttons down to the right, on the video itself.

 
Some more behind-the-scenes:
With Assistant Director, Karl M. Karlsen.
Photo: William Lyngholm.

2nd Assistant Director Aleksander N. Samsonsen, Sound Mixer Thor Vidar Hjelmervik, Production Assistant Cecilie Udstuen and Boom Operator Mustafa Battal.


Photo: Nora Bode.

Then, after lots fo work and long hours we finished shooting the film and climbed a playground-tower to celebrate! Holy Jail was blessed with the best cast and crew I could ever have asked for. Look at this lovely bunch!


Then I was supposed to be in Sioux Falls to guest speak at Cinema Falls’ Scandinavian Film Festival, but because of the film shoot I had to make a virtual appearance instead. Honored to show my film “Sisters” at the festival!

Video by Karl M. Karlsen.

Then I got the fantastic news that I had been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Culture Scholarship from my hometown. This lifted off a financial burden for the funding of Holy Jail, and I’m so grateful for the honor and support. But since I had already left for Florida to produce a film there, my dad stepped in and accepted the award on my behalf.


Photo: Grethe Nygaard.

Here’s a radio interview where I talk about the award, the film and my life in New York.
Thanks to host Egil Houeland at Radio 102 for making live radio interviews fun.

English subtitles are available if you hit one of the buttons down to the right, on the video itself.


I’ll write another post about my time in Florida, but all I can say is that I had a magical time there, helping my dear friend and director, Kai Torres, bring her vision to life with her movie “Pancakes.”

I also produced a Lebanese film directed by another dear friend, Nay Tabbara, that deserves a wonderful mention of its own later. 

But now that I’m back in New York, attending classes and editing “Holy Jail” I just want to tell you one more thing. (you may consider this a reward to those of you who actually read this long-ass post. Thank you).

Holy Jail the Movie has its own website!
Posters, screen shots and behind-the scenes material can be found right here:

www.holyjailmovie.com

Stay tuned for updates regarding premiere dates, screenings and more.



Huge thanks to everyone who made these past months possible. You know who you are.

Blessings,
Maria

Home Stretch

When I decided to produce a prison-film in Norway — from New York — I did not take into account all the phone calls and Skype meetings I would have to do, before 6 in the morning!

By the time most people wake up in New York, I’ve already worked half a day in Norway, before I take on a full day of work in New York. You see, that’s the only way to fight the time zone difference and extremely limited business hours many companies operate with in Norway.

The funny thing is that I genuinely enjoy it, but the best part of it is that this five-month prep is almost done, and that I in three weeks I can yell “ACTION!”


Throwback to last year, when a filmproduction was 6 people, a camera and an actor. This time we can multiply that number of people by 8.

In november, a crew from the US, India, Iceland and Germany, a cast from New York, Haugesund and Oslo, and I will collaborate on the making of Holy Jail — a short film written and produced by me. Woop Woop!

The amount of dollars, hours and ambition put into this film goes beyond anything I’ve ever done before, and I’m so excited,

The film is about an elderly man who gets the option of either paying his speeding ticket, or going to jail for five days. He picks jail and falls in love with life behind bars.

But in order to pull this off in the best possible way, I need your help.

Through the support of several investors, sponsors, companies and film enthusiasts, we have fundraised most of the money we need, but we still need a push to finish this last home stretch.

We’re “only” $5,550 short of our goal, which sounds like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re technically almost there. That’s why we created a campaign to close this final gap in our budget.

I need all the help I can get from you lovely people. Donations of a certain amount are rewarded with a producing credit and VIP-access to all the film festivals the film screens at.

If you want more information on how to support the making of my film, please check out THIS PAGE.

And if you want a detailed overview of the production and budget, please contact me by clicking “Contact” in the menu above.

Let’s run the last lap of this race together 🙂

 

Blessings,
Maria

This is Tisch

Good evening, dear readers.

In less than a month I’ll head to Norway to direct my first short film on European soil. As you may already know, I did a number of documentaries in both Norway and South Dakota when I lived there, but this will be my first time exploring the actual Scandinavian film industry from a narrative filmmaker’s perspective.


With my former crewmate and dear friend, Jorge Sistos. Photo: Sharon Lee.

While we wait for our productions to take shape, we’ve spent some quality time with the Arri Alexa camera. Yes, that’s a crane sticking out of my back, and yes that’s a string holding the camera — it’s a heavy chunk of metal. Thankfully this so-called “easy-rig”-backpack will compensate for the hours we should’ve spent at the gym.


Photo: Sharon Lee.

I’ll shoot my film inside a prison, and there will be a car-speeding scene; which means I have a lot of pre-production work to do between now and November. I’ll also be producing two other short films — one in Florida and one in Lebanon — so I’m certainly not lacking things to put on my calendar.

Good thing I’m one of the weird few who likes that kind of stuff. I don’t see how else I would be able to do the no-days off, 16 hours a day-routine.

Seeing all the pieces come together gives me a rush, and in the midst of these long days I’m repeatedly reminded why I do this — I love it!

And judging by the pictures, I don’t think I’m the only one.


This is what happened during a four-hour tech class with no chairs #Squats4life

2018                                                                                      2017
    
According to these pictures, the camera has definitely upped its game. Now let’s hope the filmmaker has too.

Have a blessed evening,
Maria

 

Psalm 23.

Stories at Every Corner

Hey hey!

It’s been a long time since you heard anything from me, and the only excuse I have is the fact that school started again. I still haven’t had a day off since I got back to the city a month ago, and I’ve been working 12-16 hours most days — weekends and all.

I guess that’s what you get for prepping for a film with a large production that you’ll shoot at a different continent (my hometown in Norway!). I somehow volunteered to go in the first slot, aka early november, so I better wrap up this post and get back to work RIGHT NOW, haha.

Anyway, I’m loving it, so don’t you worry — I want to spend my time like this.

I’ll give you a more in-depth post later.

In the meantime, I’ll share a strange encounter I had the other day.

If you read my previous post, you already know that New York is the place for strange encounters, but this one is different.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Over the Bridge” lately; the documentary about homelessness that Sarah Kocher and I made two years ago. I’m still blown away by the impact it had, and maybe it was those exact thoughts that got me into the situation I’ll describe below.

So this is what happened:

This particular morning I had left home earlier than normal, and when a homeless woman suddenly grabbed my arm as I passed her, there was something about her that made me want to walk an extra mile for her (or in this case — an extra two blocks). To me it was such a small thing, and it would only have taken me a few minutes, but then this happened:

I made this short video as a part of a homework assignment, but every line coming out of the actors’ mouths are from the actual encounter.

And let’s give it up for these two amazing ladies who totally rocked their roles!

 

In New York there’s a story at every street corner.

Blessings,
Maria


With actors Rachel Zeppa and Mindy Matijasevic. Photo: A random guy.

 

Blessings,
Maria

The Small City

Disclaimer: If it wasn’t for the fact that I had two classmates with me when this happened, I probably would’ve chosen not to tell you about it; it simply sounds too weird and unlikely.


Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve explored the city feeling comfortably invisible.

Walking down any street or avenue on Manhattan has had the same therapeutic effect on me as walking in the woods of Norway; I’m able dive into deep thoughts knowing that I won’t be interrupted by anyone I know. I can do whatever, be whoever and behave however.

One time I overestimated that luxury and wore my pyjamas to get pizza, and it did — to my big surprise — NOT go by unnoticed (READ MORE HERE), but other than that I’ve felt pretty anonymous.

A Norwegian Airport

In my hometown in Norway and on the Augustana Campus it’s a different story. There, I have extensive networks of friends and acquaintances, and I always meet somebody I know. It’s also  not uncommon for people to walk over and say that they saw me on local TV or something.

That actually happened at the airport in Haugesund a couple weeks ago. My carry-on bag needed an extra scan and, and after the TSA officer had searched through my entire bag — tampons and all — he looked at me and realized that he recognized me. He introduced himself and we ended up having a nice conversation about filmmaking.

Anyway, in the metropolis of New York, those things never happen. Right?
Not to a Norwegian grad student, anyway.

Well, this is where the weird part of the story begins.

Manhattan

I was in a park on Manhattan with my two classmates, Kaili and Nay, when a guy passed us and said a loud “hello.” I instinctively looked at him and immediately regretted it because I assumed he wanted something from us.

(I’ve also told you before that guys never hit on me, so I quickly ruled out that option).

He looked rather surprised and said “I recognize you from somewhere.”

I looked at him and silently concluded I’d never ever seen him before.

He then says: “I know you!” … “Is your name Maria?”

I thought maybe I had lost my student ID-card in the park, and that he was trying to be charming by “knowing my name” before he’d give it back to me. But no, my card was in my hand.

Thoughts: **Maybe he is one of those mentalists making wild guesses about your identity and expecting you to pay him if he’s right? Maria is a common name, so … **

He stares at me again and smiles.
“Lav … Maria Lavelle, right?”

At that point my eyes almost rolled out of my head. Theories of hidden cameras, and my classmates paying a stranger to freak me out suddenly seemed reasonable.

Thoughts: **I don’t want to say that he’s right, because who knows what he’s up to, but if I say no, I’ll never know what this is all about.**

He then quickly added: “You’re a film director! … And you go to NYU.”

Very cold shivers ran down my spine. When he extended his arm towards me to introduce himself, I probably looked like a social illiterate — I didn’t know how to react.

He then said something about how nice it was to meet me, and how he knew me from the internet and how he had tried messaging me.

I was so shocked that I didn’t even ask where exactly he had tried sending these messages, but I knew for sure that I did not know him.

Kaili and Nay looked as surprised as I felt, and I stuttered something about it being nice meeting him too, before the three of us headed back to school, and he walked further into the park.


I’m sure this guy is a nice person; it just made me question what I’ve actually posted online, because even as much of a compliment it was, it was still unexpected and slightly uncomfortable.

After hours of thinking, I came to the conclusion that my online hygiene is good, despite the fact that I have 3.5 years worth of blog posts floating around the interweb.

‘Tis a small world, indeed.


In the lack of a recent photo, here’s one from the archives:
October 2016 — a month before I applied to NYU.

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