Phew! It’s been a while since I last stopped by to give you an update, and leaving you all hanging on the “Rough Patch” I mentioned last time wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but if you read my post “You know you’re a grad film student when …” I hope you can forgive my … rather sporadic … blogging.
I won’t bore you with my daily routines, but the truth is that there simply is no time off as a grad student at Tisch. Honestly.
Every day starts early and ends late (it’s not uncommon for me to be at school for 14 hours or longer ever day). Add the commute and normal life things such as sleeping and eating and there’s just no time left.
“But you have the weekends, though, right?”
Well, the weekends are spent shooting our directing exercises; which often takes up all Saturday and all Sunday. Read more about our weekend adventures HERE. It’s worth your time, I promise 🙂
But you know what?
I love it! There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, and nothing else I’d rather do.
Here’s a little snippet from my Snapchat. It’s a random collection of short clips from everyday life at NYU:
Right now we’re about to wrap up pre-production of our first project; a black & white, MOS film, with no music or dialogue, shot on Super 16mm film. It sounds like the easiest thing to do, but when you’ve been robbed of all the crutches that would otherwise help carry a film, it becomes a fun challenge.
It’s also a true privilege to shoot on actual film!
Last weekend’s directing exercise was supposed to be fun as well, but I think our crew can agree that getting sprayed off a sidewalk with a water-hose could’ve been more fun.
Long story short:
We had set up everything for our scene on a PUBLIC sidewalk in Midtown. However, some people with troubled egos decided that the public sidewalk wasn’t public enough for us to shoot on, so we got into an argument that ended with two men calling the janitor in their building who then started “cleaning” the sidewalk with a water hose where we were shooting.
The picture below was shot before he realized his methods weren’t effective enough. He loosened the hose from the socket to create a sprinkler-effect that sprayed all over shortly after. For the record, we weren’t even shooting in front of their building; we shot in front of a shut-down café next to their building.
Since we also happened to have $xx.000 worth of equipment in our hands at the moment he started spraying, we had to leave — or defend our case in court, I guess.
I wish we were shooting a journalistic documentary, because then we could’ve slammed the First Amendment in their faces, but oh well. Pick your battles.
I personally think we handled it pretty darn well. Go Crew 7!!!
Talk to you soon!
You know you’re a grad film student when …
1. You consider your 13-hour days to be your short days.
2. “I can’t decide if I should go get coffee or use the restroom” is a completely normal dilemma in-between lectures, because there’s simply not enough time for both.
3. You buy new underwear on a weekly basis because doing laundry is an activity that only exists on the to-do list you never get to.
4. It’s 82°f (28°c) and humid in the city, but you’re wearing long pants because you haven’t had time to shave your legs.
5. Every morning starts with the same optimistic thought: “Today is the day. Yes, today I WILL go grocery shopping.” Then, 15 hours later, you find yourself on the subway, debating whether you should even bother stepping off at your stop, or just ride between the two end-stations until you’ll head back to school in a few hours.
6. “Hmm … I wonder if I could get away with sleeping in the editing lab, and save the money (read: fortune) I spent on rent.”
7. “How many granola bars is it acceptable to eat in a day? Asking for a friend.”
8. Dinner typically happens at Semsom or Fresh & Co, because you rarely have time to go more than half a block away from school to satisfy your nutritional needs.
9. Any normal conversation starts with “Have you shot your directing exercise yet?”
10. You know in your heart that even if your schedule is too busy for a normal lifestyle, there’s nowhere else you’d rather want to be.
First time filming on Manhattan
After a week of several 12-hour days at school and a full day of shooting yesterday, I’m now enjoying a much-needed “me-day.” That probably means laundry, grocery shopping and another attempt at cooking, but all I really ask is a day with sweatpants and some relaxation, so it’ll have to do. (Oh, I’ll tell you more about why my cooking efforts are still classified as nothing more than “attempts” in another post).
Anyway, it’s been an amazing week. On Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Gary Ross (the director of The Hunger Games, Ocean’s Eight, BIG, Pleasantville, Free State of Jones etc). I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn some tricks from a successful contemporary filmmaker like him, so it was another evening well spent at Tisch.
The rest of the week has been filled with lectures, techs and shooting on our own. We’re assigned directing exercises before every weekend, so I’ve spent the past two Saturdays accompanied by a camera and actors. Or in this first case; by a camera and two of my awesome roommates, Aaron and Melissa. We shot it at our own rooftop, because, heh, I didn’t yet know that rooftops were off-limits for the exercise. Woops, it won’t happen again.
The sunset and the view of Empire State made the moment pretty magical, nevertheless.
Yesterday, my classmate, Kai, and I set out for what turned into a full day of shooting in the streets of New York.
In 28° C (82°F) and air so thick of humidity you could touch it and sculpt it into little moisty airballs, we carried all the equipment by hand, twisted and turned on screws and bolts until our fingers were sore. The precious and crazy-expensive camera kicked our maternal instincts into overdrive, and for the majority of the day, everything revolved around the safety of the Sony FS100.
Our own needs, such as food, were met only by the prop-food we had to eat in each others’ scenes. (A pretzel so hard Kai almost sacrificed her teeth for my scene, and a hamburger I had to stuff in my face on camera and ended up spitting out over a railing in Central Park). But I haven’t had this much fun in a long time!
After realizing that the whole day had gone by and we still hadn’t eaten anything besides the props, we went to a restaurant on the Upper West side. After we finished our main entrées, we ordered “one cheese cake, and one chocolate mousse, please.” The waiter widened his eyes and warned us with the following sentence: “Eh, are you sure? They’re pretty big.”
We didn’t listen, and as you can see in the video below … he wasn’t joking. It was totally worth it though.
This is what happens when to former student-athletes get a sugar rush from oversized desserts:
My sunglasses fell into a puddle of urine right after this, by the way. Oh, New York, New York.
This is what I learned:
– You automatically become a tourist-attraction as soon as you stand next to a big camera. I don’t know how many pictures were taken of us during the shoot.
– People don’t seem to mind having a camera within their field of vision if you tell them that you’re from NYU. Actually, you can do almost anything if you tell people you’re from NYU.
– There’s an actor on every street corner in the city. “Hey, let me know if you need an actor for a project” is a common phrase wherever you go.
– When you meet other camera crews out on the street (yes, there are quite a few), a normal conversation often starts with “What are you shooting on?”
– It’s relatively normal for people to ask “Which channel will this show be on?” or “What movie is this?”
– When you’re stuffing a burger into your face on camera, it gets kind of awkward when someone stops and sticks their head into the shot saying “I don’t know what you’re eating, but it sure looks delicious.”
I’ll try to keep the posts coming a little more frequently, I just have to figure out how to make time for it. In the meantime, please follow me on snapchat. username: Maria Lavelle
Bless you all,
Second week of film school
Some of you have requested an update, and I apologize for the delay. We finally have internet in the apartment, and I’m ready to share some of what I’ve been up to since last time.
In addition to the chaos of moving into my new “home,” I’ve spent a total of 17 hours at IKEA, caught a cold, completed my first week of classes at NYU and walked up and down so many stairs carrying furniture that my quads have regained some of the definition from my weightlifting days.
Did anyone say fourth floor with no elevator?
The apartment currently looks like a construction site, but it’ll hopefully be ready for the blog by next week.
In the meantime, let’s talk about NYU! Or Tisch, as it is referred to by the insiders; the graduate film program that I’m so incredibly thankful to be a part of.
Sometimes I have to take a moment to just breathe, feel, taste and smell it; the fact that I’m here, in New York City, at one of the world’s best film schools. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I wrote the post about how I was going to turn down the offer due to financial issues. But God is truly good.
We’re 36 students in the class, and through these first couple of weeks we’ve gone through long sessions of orientation, camera techs, lectures, editing techs and meetings together. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by all these amazing individuals and I can’t wait to get to know them even more.
We’ve also started producing our very first short films; four-minute, black and white narrative shorts with no dialogue or music, shot outdoors with only available light — on actual film. I do not expect it to be easy, but I see it as a great way to strip away bad habits and explore what true visual storytelling is.
We’ll start shooting next month, but we just checked out our equipment, so it’s getting real.
“Ehm, how does this work?”
“Ah, there we go!”
It’s so great! But also very different from everything I’ve done in the past, and I realize that I have to adjust my work strategies a little.
At Augustana I had a reputation of always doing things way faster than most people ever found necessary — for better or for worse. I always tried to do as much as humanly possible before lunch, finish all my homework by 7 PM, submit assignments days or even weeks before they were due, keep the weekends free from homework and waste as little time as possible.
Why? Because I had to get my obligations out-of-the-way so that I could do the things I wanted to do — filmmaking. If I finished all my homework before dinner, I’d have the whole evening to shoot and edit film, and if I kept the weekends free I would have time to get somewhere with my projects outside school. Hence the constant sprinting to class, as opposed to — the normal and more socially respectable motion — walking. My papers may or may not have suffered from a few extra typos, and I may or may not have looked like a dork in a constant hurry.
But here at Tisch I’ll basically be making films all day, so there’s no need to rush or “get done with the obligations to make film.” It feels so strange, and as a result I don’t yet know how to pace or schedule my days, haha. Well, it’s only been a week of actual classes, but after looking at the syllabi I realize that I’ll have to find a new workflow.
I’ll keep you updated! And thank you for stopping by.
Eveybody’s grown up, and then there’s me.
Seeing how many of my former classmates are all “grown up” with boyfriends, fiancés, husbands, kids, houses, cars and down-paid student loans have made me think thoughts that felt distant when I was at Augustana, but suddenly very close now that I’m here in Norway.
I’ve felt a combination of relief and gratitude for the freedom of not having to “grow up” yet; of not having to worry about buying a station wagon, finding a job, planning family vacations or weddings, arguing about how to raise the kids, and about making secure, logical and reasonable life choices.
But in between that relief and gratitude, there’s doubt. Logical doubt. Tempting shortcuts rooted inside comfort-zones. So many easier options, secure options, reasonable options.
“Am I making the right decisions with my life? Is my dream worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? Am I the only one in the world not wanting to settle? Should I settle?”
You see, Norway is a paradise for secure, logical and reasonable life choices. I’m surrounded by people who’ve done it all the “right way.” You know, the way banks, parents, teachers, coaches and neighbors have advised you to do things from the day you were born.
The Utopia for comfortable and predictable lifestyles is right here in Norway — everywhere I turn I see logic screaming for attention.
Still, I choose not to listen.
Please don’t get me wrong; my heart bubbles of joy when I see people who found their way, their job and their loved one. I’m thrilled to see that their relationships are thriving, that their coffeemaker was on sale, that their station wagon runs well, that their honeymoon-tickets were cheap, that their baby said a word, that the lawn is recovering from the winter and that their student loans are paid down. I’m happy for them, I really am.
But I also know that behind my occasional moments of doubt and temptation for “the comfortable,” I have to continue working towards my dream; the dream that won’t be satisfied by having a house, a car, a coffee-maker and a nine-to-five job.
In the midst of all the noise, I need to follow my heart and trust God.
So, what am I trying to say?
– In my head there’s nothing logical about NYU Tisch, or even attempting to apply to the program. Less than two percent gets accepted, and it’s so expensive that regardless of how fast I say the number, it still takes a great deal of syllables to pronounce the cost in its entirety. Meanwhile, I could have studied for free at a Norwegian university, settled with my journalism degree, gotten a normal job and started saving up for that station wagon — but once again I ignored logic and went with my heart.
Sometimes I feel confident in the decision, and sometimes I ask myself what in the world I’m doing.
Yesterday fit the latter description. I felt freaked out when I thought about the tremendous amounts of money that goes into my dream, and about the things I sacrifice.
But I tell myself that even if I’m not close to buying a house or a car, and probably can’t afford anything big enough to earn the name “apartment” for quite some time, I’m at least fueling my dream the best I can.
I don’t need a perfect lawn or a nice coffee-maker for now, I need to make films.
The rest is up to God.