NYU

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.

About Recovery, Travel, and the Significance of Vending Machines

Hello dear readers!

Thanks so much for the feedback and warming words on my previous post; I’m glad some of you were able to see the humor in it. I did too, it just took a while, haha.


Film school isn’t exactly known to be a health-promoting institution, and it’s no secret that very few of us grad students have the time, nor money, to eat well and exercise as regularly as we’d like. The excessive stress is also a faithful companion to some.

As a former athlete and fitness freak, this was a bit of a shock … and actually one of the hardest things I’ve had to adjust to since I moved to New York. It sound silly, but the fact that these are actual quotes heard in the halls at NYU Tisch, kind of says it all:

Person 1: “I’m so stressed I can’t eat.”
Person 2: “That sounds nice. I’m so stressed I can’t stop eating.”

Person 1: “I can’t afford dinner today.”
Person 2: “Me neither. I just eat Ramen.”

“The only food I’ve had today has been from the vending machine on the 10th floor.”

Same person a week later: “My hair is starting to fall out … I think it’s because of the vending machine.”

Another person: “The vending machine is giving me acne.”

“There was no Nutella Sticks left in the vending machine. It made me more upset than it should have — I almost cried.”

“I need to cry, but I don’t know if I have time … When is our next class?”

“I feel like I have a sword sticking out of my chest. Is that normal?”

“I’ve had this eye-twitch for weeks. I’m thinking about adding it to my resume as ‘special skill.'”

“Do you think the students who smoke are less stressed? I’m considering starting.”

Person 1: “Can you see my heart beating?”
Person 2: No, why? Are you worried you might be dead?”
Person 1: No, it’s just beating so hard and fast I feel like you can see it through my shirt.”

With these quotes in mind, it should come as no surprise that I, too, looked and felt like a haggard mammal after the school-year ended. All the stress and burdens from the semester (that you can read more about HERE and HERE) had left some marks here and there, and I felt like a zombie. When I then caught a nasty virus shortly after my arrival in Norway, things only got worse and I was in bed for over a week, feeling worse than that zombie I mentioned above.

So, when my sister — spontaneously — invited me on a trip to Sardinia in Italy, it felt like bread for the starving.

A week spent on a beach in the Mediterranean turned out to be exactly what I needed.

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Sardinia🇮🇹 📷 @celenalavelle

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P.S: The Norwegian college system is designed in a way that allows students to work almost full-time on top of their studies — which in this case made my sister able to sponsor me on this trip. She knows I’m a poor artist in NYC, so this just shows what a lovely sister I’ve been blessed with. Thank you, Celena.

But after a couple days of so-called “tanning,” I needed to do something and I discovered that paddleboarding can be more fun than it looks.

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Mediterranean🌅 Photo: @celenalavelle

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Especially when you do it the wrong way.

After a week of eating and sleeping more than my lifestyle of the past year has allowed, I returned to Norway a little less exhausted. In fact, I felt more rested than I’ve been in over a year … maybe two.

I’m not sure if it had more to do with the Italian sun, or the news I received while I was there, but I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

Have a blessed afternoon,
Maria

“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”

Thank you for all the views and comments on my previous post — I truly appreciate y’all taking the time to follow my journey, even when the update-consistency isn’t top-notch.

As you know, I had an incident that almost turned me into a real New Yorker, but I never told you exactly what happened, so here you go:


Still high on the feedback and relief of having completed our films, my classmates and I attended the annual “end-of the year-party” with the program and faculty. And when the evening turned into the wee hours of morning and people went to the respective homes, I went to the Bowery House Hostel — my home for the next few days. (Because, you know, I lost my new apartment and was technically homeless. Read more HERE).

Once I had walked through a camping area for other homeless people, waited for almost half an hour outside the door before anyone let me in, I hauled my suitcases up four flights of stairs, took a long shower and looked forward to the first quiet night/morning in a while.

This (over-priced) hostel was — as expected — anything but spacious, and the walls separating the rooms looked more like bathroom stalls. The ceiling was basically just a grid that let no sounds go by unnoticed. I could almost hear which brand of potato chips my neighbor was eating, and there was at least two different octaves of snoring and breathing streaming out of the stalls. Some of the other sounds I’d rather not describe in too much detail, but you can probably think of something juicy on your own.

But, I decided not to care — something I’ve become increasingly good at whilst living in New York. I was just happy to have somewhere to stay after the whole apartment situation, and I laid down on the bed feeling accomplished by how adaptable I’d become.

That was, until my reading got interrupted by a brown spot in my peripheral vision.

The spot started moving further up my shirt collar — still too close for me to see what it actually was — so I grabbed it. Held it. And examined it. Yup, it was one of those little creatures I frequently googled when I first moved to New York — a bedbug. A very large bedbug. I could see all its defining features, and I was not about to let is suck my blood and infest my luggage.


They were everywhere. Here’s one I found on the wall when I grabbed my things.

So, in a pure Erin Brockowich-moment, I marched into the crowded lobby, still in my mini-shorts pyjamas, slammed the bug onto the reception desk and calmly commanded I’d get my money back and all my luggage cleaned. The reception guy, clearly freaked out, squished the bug in panic and ran to get plastic bags for me to put my clothes in. The money refund, however, wasn’t so easy.

My secret tool in situations like these is usually “sweet-innocent-immigrant-girl-with-broken-English-who-is-far-away-from-home-and-very-very-scared,” but when that doesn’t work … oh man, can I be a bitch.

I did get my money back. It just took a bit of an effort and an attitude on my part.

I didn’t even know I had the ability to be that cold and demanding at the same time, but it worked. And gosh, it was quite satisfying.

Pyjamas are clothes too

The only clothes that hadn’t been exposed to the bugs was another pajamas, still one of those mini-shorts ones, so I got changed, grabbed my laptop, harddrive, a water bottle and left this bug-infested hole they call the Bowery House.

The essentials: Harddrive (because filmschool), laptop, wallet, toothbrush, facial cleanser and a water bottle. Photo: Kai Torres.

The attention I got walking the Manhattan streets at 2 PM in this outfit was slightly different from the attention I usually get at that hour, but I called my dear friend, Kai — who already had guests at her place — but she handled the whole situation gracefully. I ended up sleeping my best night in weeks — on an air-matress on her livingroom floor.

Here’s proof, haha. That lady always knows how to capture the moments. She named this “The Cocoon.”

I got all my clothes taken care of, and I inspected every millimeter of my suitcases before I flew back to Norway. It would be a shame if I re-introduced these creatures that haven’t been a problem in Norway since the early 1900s.


Courtesy to postworld.org.

Bottom line

Even if this felt like an unnecessary experience — especially since I already was exhausted from weeks of around-the-clock working — I chose to see it as a rite of passage. I’m definitely one step closer to being a New Yorker now, haha.

I still don’t have anywhere to live on Manhattan, but I choose to hang onto what Frank Sinatra would’ve said:

 

But more importantly, what God says:

 

Now let’s see what He has in store.


I’m currently in Italy, relaxing and recharging, so all the stress from the semester feels a little more distant right now. Will tell you more later.

Have a blessed evening,
M


Jewelry by Skjaeraasen.no. Photo by Rannveig Froestad.

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