A rough patch

Maybe I was naïve, but I honestly thought I could go through life without even knowing I had any wisdom in the form of teeth.

That illusion, however, cracked about a week ago when all that wisdom became too painful to bear. I signed up for a consultation, told the dentist I would like to stay awake for the procedure, and after having politely turned down the prescription painkillers, I walked out of the dentist’s office with an icepack on my cheek.

“Hah! That was easy. I just had a tooth pulled, no biggie” were my thoughts as I strolled down the frying hot Manhattan streets. I started wondering who came up with idea of giving patients a full anesthesia for something as little and insignificant as this. I also pondered over all those YouTube-videos of loopy teenagers believing they’re unicorns after being drugged down to handle the pain of teeth-pulling. My conclusion was that the whole “putting under” practice was merely a business trick used to keep the dental care prices high.

Granted, I did cling onto that ice pack until it became the same temperature as my skin, so make no mistake, it wasn’t exactly comfortable. But I told myself I’d probably just channeled the pain-tolerance of my inner athlete, so I carried on.

The next day was spent walking and shooting in Central Park until it got too dark for our camera. Again, no biggie.

Then. Good lord. 

I was scheduled to come back to have another one of these evil molars removed two days later. I walked into the dentist’s office with confidence bigger than the clinic itself, and asked to stay awake for the procedure this time as well. A few raised eyebrows later and a scalpel had started digging its way into my gums.

This is the turning point in the story.

Apparently, this so-called “surgery” was just that; it took two hours, three doctors and so much pain I saw my life flashing before my eyes before they managed to get the thing out. That is, before they managed to get PARTS of it out. The amount of force they used made me question whether or not I would get permanent neck-damage from having someone pull my head that hard. But then, the chief-dentist stepped in to retrieve the last pieces by removing some om my jaw bone and stitched me up.

Once it was done, my face had already ballooned into the shape of a chipmunk’s, and my body had started coping with the trauma by making me so annoyed with everyone and everything that PMS would fade in comparison.

No, this is not a lousy attempt at pulling off a duck-face-pose. I believe it’s called swelling, haha.

Here are some examples:
 – I wanted to yell at the lady at McDonald’s who had given me a fork instead of a spoon for the prescribed post-op ice cream that was now melting in the 90°f (32°c weather).

 – I wanted to sue the City of New York for making the roads my taxi was driving on so freaking bumpy, and Toyota for not making the springs in their cars soft enough to cushion those pumps.

 – I wanted to punch the pharmacy lady for not understanding what I was saying and making me repeat my date of birth five times (it probably sounded muffled because of the gauze in my mouth, but still).

 – I wanted to hit our landlord because living on the fourth floor with no elevator SUCKS when you can feel how every step you make fuels the chipmunk face. Lower the rent, pleeeaaaseee!

Then I went to my room and cried until I felt less annoyed and started feeling sorry for everything I thought about general anesthesia, the poor loopy souls in the YouTube videos and the innocent people who just tried to do their job.

Thankfully I’m able to laugh about it now 🙂

Bless you,

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

Good afternoon!

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:

Animated GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

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.”

Warner Archive GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

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?

About 1/10 of all the stuff we carried up to our place haha.

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.

Group selfie creds to Flynn.

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.

Snap by Kai Torres.

“Ehm, how does this work?”

“Like this?”

“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.

Running GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

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.

Bless you,

Lost at the MET

Good evening!

I want to thank you for all the new subscriptions after my previous post. Read it HERE. You can still subscribe by writing your email address in the little window to the right. That way you’ll get a cute little email whenever I post something new.

Anyway, I’ve been in New York for a little over a week now, and I have so much to tell you that I don’t even know where to begin. This city fills up my list of blog ideas pretty quickly, but I guess I’ll just start where I left off last time.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting up with my dear friend and marathon buddy, Matt. I’m surprised he still wanted to be my friend after I invited (or… ehm.. forced) him to run a half marathon with me last spring. This time, however, we went on a far less athletic excursion — at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We may have gotten lost on some of our runs in Sioux Falls and Austin, but it did not compare to how lost we got inside the museum. And no, I’m not talking about getting lost into the beauty of exceptional artistry; I’m talking about getting lost geographically, or interiorly. You see, finding a restroom inside that beautifully preserved building became quite the challenge when we realized that there were no signs guiding us to a (much needed) bladder-emptying area. Thankfully, all floors and corners remained dry for the entirety of our visit.

Anyway, enough bladdering blabbering for today.

I started the orientation at NYU earlier this week; which I’ll tell you more about later because if I start now this may very well turn into a novel.

My overall impression so far can be summarized with this word: AMAZING!

I hope you’re all enjoying your Thursday.


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