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.
Lost at the MET
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.
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.
House-hunting in NYC is not for the faint of heart
Thank you so much for all the good-luck messages and the response on my previous post. You da best. Read the post HERE.
I’ve now been a resident of New York City for four days, and I honestly think I’ve gotten quite a lot done already. Most of it has been practical things and errands, so I’ll spare you of those details, but in addition to exploring “campus” I met up with my future roomie, Alejandro. By future I mean, six days into the forthcoming, and by “campus” I mean the entire lower half of Manhattan.
Pizza in Midtown. Photo creds: Alejandro.
I realize that some of my relatives in Norway might need an explanation regarding this housing deal, so please know that I’m not moving in with a stranger, and that this is not a domestic partnership or a “civil union” haha. We’re two ambitious individuals who need someone to share the rent with, and we also happen to be great friends. Win win!
Alejandro and I went to Augustana together, and he’ll begin his Master’s degree in International Affairs at NYU this fall. Yay! We’ll live with two other students, whom we have yet to meet.
I’m so happy to have at least one familiar face in this giant city. He’s lived here for several months already, so it’s thanks to his relentless search for apartments that we found the place in Williamsburg.
You see, finding the right place wasn’t easy.
Overpriced brokers, snappy landlords, and dirty rat holes are words that summarize this house-hunt. Lordy, I hope those of you who live in the Midwest and in Norway know how to appreciate the convenient and affordable housing market you have.
Prime ain’t cheap
We were initially hoping to find a place in Greenwich Village, because it’s right on the NYU-campus. It’s also one of the prime neighborhoods on Manhattan, but unfortunately “prime” isn’t cheap, and our budget pretty much forced us to choose between the two scenarios:
1. Good location (aka Greenwich- or East Village) in an apartment so trashy I could blow-dry my hair in the wind coming through the cracks in the wall.
2. Less ideal location (aka Williamsburg) in an amazing, newly renovated apartment where I actually can afford to buy a blow-drier to keep inside the rather spacious bathroom.
This is what I learned:
It seems like New Yorkers generally have a high tolerance for what a Norwegian would consider as “questionable housing standards.” Here’s what I’ve learned:
– Having a laundry machine is a privilege for the rich.
– Living alone is a lifestyle only the famous 1% can afford.
– Elevators are practically unheard of, even when the apartment is six floors up.
– People don’t get overly worked up if they have to share their place with mice and cockroaches.
– You’re lucky if you can bend over the sink to brush your teeth — without having to open the door behind you to make rom for your butt.
The place we found in Williamsburg is, in other words, great! Just one subway-stop away from Manhattan, and located in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in NY. I’ll post pictures when we’re all settled in next week.
I’ve also had some time to figure out the city with my running shoes on. An early morning along the Hudson hit the spot.
Later today I’ll catch up with my dear friend and marathon-buddy, Matthew! He’s rocking it in DC, but made the trip to NY for the weekend. I’ll talk to ya when we’re done exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art.