NYU

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.

Watch my Viking-film

Hello and good afternoon!

I’ve spent the weekend with my grandparents in Bergen, so I’ve been logged off social media for a couple of days. Today, however, I figured it was time to share this with y’all.

As you know, I made three films during my first year at film school.

I’m already working on my next one, but thought maybe some of you’d be interested in watching the so-called documentary I made?

(The other two have not been published online yet due to the possibility of entering film festivals.)

Before we start watching, let me just explain a couple things.

This documentary is a so-called Observational Character Study (OCS), which means we as filmmakers were prohibited from doing interviews or directing the action in any way at all. We simply had to observe people in an environment of our choice, and then try to patch it together to a somewhat cohesive piece in the editing room.

Since we had to shoot this over Christmas break, I decided to find some interesting individuals in my hometown. The choice fell on a group of people who spend their time researching the history of the vikings and practicing real viking-crafts.

If you didn’t already know: Norway actually got its name from the sea-lane here in Haugesund, during the Viking Age. The viking history in this area is, therefore, pretty significant.
Read more HERE.

Anyway, this is what came out of my observation:

Please disregard the noise from the hurricane winds, and try to watch this with your journalist-eyes, rather than your movie-eyes.

To see some behind-the-scenes shots, feel free to watch this interview I did during the production as well:

Special thanks to
– All the members of Vikingklubben.
– Harald Ottøy and his family.
– Assistant Producer – Cathrine Glette
– Boom Operation – Fredrik Skauge.
– Production Assistant – Cecilie Udstuen.

Photo: Cecilie Utstuen.

Blessings,
Maria

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

Premiere

Good evening!

In my last post I promised to tell you all about my new film, the premiere and the lives we lead at NYU Tisch Grad Film.

Over the past few months most of the content on my blog has revolved around my film “Sisters” — the film that was a beast to shoot because of all kinds of challenges, and a beast to finish because I lost my apartment and traveled to South Dakota to guest speak in the middle of the post-production.

However, all long nights and endless days aside, I crossed the finish line just in time. But before we get to that, let me tell you about the glamour of film school.


Screenshot from “Sisters”: Cinematography by Kai Torres.

I used to take pride in never pulling all-nighters in college. In fact, a good chunk of my honor was anchored in my ability to finish my homework before 7 PM most nights and to keep Saturdays completely off. I was that girl who always showed up to class wide awake and rested after eight hours of sleep and a six-mile run before breakfast.

That, however, has not been the case this semester. Or this past year, for that matter.

Inside the NYU Grad film classrooms you’ll frequently hear professors, students and alumni compare the program to Medical school, the Army and training for the Olympics. If you’ve read the blog for a while, you know that I’m not exaggerating — it’s not uncommon for us to spend 14-16 hours at school every day. We don’t get weekends, spring break or fall break, but in turn we get to do what we love all day, every day. I think it’s a good deal.

Screenshot from “Sisters”: Cinematography by Kai Torres. Starring the talented Willow Eve (left) and Lily Brooks O’Briant (right).

Those past couple weeks before our short films (aka Spring Narratives) were due, I was in the editing lab until 6 AM night after night. You’d think that’s the behavior of eccentric lone wolves, but the strangest part is that I was surrounded by my classmates the whole time.

Some left the lab in tears, but came back determined to stick it through only a few moments later. Others left with stomachs growling so loudly it could be heard through people’s headphones (me), and returned with some low-quality food from a vending-machine to keep them going (also me).

We were all in this together.


In the editing lab: Baseball caps are great when you don’t have time to take care of your hair… Photo: Kai Torres.

The thrill of seeing what began as an idea in your head come to life, mixed with the nauseating feeling of discovering that you missed an essential shot, and that your whole film will likely suck because of your complete incompetence is just one part of the editing experience. When hours of frantic editing, mixing, tricking and cheating pays off in the form of something that at least resembles what you had in mind, you’re no longer questioning your decision to become a filmmaker, and you start to get excited about the premiere that happens to be three weeks earlier than you’d like. You may have a somewhat coherent film to show on the screen that day, after all. It may even be decently good, who knows?

Then you pack your things and call it a day … or night, depending on which timezone you’ve chosen to identify with. You walk through the relatively empty streets of Manhattan and realize you haven’t had dinner yet. It’s 6:15 AM, and it’s too early for breakfast, and quite frankly, you don’t have enough money for dinner anyway, so breakfast it is.

The next morning you go back, exchange a few encouraging words with your classmates, plug in your hard-drive and do it all over again; until the premiere is so close you can feel it in your veins.


Screenshot from “Sisters”: Cinematography by Kai Torres.

The day is there and together with a full auditorium, you get to see what all your classmates have worked on since January. Their powerful voices expressed through stunning visuals on the screen, the pulsating reactions from the audience, and the nerve-wracking, yet exhilarating feeling of suddenly seeing your own film on that same screen. Up there, with all these talented humans you’re lucky enough to call your friends.

It was a success.


Screenshot from “Sisters”: Cinematography by Kai Torres. With the star, Lily Brooks O’Briant.

Even if I’m not 100% happy with my film, I’m a 100% happy with what I learned and the relations I gained during the process. My two movie stars, Lily Brooks and Willow did an amazing job, and I could not be happier with their work. Watch out for their names; they both have very bright futures ahead of them.

I’m still deciding on what will happen with this film next. I might want to apply to a few festivals, but we’ll see what my budget permits.


Screenshot from “Sisters”: Cinematography by Kai Torres.

I was going to tell you about the experience that almost turned me into a real New Yorker; it’s honestly so ridiculous that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to tell you, but I like to keep promises, so stay tuned for my next post. Like I said, you don’t want to miss it.

Blessings,
Maria

U-Hauling Away

Dearest readers,

I used to be rather unforgiving when my favorite bloggers went MIA for more than a week — it would be pretentious to assume that my blog is anyone’s favorite, I know — but instead of apologizing for my five-week absence I’ll welcome y’all back — Welcome back! 🙂

After my last post, one could think I got so comfortable on the prairie that I simply chose to stay, but before I tell you about that glorious piece of adventure, let me create some context for you.

You all know that I struggled hardcore with my housing situation earlier this spring. So, long story short: After days with phone calls across the country and meetings with brokers, my roommate and I lost our new apartment (deposit included). So, the day before I flew to Sioux Falls I didn’t know if I’d have a place to live when I returned. The irony of the situation was that the film that got me into NYU in the first place was about homelessness . . . Add this on top of the fact that I’d be out of town for four out of the 14 already-too-few days I had to edit my film, and you have a world-class stressload.

You can only imagine the relief of boarding the plane knowing that I could just fly away from all my troubles for a little while.

As a result, the whole trip to Sioux Falls became a safe haven where I didn’t have to worry about a thing. My dear Alma Mater, Augustana University (arranged by Dr. Mike Nitz) had taken care of everything; the flights, the schedule and most importantly — the HOUSING. I had a whole apartment for myself — a rare luxury for a poor student in NYC.

I did four guest speaking events on campus, and the audiences ranged from freshmen to a large group where the median age was closer to 80.

In between these more serious commitments, I looked like I was devouring a microphone, I had several other meetings lined up about a film I may shoot in Dakota next year. I also had some time to catch up with my dear friends who still live in the area.

Like these two amazing humans, Dr. Jeffrey Miller & Dr. Janet Blank-Libra (who besides being legendary journalism professors, also put in their fair share of effort into making film school become a reality for me).

And dear Ana who throughout my years at Augie always made sure I ate well in the cafeteria, and who taught me some new Spanish words every morning

And these folks here, who mostly distracted me from my homework. Or maybe it was the other way around … Anyway, you know I love you.

And my lovely Brittany! (Who gave me the best reason to come back next year — she’s getting married to her prince, Michael!)

And shortly after, my fellow Norwegian Augie-Viking announced that she’s getting married next year as well! I’m counting days!!

All in all I could not have asked for a better weekend at my old stomping ground. It was kinda strange being back, walking around campus like I used to, but this time without the burden of final exams. It was also weird being there without my full house of friends, but in turn, it was truly heartwarming to run into former floor-mates, professors, staff and other acquaintances. Too bad I didn’t have time to catch up with everybody. (Thinking of ya #StagecraftFam).

I left the Midwest feeling rested and recharged for the last stretch of the semester, and God knew I’d need it.

Back in NYC

Thankfully I got permission to stay in my apartment for one extra week, but my roommate Alejandro had to move out the day I returned. And as the relatively naïve person I am, I offered to drive the moving truck: a 17-foot beast all across Manhattan to Brooklyn.

As if narrow streets, heavy traffic and raging drivers didn’t exist.

Due to the lack of parking space outside our building, I had the rather immature idea of entering via a sidewalk … which happened to be a liiiittle more narrow than we thought. At one point there was only about three inches clearance on each side, but Alejandro is a champ and guided me through: not sure if he feared more for his life or the health of the truck, but a couple of close calls later we made it without having gotten sued nor fined. #EverydayMiracles

(This was after we almost got stuck)

Six hours later he had successfully moved into his new place. I, on the other hand, found myself in the situation of not knowing if I’d even find a new place to stay … again. As a foreigner in a city where you need a US guarantor to get approved for almost any apartment on Manhattan, I once again had to lift my eyes to God in faith (and desperation) for a solution.

To be continued.

In my next post I’ll tell you all about my new film, the premiere, my thoughts about having completed my first year as a grad film student at NYU Tisch. I may even share the experience that took me a giant step closer to being a real New Yorker — a story you don’t want to miss. Stay tuned!

Blessings,
Maria

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