NYU

O Foley Night

Woah! It’s been a while since you heard from me last (unless you follow me on Snapchat and Instagram, because like I’ve mentioned before, that’s where it happens these days)

Instagram: marialavelle1 & Lanoet
Snapchat: marialavelle

Anyway, I’m glad you took the time to stop by! I’ll try my best to make it worthwhile.

We’re currently in the so-called post-production of our short films, which means I spend the majority of my time in the editing lab cutting, organizing, trimming, scrubbing, viewing, listening, loving and hating the 16 millimeter footage I shot in five weeks ago.

And to my big surprise, I feel that I’ve had more freetime than usual, but that turns out to be a subjective feeling. On Wednesday, for example, I came home from school at 1:15 AM … so I don’t have to elaborate much more on that. The bottom line is that while editing it’s less stressful than being on set, the hours are still the same. Anywhow, I love every part of it.

— Especially when I step out of the editing lab and I see this #nofilter

The infamous evaluation/premiere dates for our films are coming up soon, so most conversations at Tisch starts with “How’s your editing going?” and ends with “Yeah, I have to fix the sound too … ”

And speaking of sound; on Tuesday a part of Crew 7 spent a full day inside a small dusty sound-proof room. Okay, that sounds scary, but I’ll explain:

We did so-called “foley sound.” If you’re not familiar with the concept, “foley” is a technique used to reproduce sound effects in movies. It sounds amateurish and it looks silly, but it’s actually a legitimate Hollywood technique.

As you can see in the video below: We had a blast! I don’t know if it was the lack of oxygen in the room or what, but we laughed so much we could have created our own laugh tracks and sold them to an NBC sitcom.

You can only try to recreate the sound of faceplanting and nosepicking so many times before things get weird.

Click to play the video below:

Now I better go to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be helping shoot a short documentary about a 100-year-old woman!

Bless you,
Maria

From Dakota with Love

After my previous post, “Expectation vs. Reality in NYC” some of you jokingly asked how I could possibly like this city when I made it sound so awful, so in this post I’ll try to explain how I really feel about this place called New York.

First of all, the post was meant as a satirical, yet accurate, depiction of the New York-lifestyle. It’s not comfortable, it’s not easy, but in return — so incredibly rewarding.

I realize that living in a closet-sized room on the fourth floor with no elevator, not owning a car and wandering in crowds of thousands inside dirty subway stations and smelly alleys may sound intimidating to some. It’s inconvenient, busy and yes, at times smelly (I thought so too when I visited the city for the first time in 2014.) I even told myself I would never ever want to live here. Read more about my first encounter with the big city HERE.

But crossing the Atlantic Ocean at 20, followed by three years in South Dakota changed me in ways I never anticipated.

Sioux Falls was amazing in every possible way (minus freeeeezing cold winters) and I believe my time there gave me the best possible preparation for this new chapter.

With Augustana president Rob Oliver and the incredibly talented Kofi Gunu & Matthew Watt. Photo: Becky Blue.

I had three of the best years of my life, thus far, at Augustana, and I’ll be forever thankful for everything the Augie-community gave me. I actually enjoyed it so much I was unable to see myself living anywhere else — until I suddenly one day could no longer ignore my heart’s whisper to apply to NYU.


With some of the finest people in the state of South Dakota — also known as “The Fam”

While I’m convinced Sioux Falls was the right place for me to be during those three years, I often felt a little restless; as if God was working on something with me. I always seemed to live in a pace of my own, in a constant hurry, working on a never-ending stream of projects with a calendar fuller than stomachs on Thanksgiving. It was exhausting, but in retrospect, I see that had it not been for all those projects I would never have gotten in to the grad film program at NYU, and had I not gotten used to having packed schedules I would likely have disliked the NY-lifestyle.

You see, New York is like a wave of fast-paced people trying to catch trains — but literally and figuratively — and inside that wave I find peace.

I suppose the city’s pulse beats in the same rhythm as my heart.

I cannot describe it in any other way, because it’s not logical. In fact, nothing about my journey to New York was logical; the strong calling I felt towards coming here went far beyond my own reasoning.

Looking back, I’m sometimes baffled by my decision of only applying to one grad school, especially since that very school also happened to be one of the most competitive ones in the world.

I’m not trying to pump my chest and give myself credit for taking a leap of faith, I’m just saying that the gravitation I felt towards New York was rooted in something much deeper than my own desire.

I believe that God led me here, and for what reason I have yet to know. In the meantime, I will embrace this journey and praise him for His grace.

I would not be here without Him, and I’m determined to do everything I can to glorify Him on my way.

Have a blessed day,
Maria

A day on set

Good evening!

In my last post I told you that my crew and I had just completed shooting four out of six short films, and I’m happy to announce that we’re now one step closer to the finish line, with Jorge’s “Eyes Up” as the only remaining shoot.

However, I promised to tell you all about my own first experience directing a film as an NYU grad film student, so here we go.

This is my “Director-trying-to-visualize-a-good-frame face.” With Sonya Vai and Lin behind the tree. Photo: Avi Kabir

This project is a so-called MOS film; an exercise used to teach us how to tell stories without any of the normal aids that can help carry a film.

It’s shot on super 16mm film, has to be in black and white, shot outside, with no dialogue or music.

In other words, it’s kind of like trying to bake a cake with only butter and water.

If this doesn’t sound like mission impossible to you yet, I’d like to mention that we only get two rolls of film — unless we buy more on your own (Codeword: EXPENSIVE!) — so every take has to count. I, personally, tried to step into my high jumping-mindset “You only get three attempts (at each scene), but try to clear the bar the first time.” As an adrenalin junkie I found great pleasure in that.

This is my “Director-holding-a-green-folder-while-trying-to-balance-a-cup-of-ice-coffee-on-head face.” With Master Lin. Photo: Avi Kabir. 

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’re probably aware of my financial situation, so I took it upon myself to make this production as cheap as humanly possible, for extra difficulty, you know …

But, you know what?! Thanks to God’s grace, Sonya Vai and my amazing crew it worked! We made a film! (Or at least, I think we did … I still haven’t seen the footage because it’s being developed, but one can always hope we actually did record something that resembles the film I had in mind.)

It takes a village! Just kidding, we were just eight people and one animal on my set, at most. (If you include the “dead cat” microphone in Pepi’s hand, we had two animals, but oh well.) Here with Pepi, Jorge, Lin and Sonya. Photo: Avi Kabir.

Here’s a fun fact for ya: Sonya, who played the lead character, was my AirBnB-host when I first moved to the city, and she was the only New Yorker I knew for a couple of weeks, haha. Besides being an awesome host, she’s also a super talented actress, and I’m so honored to have her in my film. Her co-star, Cleopatra, is a beautiful white pigeon that will get its own shout out later.

The two stars: Sonya Vai and Cleo! Photo: Avi Kabir.

My crew consists of the following rock stars:
Director of Photography – Lin (also known as Master Lin)
Assistant Camera – Jorge
Assistant Director and Grip – Kai
Sound – Pepi
Set photos and everything in-between – Avi

I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. Everyone worked exceptionally hard, and despite the rough weather nobody complained. We actually finished the whole film in less than eight hours spread over two days. Pigeon-Cleo was very well-behaved as well.

Here are some more photos from the shoot:

These two camera guys, Jorge Sistos and Qiying Lin, helped bring my vision to life. Photo: Avi Kabir.

Actress Sonya Vai warming up inside the car between takes. Photo: Avi Kabir.

I haven’t been OUT running, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been running. With Sonya and “Master Lin.” Photo: Avi Kabir.

The rain stayed away for our important shots, thank God! Lin and Sonya. Photo: Avi Kabir.

 

 

Sonya and Cleo’s first introduction. T’was love at first sight! Here with bird handler Eddie who was an absolute trouper/angel. He spent hours outside in the rain and didn’t even want an umbrella. What a hero! Photo: Avi Kabir.

Sonya and Cleo hanging out on location. Photo: Avi Kabir.

Avi did a great job capturing moments like these on set. I was actually so far into the directing bubble that I didn’t even notice that he was running around lika a paparazzo. Photo: Avi Kabir.

Jorge measures the light while Sonya and Cleo are waiting for the camera setup to be done. Photo: Avi Kabir.

With Lin and Jorge. Apparently I was very selfish and kept the umbrella all to myself. Sorry guys! Photo: Avi Kabir.

Also, if it wasn’t clear in any of the earlier photos: filmmaking isn’t glamorous. Here’s proof; I spent a significant amout of time crawling on the ground looking like a drowned weasel.

I’d also like to breifly mention that the tree-location was covered in poop. Human poop. So we had to throw away our shoes. But hey, what don’t we do for the art?

I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who helped us make this film possible! Now a month of editing awaits us before the premiere in December.

Bless you all,
Maria

4 down, 2 to go

I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, so before you continue reading I would highly encourage you to follow me on snapchat (username Maria Lavelle) and instagram (MariaLavelle1 & Lanoet) because that’s where it happens these days.

Like I told you last time, we’re in the midst of a three-week production period where we’ll shoot a total of six short films on super 16 film (aka the old-fashioned way), so my days have mostly consisted of waking up at 4 AM, hustling and bustling on set for as many as 12 hours or more, before taking a shower and going to bed while waiting for the cycle to repeat itself.

On Pepi’s set of “LAM/B” on Staten Island.

A few inches too short for the tripod? No problem; we have pumpkins! Lin, Kai (on pumpkin) and Avi.

So far, we’ve wrapped four films, and as if being on set wasn’t pure bliss in itself, we’ve also had the chance to see a variety of locations, weather conditions and real-life characters at every corner of the city.

We shot in a secluded community garden in East Village for Avi’s film “Scattered,” all over Staten Island for Pepi’s “LAM/B,” in the middle of Times Square for Lin’s “When you’re taking a selfie without your sunglasses,” and in Brooklyn for my very own “TENDER” — which I’ll tell you more about in my next post.

On the set of “TENDER” – with Sonya Vai (leading actress), Lin, me and Kai.

This coming weekend we’ll stay in Brooklyn shooting Kai’s “Mr. Edelman,” followed by Jorge’s “Eyes up” in Central Park.

There’s no other way I’d rather explore the city, and seeing a new place through the lens of a camera is really unlike anything else. Actually, just being on set with the hardest working people I know for hours and days on end is unlike anything else.


On the set of my film “TENDER.” Stay tuned for my next post. Photo: Avi Kabir.

Running from location to location with tons of heavy equipment with a clock ticking makes us look like hardheaded participants in The Amazing Race, while the intensity and quiet of loading the camera mags inside a light-proof changing bag — without being able to see what our hands are doing — makes us feel like surgeons on Grey’s Anatomy. For the remaining time we either feel like actual filmmakers or soldiers in the Army.

The teamspirit, adrenalin, efficiency, pressure and precision it takes to put together these small pieces of art containing our storytelling voices is one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever been a part of.

That feeling was only intensified when we — after four days of back-to-back shooting — gathered our belongings from a pumpkin patch on Staten Island, and the warm wind was accompanied by beams of bright orange light that shone upon our tired faces. I don’t know if it was the combination of exhaustion, hunger, sunburned skin and pure satisfaction that made it so magical, but magical it was.

Photo: Avi Kabir.

In my next post I’ll tell you all about my experience of directing my first non-documentary short film in NY.

Bless,
Maria

First real shoot

After seven weeks of planning, scheduling, camera techs, tons of paperwork, directing exercises, long days at school and countless hours of careful instruction it was finally time put our preparations to work.

Today, “Crew 7” — group of six aspiring filmmakers from five different countries — kicked off the three-week production period with our first real shoot together.

CREW 7: Jorge, Lin, me and Avi. Pepi and Kai didn’t make it into the picture.

For me, the day started at 4:45 AM, and from there on out we didn’t waste a single minute (or foot of film, for that matter). Shooting on Super 16mm film is so expensive that every shot had to count, so we brought our A-game and I feel that today’s work really added context to the phrase “filmmaking is the ultimate teamsport.” I feel so honored to work with such talented people!

Throughout these next weeks we’ll shoot a total of six short films, where we’ll all hold different crew-positions for each film. I have the honor of serving as the Director of Photography for my buddy Avi’s film “Scattered,” so I was handling the camera the whole day. The Arriflex camera is a heavy-ass chunk of metal from the 1950s, so things could have been more comfortable …

But for each handheld shot I had to do, I praised the Lord for my weightlifting days. The thousands of barbell hits that used to bruise my shoulders probably served a dual purpose.

In case you wonder how I looked while dealing with this old German piece of cinema gear … well here’s the raw truth.

Jacob (Avi’s young talenter actor), Jorge and me. Photo: Avi Kabir.

And oh, if you think I’m trying to “look cool”or something with that one leg on top of the bench, Nike cap, sunglasses dangling from my ears, and a fat blue track suit, I’ll have to explain a thing or two:

  • The leg = takes some of the weight off my wrists, and helps stabilize the frame.
  • The cap = blocks some of the light from the sky, which helps my pupils adjust to the eyepiece I’m looking through. (For technical nerds: We used several neautral density filters, which work as sunglasses for the camera, so it was mighty dark inside that viewfinder.)
  • Sunglasses = Same as above. They only come off when my eye is in the eye piece.
  • Fluffy track suit = Well, we were told to dress in layers because “IT WILL BE COLD” … but it was really quite functional, considering how much time I spent crawling on the stingy hay-ground.
  • And that facial expression? Oh my, let it speak for itself.

With Jacob and Lin, who was the indispensable First Assistant Camera. Photo: Avi Kabir.

Actor and director, Avi Kabir. Photo: Maria Lavelle.

“Intimicay is key.” Photo: Avi Kabir.

And my favorite photo of the day: It’s actually NOT staged, but rather a photojournalistic glimpse of the aftermath.

– Directing is exhausting, just ask Avi.

Jorge and Avi. Photo: Maria Lavelle.

Thanks for a great shoot, Crew 7! U da best.

Now I better go to bed … because I’ll have to head to set again in a few hours 🙂

Bless,
Maria

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