Archive for Month: March 2016

Looking back at some of my weirdest projects

I have, through my 22 years on earth, realized that I often end up adding small “pointless” projects to the bigger and more important stuff I do. Looking back, I don’t see why I even bothered doing half of it, but I had fun during the process, and that’s what matters, right? Here are some of the weird things I’ve spent a significant amount of time doing throughout the years.

When I was about ten I desperately wanted to learn how to walk on my hands, so I practiced day and night and didn’t care whether I found myself alone in our living room (where I often crashed into my mom’s plants and window decorations) or if I was at a shopping mall, out in the streets, in the middle of the school yard or in a public bathroom (I suppose I didn’t understand the word “unsanitary” back then…) This sort of behavior didn’t exactly earn me any elemantary-school-popularity-points, but so what if people called me a “show-off” or if they grew increasingly annoyed with me? Haha, I had a goal, and no one was going to keep me from reaching it.

However, the skill of handwalking did come in handy when I got a stress fracture in my ankle last year: (Click to start video)


On April 1st 2006 I made the decision to stop drinking soda (pop) for no other reason than to test and see if I could do it. I still haven’t had a sip of it, so I’m actually heading towards my 10 year anniversary!

The year after, I decided I wanted a six-pack. Yup, a decade before instagram and fitness even became a thing I came up with that strange idea. I talked one of my teammates into an ab-challenge where we had to do minimum 200 sit-ups a day for about a year. In retrospect, I realize that we didn’t really know anything about muscle building, nutrition or fitness, but that didn’t stop us from making it a part of our daily schedules. One day I wanted to test how many reps I could do non-stop, so I “just casually” ended up doing 1108. Again, this was all just for fun…

When I, five years later, went into the “sport” of fitness, all those crunches suddenly became a little useful, sort of:

Then when I was about 14 I wanted to become the master of L-seats. I won’t judge you if you’re not familiar with such terms, because it’s not a skill I expect from the average person. But an L-seat is kind of a modified handstand where you support yourself on your hands, lift you legs up straight in front of you, and hold them there for as long as you can. My record is a little over 2 minutes. I challenge you all to give it a try (because it’s WAY harder than it looks, and my current level is probably at less than 10 seconds.)


Track and field has kind of filled all the gaps in between these “projects,” and when I retired from competitive sports last year, I started directing most of my attention towards filmmaking. With the exception of a brief vegan experiment earlier this year, I’ve tried to stay away from all “projects” outside school and film — which has been wonderful!

But Karen, Brittany and I have now decided to give up sugar and junk food until the summer break starts. Now that it’s official there’s no turning back until May 20th. Wish us luck!

Bless y’all,

We’ve been invited to our first film festival!

We’ve been asked to show “Over the Bridge” at the Sioux Empire Film Festival, Saturday night, April 9! I’ll let you know the specific time as soon as I know more.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.50.48

Despite the fact that we had a full house at the premiere two weeks ago, Sarah and I have received tons of requests from people who would want to see the documentary, and quite frankly, we haven’t known what to do about it — until now. Luckily, this time around we won’t have to worry about the logistics of organizing an event, we simply got an invitation, so all we have to do it just to show up.

A big thanks to the SEFF for giving us this opportunity!

We hope to spread the message about homelessness in South Dakota by bringing the film to a larger audience, and we see film festivals as an excellent way to do that. Therefore, we’ve started a fundraiser at KICKSTARTER to fund the entry fees at several festivals across country. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated to us already! We’re currently at $1000, but if we don’t get $2000 all the money will be returned to its donors. So every dollar is appreciated 🙂

Click on the graphic below to get more info:

Thank you, and God Bless,

Time-out in Fargo

Hello all,

Right now I’m sitting in my room trying to figure out what to do with this day. It’s spring break and now that the whole documentary production is completed I must admit that it feels a little weird not having a packed schedule. My instincts tell me that I should go be super productive and start planning my next big project, but I promised myself that I would indulge in a couple of lazy weeks as soon as I finished up “Over the Bridge.” So over the past week I’ve actually tried out the regular college student routine — consisting of going to class, doing my homework and watching Netflix.

On Friday morning I stashed some stuff into my suitcase, jumped into my sweatpants, filled up the gas tank on my car, turned on the radio and cruised my way to Fargo, North Dakota. After four hours I got to the hotel and just laid down on the bed, ordered pizza, turned off my phone and binge watched “Fargo” (the TV series.) Now that’s pretty cool! Ah, I haven’t been that relaxed in a long time.

Then on Saturday I picked up my cousin, Adrian, who is an exchange student in Fergus Falls, before we headed to downtown Fargo. I hadn’t seen him since last summer, so needless to say; we had lots of catching up to do! After dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, we stopped by a roller skating rink, “explored” the city and went shopping at Fleet Farm. I just love stores like that! But I always just end up buying boring stuff like laundry baskets and coat hooks for my dorm room. Money well spent, right? On our way back to Fergus our GPS tricked us so we got completely lost for a little while, but hey, that’s part of the midwestern experience. We had a blast, that’s for sure.

On Sunday I slept in, went to a diner for breakfast all by myself — looking like a complete slob with no makeup, oversized sweatpants, glasses and my hair in a bun — that’s how you do road trips in the upper Midwest!

Then I cruised down to Sioux Falls again. Overall, the weekend was so utterly relaxing I can highly recommend everyone to visit random towns and just “exist” there for two-three days. After several months with 16-hour days of filming, editing, scheduling, school and homework it was truly necessary.

On Monday I had to get back to work again though. I visited the bank to create a US account, applied for some film grants and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the submission fees to film festivals. We are excited to bring the film to a larger audience and increase attention to the issue of homelessness both in Sioux Falls and in the United States in general, so we’re hoping to do that through film festivals, but we need help with the entrance fees, so if you want to help us get there. CLICK HERE.

The Sioux Falls newspaper wrote a follow-up story about it too, so we hope that will help.

Now I should probably go “gather” some food. (You don’t realize how convenient it is with a 15-hour dining service on campus until it’s closed for spring break) 😉

So I’ll talk to you later,
Maria Lavelle

Film Premiere “Over the Bridge”

Good evening dear readers!

I don’t even know where to start this post, so much have happened over the last week that it hasn’t really sunk in yet.

In my last post I wrote that I had just finished the first cut of the documentary, and after some feedback from our official “film watchers” a.k.a Rachel Johnston and the Lavelle’s back in Norway, we decided to add five more minutes to the film. That meant some extra late nights in the editing room, but the end result improved significantly, so it was definitely worth it.

On Wednesday the newspaper here in Sioux Falls wanted to write a story about us. Over the past two years I’ve become pretty comfortable with interviewing and writing about other people, but it felt a little weird being in the subject’s shoes — answering instead of asking, but thanks to the Argus’ journalist, Megan Raposa, things went pretty smoothly.
Click HERE to read the story and watch a preview of the film.


Over the next couple of days Sarah and I got so many texts, e-mails, phone calls and messages we didn’t know what to do with them all. After breakfast on Friday I actually had to specifically devote time in my schedule to answering e-mails.

What surprised me the most was that so many people were talking about a student-produced amateur zero-budget documentary short they had not even seen yet.

When I skyped with my parents last week, I told them I was hoping I would get around 12-20 people to come for the premiere. In December, when Karen, Elin and I arranged a Christmas workshop here on campus we planned everything carefully, booked the location, put up posters and had about 20 people show up — so my expectations for the premiere seemed reasonable at the time. Besides, the screening was set to Friday at 4 p.m., which is an awkward time for most people, so to even get 20 would be pretty amazing in my opinion!


But when the Back Alley, which is the “theater” we booked for the event, was starting to fill up 30 minutes before showtime, I realized that my estimations had been ridiculously poor. We actually ran out of chairs, so people ended up sitting on the floor and many were standing in the back. The guy who works in the Back Alley even wanted us to close the doors because we had exceeded the “maximum occupancy,” and by the time the film started there were almost 200 people packed together in front of the screen, to watch a film I directed. Haha, that’s a first.


After the screening Sarah and I lead a discussion about homelessness where the audience got the opportunity to ask questions to the people featured in the film or and to us.

Sarah Kocher, me, Stacey Tieszen, Robert “Bob” Eggers, Dr. Sue Bunger and Jennifer Jurgens during the Q&A after the screening. Photo: Jill Johnson.
Photo: Jill Johnson.

Our goal with this project was to raise awareness and start a conversation around an issue that doesn’t get the attention it needs, so to see that so many members of the community show up on a Friday afternoon is just incredible!

The whole event was covered by TV, and you can see our interview HERE!

After the screening we got lots of nice feedback from the audience, but the highlight was probably when we took Bob, our main guy from the homeless community, out to eat at his favorite restaurant later at night. When you ask a person to share his deepest and most personal thoughts in front of your camera for then to show it to the public, you feel a certain responsibility, so I was a little nervous to hear his opinion. But he said it was “UN-FRICKIN-BELIEVEABLE” so we took that as a compliment, haha 😉


I want to give a big thanks to my amazing partner in crime, Sarah Kocher, for her amazing talent as a journalist, and for putting up with all of my artsy demands and ideas through these three months. This film would not have been possible without her, and it’s been a true joy and an incredible adventure working with her on this.

I also want to give a huge thanks to Rachel Johnston, who did the graphic design and was in charge of the premiere event. To Naras Prameswari, for holding that boompole and ensuring we got our audio despite the terrible weather conditions at 4:30 in the morning, and to Matthew Housiaux who somehow managed to carry all of our equipment around for hours on end (while on the verge of hypothermia) without complaining. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with a bunch of such amazing people. Love you all <3

When you fall asleep on the floor…

… you know it’s about time to take a break from editing and go to bed. That’s what happened to me last night. I like to set deadlines for myself, and yesterday I just really wanted to finish up the first cut of the documentary, so I stayed up a little longer than my regular 10 p.m. tuck-in.. heh, waaay longer. And then I figured I should probably do some backup of the work I had done in the past 12 hours — just in case my external hard drive decided to explode before I got to publish it, you know? (Yup, these are things a filmmaker worries about)

This is what a sleepy film-editing nerd looks like at 1:30 in the moning.

Anyway, after a full afternoon, night and a couple of hours into the morning, I laid down on the floor to let gravity do its work on my sore back and shoulders — and then I suddenly woke up. So I must have fallen asleep for a moment (!) When I checked my watch I realized it was already 1:30 a.m. so I made sure the documentary was securely backed up, shuffled my way through the silence of the empty hallways and across campus before I crashed in bed  — very satisfied with the day’s effort. So now the film is actually done! Yay!

Nothing like an empty hallway in EARLY Saturday morning.

Or almost done, we just have to wait for a cinematographer and a professional director to give us some harsh feedback, so we can do some final adjustments before the premiere on Friday.

Words like “premiere,” and “cinematographer” makes it sound so official, haha! But the truth is that it only lasts 15 minutes! God knows how hard Sarah and I have worked on making it that short — it would almost have been easier to make a full hour-long film, and we probably have enough footage for a mini-series, but we want to get the point across without any jizzjazz.

By the way, I want to give a shout-out to the talented, Rachel Johnston, who is in charge of the premiere event and did the design for our posters!


The team: Sarah and Rachel
Just a little excited about the design, haha!

Good night,

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