Archive for Month: January 2017

m a k e o v e r

Good evening!

One of the projects I mentioned in my previous post is finally ready to be revealed: the blog has undergone an extensive facelift! If you made it far enough to read this I suppose you already noticed, but I wanted to share it with you all, so don’t ruin it for me, please.

Photo: Mike Shafer.

If you haven’t already clicked around on the site, I encourage you to do so. The “FILM” and “PHOTO” buttons above do, for example, have quite a bit of content you can check out.

The “MARIA” button is filled to the brim with newly updated stuff as well. I cringe a little every time I open that particular one, but you have the fortune of exploring it all without any cringing because you’re not me. What a treat!

On the far right, the “SHOP” is still up and running, and the DVD-sales are moving forward, so feel free to take a look in that corner too.

And if you’re really in the mood, you may find that the “WRITING SAMPLES” satisfy your needs — which I highly doubt —  because my biggest journalistic piece yet will be published here on the blog later this week, so stay tuned for that one instead.

Bless you all,


Over the Bridge is now on DVD

I’ve been waiting to share this with you for a while, and now it’s finally time:

Our documentary about homelessness in Sioux Falls, Over the Bridge, is out in DVD-format, and you can buy it here on the site!

Just click “Shop” in the menu above, or use THIS LINK to go directly to the product site.

20% of the proceeds will go directly to Bishop Dudley Hospitality House — the shelter where we first met the people in the film. The volunteers there do an amazing job with the homeless in Sioux Falls and deserve every penny they can get to keep up the service. I wish we could donate more of the total sum, but the production costs for an edition this size were simply too high.

365 days ago: With Robert Eggers, the star of the film. Photo: Sarah Kocher.

We also have a Norwegian edition for all those wonderful people who supported us from across the ocean, and both versions have a section with extra material from the production process. CLICK HERE.

Bless you,
Maria Lavelle

Model for a Day

I haven’t made blogging a priority lately because I’ve been in the midst of working on several small projects (which I’ll tell you more about later) But in addition to participating in my first ever Ping pong tournament last week, I had the opportunity to be a model for a day.

I’ve done a few photoshoots with friends in the past, some more successful than others, but this one was different because the photos actually turned out way better than I expected. Creds to the very talented photographer, Mike Shafer! He somehow managed to make me — and the city of Sioux Falls — look way classier than we actually are.

Photo: Mike Shafer.
Photo: Mike Shafer.
Photo: Mike Shafer.
Photo: Mike Shafer.
Photo: Mike Shafer.

But don’t let yourself be fooled by my bare legs and assume it was nice and balmy out that day. I do live on the American prairie, you know, and when the temperature dropped to -4°C (25° F) I had to escape into my actual (less classy) coat in between every shot.

Photo: Mike Shafer.

It’s always interesting to see things from the opposite side of the camera, and even if I usually prefer to be the one hitting the shutter, I had so much fun!

I’ll post more photos later, but feel free to check out Mike Shafer’s work and my blog-gallery in the meantime.


Reflection: 2016 in pictures

With the exception of my occasional “personal disclosures,” this blog has mostly revolved around film work, so I wanted to take a moment and reflect over the past year as an aspiring film director, so, here we go!

The Sioux Empire Film Festival (2016) Photo: Rachel Johnston

I can’t talk about 2016 without mentioning Over the Bridge, and now it’s been precisely a year since Sarah Kocher and I started the production process inside the Edda office at Augustana. Little did we know then, that our little zero-budget amateur film would still be screened across the US a full year later!


Like I’ve said before; we just wanted to make a documentary for fun, and if it turned out somewhat decent, we would show it to our professors for some constructive criticism. And maybe — just maybe — we’d do a screening at Augustana. You know, for our really close friends and stuff … But, well, 200 people showed up, and there was no turning back.


After the premiere we took Bob, our homeless friend, out to eat at his favorite restaurant to symbolize the ending of the Over the Bridge-chapter.


We thought that was it, and I was ready to move on to new projects, but God wanted it differently.

And we got invited to an actual film festival! Woooohoo!


We certainly never expected we’d ever get to screen it at the opposite side of the Atlantic! Even if the Norwegian premiere was less “packed,” it was still a nice experience.


Then, the highlight: I got to travel from coast to coast of America!


Red carpets and cocktail parties in downtown LA suddenly became words I could use in sentences formed in first person. Even if it was only for six days it was an experience that made me hungry to learn everything about the film industry. Read more about it HERE and HERE.


The following week I flew to Washington DC with a bunch of awesome journalism majors from Augustana. Read more HERE.


Two days later I headed to New York City (Read about it HERE) I visited the NYU Tisch School of the Arts (the university of my dreams) and did some film-related errands in the beautiful city of New York. I’ll tell you more about all that when it’s settled.


Even if I didn’t find time to make another film this year, I learned a lot from directing my first play. Read HERE.


And during the last weeks of the semester my photojournalism group and I made a short video about the Augustana Theatre, which was a nice way to tie both film and theatre together.


Throughout the year, Sarah and I have been invited to universities, churches, organisations and Homeless Advisory Board meetings to speak and show the film, we’ve done several TV- radio- and newspaper interviews, and we’ve had the chance to raise awareness around an issue we’re both passionate about.


Only God can spread a tiny documentary with jumpy sound and blurry footage to eight states and two continents without even publishing the film online!

So my conclusion is that God is good, and all honor goes to Him. I’m so thankful for the doors He’s opening, and I want to continue honoring him with my work. Let’s see what He has in store next. I choose to trust him.

Thanks to everyone who has helped make this a good year. Bless you all!


Dedication or Addiction?

It’s a new year and everybody seem to have entangled themselves into intricate new year’s resolutions; “Work out more,” “Eat healthier,” “”Lose weight,” “Run a 5K” and the list goes on.

I’ve never been a fan of so-called resolutions starting January 1st because I think the 364 other days are just as good for improving yourself. But after an extremely busy year where health and fitness became less of a priority for me, I now find myself tempted to join the wave of mainstream resolutions.

But I know better.

Not because I think I’ll fail at sticking to it, but because I’ve tried it and I know what it does to me.

– On April 1st 2005 I decided to stop drinking soda, and what happened? I just never started again, so I’m now going on my 12th year!

– On May 1st 2010, as a competitive long jumper, I wanted to get some technical advice on my lifting, so I joined a weightlifting club with the intention of doing 2-3 sessions with them before I moved on. Well, the next thing I know, I’m signed up for my first competition, and a year later I won Nationals, became a part of the National team and traveled to England to represent Norway in an international championship. Don’t misunderstand, I feel incredibly privileged to have that experience, but I got so carried away that it was very hard to let go when I realized that juggling two sports was too much.

– In 2012, when I had to quit track because of a stress fracture, I decided it was time to stop chasing athletic performance altogether. I signed up at a gym and was planning on working out twice a week. You know, just taking it slow and doing things the normal way; walking on the treadmill, doing Sumba and lifting those small pink and purple dumbbells covered in rubber. Well… before I knew it, I was on my way to the stage as a fitness athlete. The pink dumbbells and yoga pants had been replaced by callused hands, lifting-straps, protein shakes and muscles so ripped I could see veins on my shoulders. I had gotten completely carried away — again.

Before / After

– So, when I picked up jogging last year, I thought I was cured because I stuck with my three-times-a-week-regimen for longer than a month. Until I — once again — found myself wearing a start-number on my chest. I could, of course, have settled with a 5K or a 10K, but well … I ran a half-marathon and started planning my full marathon debut before I even finished the half one. Unfortunately (or luckily?) I woke up with plantar fasciitis the next morning and was unable to run for the next six months, which sucked, but maybe it was necessary for me to be able to focus on what’s actually important. I probably would have aimed for an ultra-marathon after the regular marathon anyway.

Brookings Half Marathon 2016. My dear friend Matthew is apparently just as weird as me. (Especially after I forced him to join me. Poor fella. He’s great btw)

It may sound like I used this post as an excuse to brag about my athletic merits, but my propensity towards the extreme in terms of training has caused me so much pain, frustration and expensive medical bills that I really should learn to moderate myself. I’ve had several stress fractures, and about a dozen other injuries caused by my ridiculous enthusiasm for sports. In my family, we sometimes joke about it, and whenever I tell my parents about my athletic plans, dad always says: “She’s back at the bottle” as if it’s an actual addiction.

Therefore, my resolution for this year is to not have one.

I’m not an athlete anymore, and I’ll keep telling myself there’s no point in putting in the effort of an Olympian when my dreams don’t include those five colorful rings anymore.

I’ll instead transfer the discipline of my inner athlete to the projects that matter, and limit my workouts to 30 minutes a day — regardless of how tempting those Ironman competitions, martial arts courses and cross-fit classes seem.

Filmmaking is, after all, more important to me.

Bless you,

Photo: Naras Prameswari

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