Archive for Month: November 2017

“Hipster Bi*ch”

Good afternoon dear readers!

My roommate Alejandro and I had the tremendous privilege of having a part of our South Dakota “Fam” over for Thanksgiving. We had an absolute blast, and to our big surprise, we somehow managed to fit all our bodies into our ridiculously small apartment — mostly because none of us are afraid of intimacy, but still.

One of the highlights was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Together with 3.5 million people, we dressed up in our best Dakota-coats and braved the cold.

With our friend SpongeBob. Jacob (Halfway cut out of the picture to the left), me, Jess (on my shoulders), Katelyn and Alejandro. Photo: Random stranger.

While parts of the group went to watch a Broadway musical on Friday, Jacob and I enjoyed a relaxing night at home. When we, at around midnight, decided to go grab a slice of Joe’s Pizza down the block, I was already in my pyjamas and decided to just jump into my boots and long winter coat instead of changing. I told Jacob that “We live in the hipster capital of New York, so I can totally get away with it. Nobody will even notice.”

Well, as we turned the corner a car with rolled-down windows slowly passed us, and out came the sounds of a person yelling:

“HEY, HIPSTER BITCH!”

Okay. Apparently, people did notice, and I did not get away with it, haha.

I honestly thought it was hilarious, and decided to take it as a sign of a successful integration process into the Williamsburg neighborhood.

Last time I made that same stylistic choice (at a motel in Minnesota when I had to escape from my friend Rachel’s apartment after a severe allergic reaction to her cat. Read more HERE) I was indirectly accused of being a prostitute, so I should’ve known it was bad news. Oh well, the things we learn.

Anyway, it was with a heavy heart that we had to send Jacob, Jess and Katelyn off at the airport last night. Thankfully, Gabi came flying in to fill the void.

Thanks for the best Friendsgiving evah, Fam. Love ya.

XOXO,
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

Expectation vs. Reality in NYC

I’ve lived in New York CIty for about two months now, and here are some of the surprising realizations I’ve made since I moved here. Enjoy!


The Apartment

Expectation: “I honestly don’t need a huge apartment. Like, something similar to Monica’s place in Friends is good enough for me.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a poor student at America’s most expensive private university or if you’re a fictional character in a successful sitcom, you WILL have a two-bedroom apartment in West Village. $4,500 a month? No problem!

Reality: “My 7×9 ft room (2×3 m) has a window, and I can walk to my desk —  if I climb over my bed and crawl through the laundry bag on the way. Yay! And speaking of laundry; it turns out that having a dishwasher and laundry machine inside your building is a privilege only for the rich and famous.


The Subway

Expectation: The commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan is a great place for homework and breakfast!

Reality: “If I can fit onto the L train in the morning without losing a limb — that’s success.”

It’s not uncommon for the train to be so full you literally have to pretend you’re a runningback trying to bust through a wall of people to even get on it.

And the vocal encouragement you get during the process sounds freakishly similar to what you hear at a sporting field or in a maternity ward … “PUSH!” “You can do it!”


The Food

Expectation: “I probably won’t go out for brunch on the Upper West side every single day, but maybe like twice a week, like Carrie Bradshaw and her friends do in Sex and the City.”

Reality: “I don’t think I can afford to eat any protein this week, but hey, cereal works for dinner, right?”


The Clothing

Expectation: “I’ll be Blair Waldorf’s new stylish friend in Gossip Girl. *Bling Bling* New York fashiooon week here I coooome!”

Reality: “Will people notice if I wear this jacket four days in a row? What if I flip it inside out? I also stepped in human poop, so I had to throw away my only good pair of boots … but well.”


The Weekend

Expectation: “I’ll go to all the Broadway shows and check out the cultural scene New York has to offer, like every weekend.”

Reality: “Ah, look! I found a quarter on the ground! Guess who can afford to do laundry this weekend?!”


New York City may not be exactly what it looks like on TV, but I can — from the bottom of my heart — say that there’s nowhere else I’d rather live. I’ll write a more serious post about that later. 

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful Saturday night! (In the meantime, I’ll go pick up that laundry … 😉

XOXO,
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

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