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The Beginning

Good afternoon!

I’m just taking a quick break from all the pre-production work for my next film and the approaching school year to let you in on what I’ve been up to.

Like you already know, I stepped away from social media almost three weeks ago, and I cannot explain how wonderful it’s been. I won’t go on and on about this, but he amount of uninterrupted work I get done in the absence of the 100 daily requests I get shot at me from all directions is just unbelievable.

Anyway, back to the project I promised to tell you about last time.

It’ll be a fictional short film inspired by real events, and I’ll shoot it here in my hometown in November with a crew from both NYU and Norway.

Producing a film outside the US will be a new experience for me, so these past days have been filled with all kids of meetings.

It’s been quite refreshing, honestly, because even though Norwegians have a reputation for being cold and unfriendly, I gotta say: New Yorkers are far worse. People actually want to help here, and I get so blown away every time that I want to hug them all.

Just realized that the statements above made me sound like a foreigner … but as a filmmaker in Norway I actually do feel like a foreigner — I don’t know the industry as well here, and I have to repeatedly remind myself why: I’m about to take on my fifth year in the US. I haven’t lived in Norway since July 2014. Gosh, time flies.

I’ll head back to NYC next week, and will continue sharing more about the project as I go.


Here a photo from my first ever short film in NYC.
Photo: Avi Kabir.

Have a productive and blessed day,
Maria

Change

Good afternoon darlings!

I’m just stopping by for a quick announcement before I head to work.

If you stop by this blog somewhat regularly you’ve probably noticed know that I’m a sociable creature. I love to meet new people, I love to spend time with people, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have lots and lots of people I have the privilege of calling my friends. I have no idea how they put up with me, and I honestly don’t think they know it either, haha.


This is an example of how they always put up with me doing my thing… 

I’m not the kind of person who shows up with surprise-gifts and homemade baked goods in Mason-jars. I don’t invite people over to dinner, I don’t join them in clubbing and, unfortunately, I have a reputation for sending their birthday greetings four minutes before midnight (#timezones, but still).

  

    

In return, I choose to believe I’m a good listener, and I’m certain they all know I love and care about them. Whether they live in Norway, South Dakota, New York or somewhere else, they under stand and accept that I’ve chosen a path in life that doesn’t give me much free time, and they know I have a tendency to get very focused on the things I do. They’re okay with it, and I’m forever thankful for that.

When I’m with my friends, I give them my full attention and I keep my phone out of sight most of the time, and that’s what I’ll talk more about in this post.

Like I said, I love socializing, and I also love social media — it allows me to stay in touch with friends all over the globe, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job staying connected with most of them, even after I’ve moved across continents or oceans.

However, this is where I’ll make a slight adjustment.

Over the past year, social media — combined with an enormous amount of emails (that I actually have to respond to, as opposed to ads and spam) — has started to eat away so much of my time that I need to make a change.

Contrary to a lot of people — especially students — I actually keep my inboxes clean. I don’t leave 8,756 unopened emails hanging, but this is often what my phone looks like after just a short time away from it. This was after I returned from an hour at the gym.

Where to begin?

The emails in this case are, perhaps, on the more extreme side because of several projects and my full-time job: I can assure you it’s usually slightly less overwhelming, haha.

Even as much as I love to be connected, I’ve realized I have to give myself more work time, and less “trying-to-stay-on-top-of-all-my-social-media,-and-realizing-I-won’t-have time,-and-end-up-walking-around-feeling-guilty-because-I-don’t-make-enough-time-for-my-friends – time.”

I’ll soon start my 2nd year as an NYU Grad Film student, I have a script to write, a film to direct, and four films to produce in addition to regular school work, so I figured it was better to write this post, instead of having people wait on my ever so slow snapchat-replies, or wonder why I suddenly stopped liking your posts on Facebook or Instagram.


Before and after I’ve cleaned up my inbox.

To summarize: I’ll now reduce my social media activity drastically. I’ll turn off the notifications and only check them occasionally. I do want to stay connected with you all, but please contact me via email or text.

My email is marelav@gmail.com, and I can currently be reached on my Norwegian phone number. I’ll switch to my US number on August 19th.

I’ll try this for a while to see if it gives me more time. I’ll update the blog like I usually do.

 

Much love to you all,
Maria

Thankful

Good evening and thanks for stopping by!

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that my financial situation almost kept me from accepting my spot at NYU Tisch last spring. But what I haven’t told you is that my financial situation almost kept me from entering my second year at Tisch.

The Truth

I had to use all my savings and resources on just making it through my first year of film school. My family, friends and even anonymous donors put a lot of work into making my dream of film school become a reality, and I did end up having enough money to make it through the year, for which I’m incredibly grateful.

As you now, my semester was filled with lots of stressful events that kept me busy, and the truth is that throughout the entire year I had no idea if I’d even be able to afford a second year at Tisch.

I chose not to worry about it, because I wanted to believe God would provide, somehow.

The Bread and the Bananas

My close friends started to notice this “economical scarcity” on my eating habits, while others probably thought I was “just on a special diet consisting of bread, bananas, yoghurt and peanut butter.” I’m not a big fan of either of those foods (certainly not after this year…), but I found that it was cheap enough for my budget and it gave me what I needed to keep going.

However, I received the most wonderful email a few weeks ago. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, chances are you already know, but I’ll tell you again.

I got to know I’ve been accepted as a NORAM Scholar and was selected as a recipient for a scholarship that will help me close the financial gap between what I get in funds from Norway and my Tisch Scholarship.

As a result, I’ll be able to attend NYU Tisch for another year!

It’ll still be tight, and I’ll probably have to sustain myself on a few more of those banana sandwiches in this upcoming year, but receiving this scholarship lifts a huge burden off my shoulders. Combined with my reporting job this summer, I might even be able to afford some actual meals.

God is so good, and he does, indeed, provide.

Here are some pictures from the award ceremony at the Nobel Institute in Oslo:


Three Lavelles. My sister had to work, and couldn’t make it to the ceremony. But the three of us had a great time.

 

Have a blessed evening,
Maria

 

Psalm 23.

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

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