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Maria Lavelle is a Norwegian filmmaker, MFA Candidate at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and recipient of the coveted Willard T.C. Johnson Fellowship (2018 & 2019). She made her directorial debut in 2016 with an award-winning documentary featuring the homeless population in South Dakota—where she completed her undergraduate studies in journalism and theatre. As a student at Tisch, Lavelle continues chasing her vision of telling important stories that appeal to a broad audience.

Lavelle’s passion for filmmaking started when she, as an 11-year-old was hospitalized for nearly three months. From the hospital bed, she went with Charlie to the Chocolate Factory, bicycled across the moon with E.T. and Elliott and witnessed Pippi Longstocking show off her superhuman strength – all through the small box TV hanging on the wall next to her IV-stand. While she eventually recovered, the newfound fascination for storytelling stayed with her.

After pursuing a career as a professional track athlete and Olympic weightlifter, Lavelle moved to the US on an athletic scholarship in 2014. Augustana University in South Dakota became her home for the next three years. There, she combined her studies in journalism and theatre with her love for filmmaking.

Lavelle’s first film—a documentary about the homeless in South Dakota, titled Over the Bridge — packed a punch locally, and got accepted into numerous festivals across the country. As a result, she became a frequent guest speaker at local board meetings and other universities dealing with the homeless issue. The documentary is now used for educational purposes across the Midwest.

After having graduated a year early, Lavelle got accepted into the prestigious graduate film program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2017, where she is now in her third year.