Movies Offer Escape, Career Path for Augie Filmmaker

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A little girl trapped with no way out until she found a secret way to escape.  It is a plot right out of the movies, but it is the real life story of Maria Lavelle.  The 23-year-old Augustana University senior’s past produced a passion that has led to a promising future in filmmaking. A film she made is putting the spotlight on a serious issue in Sioux Falls. 

Other worlds seem so far away, until a movie helps you better see what is directly in front of you.  Lavelle knows this.  That is why the filmmaker is using her lens to bring homelessness into focus.

“I had basically just seen the campus and not any homeless people.  Back in Norway, you see them everywhere,” Lavelle said.  Lavelle is from Haugesund.

The curiosity about Sioux Falls, her home during college, led her and Sarah Kocher — a fellow Augie student — to make a documentary called “Over the Bridge.”  Using stunning visuals, and enlightening interviews, the film shows the darkness of being homeless in the area. 

“It was an easy decision to just go out there with a camera.  We had no scripts, no nothing.  We just went there,” Lavelle said. 

The piece earned her a spot at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.  This is not the first time a movie was her ticket out of here.  Lavelle’s love for features began early with “E.T.”  The alien who phoned home comforted an 11-year-old girl in a Norwegian hospital who just wanted to go home. 

“‘E.T.’ was just the movie that helped me forget about everything.  The IV that I was constantly attached to and I could just be there with E.T. and Elliott,” Lavelle said. 

Doctors spent months treating multiple cystic tumors in her liver.

“There was one moment, I was halfway drifting in and out of consciousness.  I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t going so well after all,'” Lavelle said.

Lavelle got better and the best is yet to come.  Whether it is Sioux Falls, the Big Apple, or someday Hollywood, Lavelle wants to use her camera to help others.
In her case, movies gave this director her life’s direction. 

“It’s about that element of inspiration that can inspire you to believe in something broader.  Help you look beyond where you are right now,” Lavelle said. 



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