If you grew up anywhere near the Lake Champlain region of New York and Vermont, you’ve heard of Champ, or Champy, the monster said to live in Lake Champlain. A cousin to Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, Champ has been celebrated for almost 40 years with a yearly festival in the town of Port Henry, which brings valuable tourist dollars to the Northern Lake George/Southern Lake Champlain area. This year the festival takes place on Saturday, August 6.
Perhaps even more exciting is the announcement of Lucy & the Lake Monster, currently seeking funding on Indiegogo. Richard Rossi, an experienced professional actor, director, and musician, has teamed up with fourth grade teacher and Lake Champlain local, Kelly Tabor, to create a book and movie series featuring the beloved lake monster in a story about an orphaned little girl and her grandfather. I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard and Kelly via email to learn a little more about them, and this exciting project.
AIPT: Let’s start with a bit of your background, how the two of you met, and how you became interested in Champ.
Richard Rossi: Kelly Tabor and I met nearly 40 years ago in school. I led a gathering in which I played music and spoke off campus, and she was drawn to be a part of it. It was a refreshing, spiritual renewal because we were in a school, Liberty University, that preached a very rigid religion; fundamentalist type. I had started a group, quite by accident — we called it “The Fellowship” — that focused on God being loving, friendly and kind, rather than the hellfire-brimstone of the school where we met in the early 1980s.
Kelly told me her childhood adventures looking for Champ, the sea serpent in Lake Champlain, and I thought her stories could be an allegory for the spiritual things we experienced, how some view Champ as kind, and some view Champ as a punitive monster.
Kelly Tabor: The name “Rich Rossi” was iconic, respected, and known in and around the airspace of Liberty Mountain when we met as college students back in the mid ’80s. Richard played guitar and lead worship regularly to a group off campus … The times we shared were some of the best memories I have from Liberty.
Like Richard, those who have spent time with me know I’m a believer of Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster. I spent my many summers on the shores of Lake Champlain, camping, swimming, fishing, and searching for the legend of the lake. I have heard stories from people including family members who have caught a glimpse of our friend, Champ. As an elementary school teacher, I’ve told stories of Champ for over three decades to my students. They have listened with wide eyes, on the edge of their seats, always excited, wondering and wanting to know more …
AIPT: Tell me a bit about the book(s). What is the basic story? How many books are planned? What age range will it/they be geared for? Do you have an illustrator chosen? Is it being written specifically to be easily translated to film?
RR: Lucy & the Lake Monster books tell the story of a 9-year-old orphan girl named Lucy. She’s raised by her Grandpa who she calls “Papa.” I will be playing the role of Papa in the film. At least two books are planned, like the Alice in Wonderland story was two books. The series could become more than two, like Harry Potter, but we have clear ideas about what happens in the sequel already.
They are geared for middle readers but adults love it, too. We haven’t defined the illustrations yet but we’re considering taking stills from the actual film and actors and then creating art based on those stills. Kelly came up with a brilliant concept for the poster and book cover, but that is a secret for now. More shall be revealed.
The novel is written with the film in mind, however there’s a lot more in the novel that people will get, such as the inner dialogue and thoughts of the characters. A novel can show more internal things going on, and a film can show more external, visual things going on.
AIPT: Now the movie/campaign. How much are you hoping to raise? When are you hoping to start filming? When are you hoping to release the film? Do you plan to film on Lake Champlain? Have you chosen locations yet? Are you planning a series of movies or just the one?
RR/KT: Our Indiegogo campaign set a goal of $50,000, but we want to go as far beyond that goal as possible. More money means more screenings, more marketing dollars, and more books into schools and libraries. We hope to release the film next year. We are shooting tentatively this summer in the Lake Champlain region. We have several locations chosen, but not all locations yet. We want to film the sequel next year.
AIPT: I know you have had some auditions for the movie already. Have you found Lucy yet? When will the actors know they have been chosen?
RR/KT: We are waiting to cast the film until we know how much money has come in, because we want to go to actors with a clear picture of when and where we’re shooting and what we can do. Things take longer with indie films. There is a correlation between the aspects of time and money. With more money you can spend to get things done quicker, but working outside a big studio system takes time.
AIPT: This particular Indiegogo campaign is nearing its end; do you have other fundraising planned?
RR/KT: We do have other fundraising planned beyond Indiegogo. We’re connecting to some arts foundations and trying to get some grants. People can always give through PayPal to the email email@example.com.
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