SC teacher’s book becoming a movie that will be on Netflix. Here are the details

In her decades as an elementary school teacher, Kelly Tabor entranced her students with so many stories she became known around Paris Elementary in Greenville as The Storyteller.

Their favorites were the ones about Champ, the lake monster, who purportedly lives in Lake Champlain in the Adirondack Mountains between Vermont and New York State.

It’s an area she knows well, spending childhood summers looking for Champ with her father at his cabin on the lake, not far from her family home in Crown Point, New York.

The legend of Champ goes way back, to the time the Abenaki and the Iroquois lived in the area and told about a large horned serpent or great snake living in the lake.

More than 300 sighting of Champ have been reported at the place the film was shot.
More than 300 sighting of Champ have been reported at the place the film was shot.

None other than explorer Samuel de Champlain spoke of the monster. The doubters say it’s a garfish.

Nevertheless, Champ is commemorated by the Lake Monsters, a baseball team in Vermont; a statue in Port Henry, New York; and a historic marker on the lakeshore in New York’s most northeastern county, Clinton, where Plattsburgh is located.

The film was shot over a four-week period in 2022.
The film was shot over a four-week period in 2022.

And now a motion picture based on Tabor’s book, Lucy & the Lake Monster, which she wrote with college friend Richard Rossi, an actor and filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles. It is based on the stories she told her students.

Tabor and Rossi met at Liberty University in the 1980s at Friday night get-togethers Rossi started for students who were not quite as fundamentalist leaning as Jerry Falwell and other school leaders.

He got in big trouble early on when he performed at a school service, singing a less-than-favorable song he wrote about fundamentalism and Liberty. He thought he might be able to open some people’s eyes. They thought they were seeing the world just fine. Liberty banned Rossi from performing at school events.

He stayed because his best friend, a paraplegic who he helped care for, was there.

They wrote songs and performed together in high school.

Rossi moved back to Pittsburgh after graduation, worked as a minister, and when he got some interest from Hollywood on a script he wrote, moved to Los Angeles. Tabor worked as a teacher for 32 years, first in North Carolina and then in Greenville County schools.

During COVID, Rossi contacted Tabor to ask if she was interested in writing a children’s book about Champ. She was. They worked together, long distance via zoom sessions and came up with a finished product last summer.

The story centers on 9-year-old Lucy Lago, an orphan who lives with her grandfather, Papa. They are determined to show the disbelievers that Champ exists. At its core it is a story about the effects of bullying and overcoming mental health challenges.

Rossi, who worked as a full time preacher after college and started the church Eternal Grace once he moved with his family to Los Angeles, can’t leave God out of the mix.

Champ, with a pure heart, represents God. The haters bill him as a mercenary.

“The way manipulative ministers scare people today,” Rossi says on the website for Amazon, which the duo used to publish the book.

Kelly Tabor and Richard Rossi on set at Lake Champlain.
Kelly Tabor and Richard Rossi on set at Lake Champlain.

The movie was filmed in summer 2022 at a spot on Lake Champlain where there have been 300 Champ sightings. Nine-year-old Emma Pearson stars as Lucy, Rossi is Papa and Tabor, who is now retired from teaching, is the school teacher. It is in post production now. Rossi said he expects it to come out later this year or early next and will be shown in theaters and film festivals before it is available to stream on Netflix.

There’s been some rumbling from publishers about picking up the book for their list. Rossi and Tabor hope Lucy’s story will become a trilogy.

Tabor said she never saw Champ despite her intensive searching through the years. But one night in the still water of the lake she saw a moving wake, 1 to 2 inches high, come straight toward her father’s cabin, where she and others stood on the porch. Then it turned and went back in the direction from where it came.

They couldn’t see through the murky water. It never surfaced.

“I’m wanting to believe we saw the effects of Champ,” she said.