When Everett De Morier of Dover first penned Thirty-Three Cecils, which meshes the journals of two men—one from Binghamton, New York and the other from Erie, Pennsylvania—he found the story to be cathartic.
“It’s really about turning-point moments,” he says. “Everyone has them and they can quickly change the course of a life.”
It’s a story of redemption and of realizing there might still be time to turn things around.
For Dutch, the character from Binghamton, he looks at his life and sees no future. He’s in his thirties, works in a landfill and spends much of his time drinking at a local bar. He looks out his dirty window and sees a certain view of the world around him. He later realizes that the only way to change that view is to change how you see it by “focusing on the good” instead of seeing only the negative.
The contrasting character is Walker, who lives in Erie. For Walker, he looks like a winner from the outside. He’s an award winner, a cartoonist, a popular man about town, but on the inside, there are other factors at play and a very public fall from grace also lands him in prison. While serving time, he realizes the important things were there all along—his wife and his daughters. But, he didn’t spend the time he should have with them when he had the chance.
The book came out in 2015 and, when it was first released, De Morier would get calls from reporters.
“They would ask how long I lived in Erie,” he says with a quiet smile. “I’ve actually never been there.”
De Morier is from Binghamton, so when he writes of the city, he can see it, feel it and even smell it. When writing about Erie, he spent long hours watching videos from town hall meetings and from community events. He looked at numerous maps, photos and news clippings. He built his idea of the town and hopes he did right by Erie.
How he got from book to film is a long story, but it happens the way some Hollywood stories are made. The book was used in some prison programs because of the nature of its content. The father of one of the women using the book during these programs read it and decided it needed to be a movie. He formed his own production company and quickly realized he was over his head. He then found Brian Esquivel, an up-and-coming producer, who took on the project.
Esquivel previously worked on the HBO show Entourage. He and De Morier worked up the script. Time went on and it was passed around. At some point, famed actor Dustin Hoffman read it and really liked it and, soon, the wheels were turning.
“Brian was great at allowing it all to happen naturally,” De Morier says. “It wasn’t an overnight thing. He let it develop. One of the great moments of my life was hearing that Dustin Hoffman read the book 14 times and really enjoyed it.”
Filming will start in Binghamton this summer. In the case of filming, both Esquivel and De Morier felt it needed to be filmed in Binghamton. Kelly Fancher, who De Morier knew from her time with the Binghamton Film Office, came on board and has been the star when it comes to finding locations, working with local partners and the city and getting things done.
“Everything has just fallen into place,” De Morier says. “I’m really proud of the screenplay and I know they will do a great job making the film.”
While he’s not sure he will be on set during filming, he says he trusts the process.
“Cecils is a story of redemption,” he says. “I think we all have those moments of where do we go from here…we can all understand and find hope in this kind of story.”