With their grandmother's wish on their minds, brother and sister began brainstorming how to creatively present their complex family history to the largest audience possible. Their answer: a movie.
"We're both actors so we think very visually and it's such an incredible, colorful time in America we felt the only way we could really reach a broad audience and affect as many people as we could was through a film," said Lora Lee Ecobelli.
Their grandmother's story was the groundwork for the plot but what grew around it was a movie about early 20th Century America, zeroing in on the Italian immigrant community and factory towns of Upstate New York.
"It was during the period when immigrants came through Ellis Island and a lot of them didn't even get a chance to make a choice where they wanted to live. A lot of small mill towns like Ballston Spa and Amsterdam would hire people when they got off the boat and send them right up the river to immediately go work," said Lora Lee Ecobelli.
"Chickadee" will weave the rape and trial (it was nearly unheard of at the time for a victim, especially such a young one, to face their perpetrator) into the working conditions of local textile mills and the struggle of immigrants to rise above poverty and adapt to American life.
"It explores many themes about that era of America which is not talked about very much anymore," said Lora Lee Ecobelli.
Living on opposite coasts (Tom in California and Lora Lee in Woodstock), the duo still managed to write the entire screenplay together.
"We have a permanent crick in our neck from hours on the phone. We really did write it together. We didn't write passages apart, we wrote on the phone with each other, line by line, thought by thought," said Tom Ecobelli.