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Teen boys with Down syndrome raise over $68,000 to film movie of their dreams

Competitive Special Olympics athletes, Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt receive funding to create zombie movie they've always dreamed about.
/ Source: TODAY

For at least a decade, Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt shared a close friendship. After meeting as competitors in the Special Olympics, the two became inseparable. When one started a hobby, say skateboarding or DJing, the other often became interested in it, too.

“Mattie has always inspired me to be rowdy and crazy,” says Sam.

But over the years, these hobbies would fade and soon the skateboard and DJ equipment gathered dust in the corner. Four years ago when Sam told his brother, Jesse Suchmann, about a movie he had been writing with Mattie, Suchmann assumed it was another fleeting hobby.

Small Frye Photography

But every time Suchmann visited Sam in Providence, he continued talking about the movie; Sam even had notes and drawings in a notebook.

“They started talking about a zombie movie,” Suchmann says. “It was a project that stuck beyond other projects.”

Suchmann worked with Sam to flesh out the idea in a master document and soon realized that there was enough material for an actual movie. The two 19-year-olds, who both have Down syndrome, remained just as excited about the project as when Sam first mentioned it. Suchmann was enthusiastic, and wanted to help Sam and Mattie make their movie.

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The movie, tentatively titled “Sam and Mattie: Teen Zombie Movie” follows two bionic half-brothers fighting against all sorts of baddies, including zombies, after a demon kills the respective mothers (they share a father in the film).

“This movie is about facing fears. I faced my fear of the dark. I faced my fear of heights. Now I am facing my fear of the devil and it is really big,” says Sam.

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Suchmann contacted his friend Suzy Beck, who works as a TV producer in Los Angeles, and the two started a Kickstarter for $50,000 to make the movie. The project earned more than that, netting $68,000.

Then the in-kind donations rolled in with Panavision donating about $70,000 in a camera package and Silver Scream FX Lab from Atlanta donating more than $100,000 in special effects.

“This is a full-fledged, honest to God movie,” says Beck.

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Suchmann, Beck, Sam and Mattie spent the month of July filming in Providence. Sam and Mattie’s positive attitudes have been an inspiration to everyone working tirelessly on the project.

“One of the greatest things about Sam and Mattie …[is] their personalities,” says Suchmann. “They just expect everything to work out and they believe it so hard and it actually does work out.”

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Sam says he’s still surprised that his dream came true. The best part about making a movie?

“If Mattie were here he would say the girls,” says Sam. “I love the fun and the behind the scenes stuff.”

Sam also enjoys acting and making movies. He hopes to pursue it in the future and Mattie is thinking about taking another spin behind the turntables as a DJ.

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Both guys felt ecstatic when Providence-native DJ Pauly D (aka Paul DelVecchio) of Jersey Shore arrived to film a cameo for the last fight scene of the movie, which takes place on a boat.

“Once Pauly D was here Mattie was star struck and I thought he was going to fall into the water,” says Suchmann.

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But Mattie surprised him and started talking work with Pauly D.

While the friends feel lucky to live out a dream, they also hope their story provides inspiration to others.

“The point is to not give up trying,” Sam says. “[If] you put your mind, your heart to something, you can do it. And it’s really cool.”

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After the film is completed, Suchmann and Beck hope to enter it into the festival circuit and possibly secure distribution rights (Sam is super hopeful that it will be on iTunes, Netflix, and HBO, but Suchmann and Beck feel less certain).

“It is really import to us that we focus on how they are inspiring everyone,” says Beck. “They are just awesome dudes.”