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'Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie' follows filmmakers with Down syndrome


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: I am happy to say that this is a good news story.

Do not be fooled by the zombie massacre.

The "NewsHour"'s Mike Melia checks in on the latest work by two budding filmmakers he has been tracking for years.

It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Mike Melia: There are moments in life you do not forget. For me, one of them is when I first met Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt.

I had no idea that October day back in 2014 in Providence, Rhode Island, would be an invitation to come along on an epic adventure. As we will discover, it appears Sam knew it all along.

Sam Suchmann: My whole life, I feel like I never fit in anywhere or had a voice, but someday, that will change. I will be somebody. And that day is today.

Mike Melia: The "NewsHour" was profiling Sam and his best friend, Mattie, because they had an inspiring Kickstarter to fund their dream of creating a zombie movie. And that is exactly what they did.

They rounded up family, friends and film professionals to pull it off, but they were the driving creative forces, from writing the script to playing the lead roles.

Jesse Suchmann is Sam's older brother.

Jesse Suchmann: Our idea was to do their idea. And that infectious energy is what got us in.

But I think that their confidence gave us the confidence to ask the next layer of people. And the same Sam and Mattie confidence that gave that next layer of people the confidence to ask.

If any of us were doing this for ourselves, we probably wouldn't have gone as hard for it. But I think Sam and Mattie's determination and, like, unwillingness to compromise in the service of this big party, it gives everybody just an extra jolt of energy to pull off the impossible. And I think that's -- that was -- all Bobby and I had to do was sort of just commit.

We're like, yes, we're going to do it. And it's just been this insane, rolling party, adventure since then.

Robert Carnevale: Open on the skyline of downtown Providence.

Mike Melia: Bobby Carnevale is Jesse's friend, professional filmmaker and director.

Robert Carnevale: Thinking back on that Kickstarter video, it was like, we didn't really do -- I mean, there was definitely some zombie movie talk, but it was just like Sam and Mattie engaging with a camera and us and us driving around.

We just did like a day with them. OK, then, at 3:00 we go and get slushies at Cumberland Farms. And we're like, all right. And just every step of the way, even on the way to the Cumberland Farms, was like a whole trip. And I think that was my first insight to just like, wow, they have so much to say and so much energy.

And the two -- the way that the two of them bounce off each other as these best friends and they both have their own little quirks and dynamics, and Mattie's outrageous. Sam's emotional. And it's this little tag team. And we just kind of, like, slipped right in there.

Judy Woodruff: An ambitious new project.

Mike Melia After our initial profile, the spotlight on Sam and Mattie came fast and furious.

Man: Two New England teens are breaking barriers, trying to make it big in Hollywood.

Man: Aspiring to be the next big filmmakers some Rhode Island.

Mike Melia: From local news features to national profiles, including "CBS Sunday Morning."

Sam Suchmann: I don't do it for fame. I do it because I love it, because we really...

Mattie Zuefelt: I'm doing it for the money.

Question: You're doing it for the money?

Mattie Zuefelt: Yes.


Sam Suchmann: Well, I do it because I love it.

Question: Have you gotten rich on this so far?

Mattie Zuefelt: Not yet.

Mike Melia: They were even guests on "Conan O'Brien."

Conan O'Brien: What I love about what you guys have done is, you met years ago, you talked about this dream, and you made it happen.

Here we are, all these years later, and you made your zombie movie, and you had a premiere, a premiere that the press attended. Everyone loves the movie. And then you fly out here to come on our show. This is pretty spectacular.

Mike Melia: But they never let the spotlight blind them to who they were. Sam and Mattie told Conan they needed a chocolate fountain, and they got it.

In the movie, they wanted a slew of celebrity cameos. They didn't get The Rock, but:

Mattie Zuefelt: Yes, we have a lot of people.

Sam Suchmann: And not Bieber.

Mattie Zuefelt: No Bieber.

Sam Suchmann: He's crazy in the head.

Mike Melia: One celebrity on the top of their list, "The Jersey Shore"'s D.J. Pauly D. And he is in.

Spoiler alert: In the movie's climatic fight scene, D.J. Pauly kills me by throwing a record in my head.

Now, in a new documentary streaming on Apple+, you can see "Spring Break Zombie Massacre," while witnessing the journey behind the camera.

PETER FARRELLY, Oscar-Winning Director: They made a really good movie. I love this movie. I loved watching it. You watch this movie with a smile on your face the whole time.

And somebody asked me, they said, yes, but do you think they wanted you have a smile on the face? I said, absolutely. This isn't "The Walking Dead." This is "Zombieland." They wanted to entertain. And it is totally entertaining.

Mike Melia: Peter Farrelly, Academy Award-winning director of "Green Book," also behind comedy classics like "Dumb and Dumber" and "Something About Mary," was executive producer of "Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie."

Pete Farrelly: I promise you, I will know them until the end of my life. And I hope they make more movies. And I know they will, because they're that -- those kind of guys. This isn't a one-off for them. They're not just coming in saying, hey, we're going to make a movie. Now we will move on and build an airplane.

They're going to make movies. They're really good at it.

Mike Melia: How do Sam and Mattie see it?

Sam Suchmann: Also, doing it with this guy right here.

Mattie Zuefelt: Yes.


Sam Suchmann: ... himself, is also really amazing too, because this guy is the best guy in the world right here.

Mattie Zuefelt: Yes.

Mike Melia: They knew, if they were going to pull this off, they needed to be in the driver's seat.

Sam Suchmann: I had a vision. And Mattie tagged along with the vision and made it bigger.

It's like a blueprint, right? So, it was like I really put in the work to make the blueprint, the movie, right, and sat down and did it. Mattie came up with all these crazy ideas and architecture to it, in a way.

Mattie Zuefelt: Yes.

Sam Suchmann: We're both like the architectures of it. So, it's really cool.

Mike Melia: Turns out the true story has nothing to do with jetpacks or fighting zombies. Behind the gore is a lesson in love.

Jesse Suchmann: This whole thing was an excuse to hang out. And it was a reason to hang out. And it was a way to hang out that broke down so many barriers that he faces every day.

Without this giant zombie movie, what would we have done altogether? How would I have gotten all my friends from New York here? He knew that it was this vision that was bringing people. They were coming for the zombie movie, and they were staying because we were all becoming really close friends. And he built a family through a horrifying, violent, insane zombie movie.

And he's a genius.

Mike Melia: Sam and Mattie are both now 25.

Mattie Zuefelt: It's not safe here. We're going to get the heck of here.

Mike Melia: They are looking for their next gig and hoping a funder for a sequel.

Sam Suchmann: We are making a sequel. And, mostly, we will have more Sam and Mattie adventures on the way, too. You know what I mean?

Actor: Sam, Mattie, let's go, bros.

Mike Melia: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Mike Melia.

Judy Woodruff: And how is that not a fabulous way to end the week?

Thank you, Mike Melia. It's completely changed my tastes in movies. I now like zombie movies.

"Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie" is streaming now on Apple+.

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