“My whole life, I feel like I never fit in anywhere or had a voice, but some day that will change. I will be somebody. And that day is today.”
These were just a couple sentences read out loud from a crumpled sheet of paper, but Sam Suchmann’s words that day in October 2014 were more prophetic than anyone in his living room could have imagined. It was part of an interview for a PBS NewsHour piece we were shooting about him and his best friend, Mattie Zufelt. The two friends had a wild idea – to make an epic teen zombie movie. They also had about $25,000 pledged to a Kickstarter campaign.
Fast forward nearly two years. Last week, on July 7, “Spring Break Zombie Massacre” premiered to a packed crowd in their home town of Providence, and on Thursday night, they appeared as guests on Conan O’Brien, where they were treated to shots of root beer and a chocolate fountain.
“What I love about what you guys have done is you met years ago, you talked about this dream, and you made it happen,” Conan O’Brien said on Thursday. “Here we are, all these years later, and you made you made your zombie movie. You did a spectacular job. 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.”
It is pretty spectacular. Sam and Mattie, who both have Down syndrome, first met in grade school in the Special Olympics. About five years ago, they had their idea for a zombie movie. Along the way, their contagious energy and charm drew in family, friends, strangers, movie professionals and this reporter on a remarkable journey.
In the face of a spate of tragic events in recent weeks, it’s a pleasure to update this feel-good zombie story.