August 22, 2015 / 11:06 AM / 2 years ago

Down syndrome teens in Rhode Island crowdfund zombie movie dream

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Reuters) - Like many U.S. teens, Sam Suchman and Mattie Zufelt are fans of horror movies, which inspired them to begin work on a 30-minute action thriller they are due to finish shooting in the coming days.

The 19-year-old friends and creators of “Sam & Mattie’s Teen Zombie Movie” decided not to let another trait they share - Down syndrome, a genetic disorder associated with intellectual disabilities - stand in the way of their ambitions. They raised $68,000 online to fund the project.

“We love watching movies,” Zufelt said in an interview this week. “We got started when Sam started making storyboards with zombies and jet packs and everything.”

The two developed the concept, wrote the script and are the principal actors.

The project began taking off after they shared their ideas with Suchman’s older brother, Jesse.

“I heard Sam talking about a movie scene he’d thought up and then he pulls out a notebook full of storyboard sketches,” Jesse Suchman said. “They had the whole thing mapped out.”

Jesse helped the two set up a page on Kickstarter, the website where entrepreneurs, social crusaders and creative types solicit crowdfunding donations for their projects.

In addition to the $68,000 in cash, donations have come in from the movie industry to support the project. Panavision, a company specializing in motion picture equipment, sent a camera. Silver Scream FX Lab, an Atlanta company that does movie special effects, sent a make-up team.

The two teens met about 10 years ago while participating in the Special Olympics and became friends. Suchman is in high school while Zufelt attends Roger Williams University, a Rhode Island school with a program for people with intellectual disabilities.

They spent the summer filming around Providence and other Rhode Island locations and expected to wrap up shooting in the next few days.

“They’re the writers and the stars,” says Tim Forster, a New York video producer who volunteered to work on the project. “Everything is under their control. They’ll sit down with a few people in a room and talk about their ideas, the action and dialog. Someone jots it all down and we flesh it out.”

While the teens shoot their movie, Forster and others are also filming a documentary on their project.

“It won’t be about people overcoming disabilities,” said Jesse Suchman. “What we’re trying to show is that disabilities don’t matter.”

Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott

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