Social Media Turns Matthew Klein’s Hobby into a Big Break

As he uploaded his very first video to Facebook almost five years ago to the day, Matthew Klein never imagined he'd see his work on television. Yet his vibrant shots of Starved Rock State Park graced scene after scene in the popular HBO Max documentary series, "The Murders at Starved Rock."

Klein, a management and leadership major who operates Matthew Klein Films as a hobby, used his extensive familiarity with the park and self-taught filming skills to create stunning visuals from ground and air. His social media portfolio led to the big break.

In fact, for his entrepreneurial endeavors, Peoria Mayor Rita Bryant Ali M.A. '92, 2nd District Councilman Chuck Grayeb '72 and Bradley President Stephen Standifird will honor Klein with an official city proclamation May 2.

Unrealistic Ideas – the production company of Hollywood giant Mark Wahlberg responsible for the Emmy-nominated documentary “McMillion$” – moved the project toward completion. After viewing the earlier footage, series director Jody McVeigh-Schultz subsequently commissioned Klein for more specific shots.

“I never get tired of going out there,” Klein said, taking full advantage of his familiarity with the park to fulfill the director's requests. “Even though I'm hiking the same trails, it's the excitement of getting to shoot it from a new perspective."

Klein spoke numerous times with the director, who was interested in winter footage since the murders occurred in March. He was able to advance his filmmaking perspective when the director asked for a top-down clip of the drone flying very slowly "to allow the viewer to ease into the scene."

Much of Klein’s work made the final edit, from the opening montage to stunning vignettes depicting the seasons at Starved Rock that accentuated the narrative.

“I almost dream it or think of it in my head and then I try to recreate it," he said. "When I view the clips [now], I'm reminded of the stories and memories that went into capturing each shot. It’s obviously very exciting to see it on the big screen!”

A self-taught filmmaker, Klein first started making using his iPhone and soon began to appreciate the dynamics of the art like perspective, angle and other intangible qualities that come from experience. He also merged his love of drone piloting with his craft, which opened up a new dimension.

Constantly evolving, Klein recently enhanced his portfolio with several short films using indoor drones; these require more operational skill for piloting and filming.

“It honestly looks like it's a crazy thing flying around. But the footage, once you do all the post production, it ends up turning out pretty neat.”

Does he plan to turn Matthew Klein Films into a full-time career after graduation?

“While it has turned into a successful and fun business to learn over the past five years...I never did it with the intention of it being a business in mind,” Klein said. “I think no matter what, this will always stay with me in whatever I do.”