Canada Laughs’ Ben Miner Remembers Matthiew Klinck
If you’ve been reading the news in Canada over the last week then you’ve probably heard about the Canadian filmmaker who was murdered in Belize. His name was Matthiew Klinck and he was one of my best friends. He was a director, producer, writer, comedian and a bunch of other amazing things – my best way of describing Matthiew is Rushmore meets Hunter S Thompson meets Ernest Hemingway. This is my tribute to my friend.
I first met Matthiew in the fall of 1999 when I was attending Algonquin College and enrolled in their broadcasting program (go figure). I had started performing stand-up the previous winter and one of my classmates invited me to come audition with him for this new sketch troupe which was being put together by a guy who had one of the first shows on the Comedy Network here in Canada, a sketch show called YB Normal. That guy was Matthiew Klinck and I had no idea how much of an impact this person was going to have on my life.
The summer of 2000 is when I really got to know Matthiew. My buddy Nic Sulsky had plans to produce a kid’s show on summer camps and I was going to be a part of it. Our DOP, Christian Bielz, suggested that Nic meet with Matthiew and all it took was one meeting for Klinck to join the crew. That summer saw 7 of us cram into a Club Wagon van and haul ass across North America. That’s where I got to see Klinck in full action and it was something else. He could do everything on a production. Shoot, edit, direct, produce, act – he was even a licensed pyrotechnics handler. He did everything and did it well.
One camp we went to had a yearly “colour war” week, where the camp was divided into Team Blue and Team Red. We were meeting with the staff to discuss things to shoot there and that was one of the events we all agreed would be great for the show. They always had a big spectacular kick-off for colour wars though, and this year they were stumped as to what to do. That’s when Matthiew said he could build a bomb and launch a massive fireball into the sky to kick off the week. And that’s just what happened.
We dug a big hole in the ground several hundred yards away from where all the campers were huddled. Empty tuna cans got packed with gun-powder, freezer bags filled with gasoline, wires were laid and when the councillors yelled “Colour war!” the sky was filled with the biggest damn fireball I will ever see. The ground shook, the kids lost their shit and the excitement level for that year’s camp colour war was off the scales, all because of Matthiew. He made it that much more special. That’s what he did, he made things better. Always.
I ended up being selected for the troupe and for the next few weeks acquainted myself with the genius that was Klinck. I found out he had been making films and winning awards since he was 12. He had written plays as a child, done claymation, made music videos and had plans for dozens of other projects. This was an ambitious human and a rare instance where the talent and drive were there to support that ambition. He was staggering. I consider myself a hard worker and creative person but I always felt like a bit of a fraud around Matthiew; he was pure art and everything seemed to come naturally to him. And he worked so hard. His show, YB Normal, aired on the Comedy Network from 1998-1999, which means production would have started somewhere around late 1997/early 1998. Matthiew would have been 19 going on 20 around that time and he was producing, acting in and directing a nationally broadcasted television show. Unreal.
The production wraps but Klinck and I keep hanging. I’m around 20 years old at this point and still very new to stand-up, the support and encouragement I’m receiving from friends and Matthiew in particular is really the main thing pushing me on-stage and off. Matthiew is inspiring, I want to go do things. I want to be busy like Matthiew. I start voluntering on local productions which leads to actual work as a production assistant. I name drop Matthiew constantly and everyone knows and loves him. Sometimes you build people up in your head when they’re someone you look up to only to find out you were way off. When it came to Matthiew it seemed as though he was limitless and absolutely everyone who knew him shared that opinion. There was no one better to turn to for advice and inspiration, his energy was infectious and addictive. Matthiew was someone you could take large doses of, I just couldn’t get enough of him. He was the big brother I never had. When Klinck moved to Toronto I wasn’t far behind, I would crash on his couch while I scouted the city and he got me sets around town.
In 2004 I spoke before the CRTC in regards to satellite radio coming to Canada and I remember thinking I have an opportunity here, I should try to be funny in my speech. What would Klinck do? But I didn’t have to guess and wonder, I just called him up and ran a couple jokes by him.
“Do it. Absolutely do it, Miner.”
And I did. It worked out pretty well for me. I moved to Toronto shortly after and I’ve been here since. But Klinck was about to go global.
He travelled a lot and all across the world. He lived in Vietnam, shot stuff in China and would eventually wind up in Belize. He thought it was a great place to live but the country didn’t have a film industry. What did Matthiew do? He created that industry. From the bottom up. Trained everyone personally too, shot the first feature film in Belize’s history and produced the country’s first soap opera. He did such a good job of building that scene up that the CBS show, Criminal Minds, had begun shooting a spinoff there and Matthiew was the head of their shooting unit. His career saw him work with people such as Joe Mantegna, Chris Klein and Gary Sinise. He was starting to work with Amazon Studios on a new series starring Michael Imperioli and Steve Zhan. He was big time. He was Klinck.
I get sad when I think about him now but that sadness always gets broken up with awesome memories and inspiring moments. There was the time we were on a shoot in Mont Tremblant enjoying drinks on the patio when Matthiew overheard two people speaking German so he just sat at their table and started speaking German with them and I was referred to as “son of the grizzly bear” (Klinck spoke 4 languages btw – English, French, German and was learning Spanish). Or the time I was having a really awful birthday and Klinck & Christian showed up to make sure I celebrated the day.
The time Alliance Atlantis picked up his film for distribution. Or all the times Matthiew came out to watch and shoot my sets even though he had heard me do those jokes a bunch. He was incredible. Now please go find his movies and watch them. My faves are Greg & Gentillon and Hank & Mike. Go celebrate my friend, he was amazing. I can’t call him up anymore for advice but when in doubt, I can and will always ask myself “What would Matthiew do” and act accordingly.