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Communications and Marketing

10,000 Hours: Passion, Pride, and ‘Production’

Lake Forest College graduate Matthew Helderman ’11, founder of Buffalo8 and BondIt, discusses how the 10,000-hour rule played a role in the success he has achieved as one of the top producers in Hollywood. The Oscar-nominated producer returns to campus regularly to mentor students and give back to the community that kick-started his career in the film industry.

In a profile featuring 2011 Lake Forest College graduate Matthew Helderman ’11, the former Forester hockey player discusses how the 10,000-hour rule played a role in the success he has achieved as one of the top producers in Hollywood. The rule is a commonly used reference that infers an unusually high level of commitment toward goal achievement and Matt was fortunate to have found two venues to utilize the rule in his life: hockey and media.

Matt competed on the Lake Forest College men’s hockey team and excelled both on and off the ice. It was from this experience and the years he played hockey as a teenager that he credits to learning life-long lessons like discipline, hard work, dedication, and handing adversity. These skills, combined with the love he held for media, shaped him into the successful media mogul he is today.

His interest in media began during his formative years when he founded a band with a couple close friends from high school and strengthened when he enrolled at Lake Forest College. The courses he took while working toward a major in philosophy and a minor in English coupled with the strong support he received from professors on campus allowed him to explore both his personality and passion for shooting a film. In between his junior and senior year, Matt created his first feature film called The Alumni Chapter, which was shot on the campus of Lake Forest College. This film then led to the formation of Buffalo8, a full service media company that provides financing options for media projects, businesses, and producers.

After graduating in May of 2011, Matt moved to Los Angeles and used the life skills he learned from playing hockey to build the business and grow the brand. Five years later, Buffalo8 had three films premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Following this successful showing, Matt took control of the next phase in his career by raising funds to launch BondIt, a service that helps low-budget filmmakers front pre-production bonds as a promise to pay employees. BondIt has grown to become one of the most well-known entertainment finance companies in the world and garnered a 2018 Oscar nomination for best animated film.

Matt believes that being truly in love with one’s profession is one of the most important drivers of success and that love includes both sides of the job: the fun parts and the work. Using the athletic metaphor, perhaps his greatest advice is to surround oneself with “great players,” as teamwork is essential to achieving goals. Despite Matt’s busy schedule, he still finds time to play hockey three times a week. The sport remains an integral part of his life and gives him the ability to practice the passion and pride that he holds in his work to produce results as a successful CEO, entrepreneur, and content creator.