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Part Two: Enter The Dojo With Matt Page

Part Two: Enter The Dojo With Matt Page

The second installment of an interview with Albuquerque filmmaker and martial artist Matt Page.

With over 43 million views on YouTube, his mug on the cover of Black Belt Magazine and Martial Arts Illustrated, and numerous film and television credits, Albuquerque filmmaker and martial artist Matt Page is living the dream.

ABQ Free Press sat down with Page to talk about his life, his work ethic, and his hilarious YouTube show, Enter the Dojo, a sketch comedy series that parodies life in the contemporary world of martial arts. Read the first part of the interview for a background on Page.

The transcript of the interview has been edited for clarity and length.

AFP: Has your character affected your broader acting career? Are you getting more gigs, getting more visibility because of it?

MP: Ironically, Ken doesn’t look or sound like Matt, so there’s almost no crossover. I, in fact, when I’ve done live appearances for instance, I will do my appearance and I wear a mustache, and the way I move and the way I talk, the tone of my voice, and the outfit, everything changes.

I go into the dressing room or the bathroom, wherever, change, walk out, and nobody gives me a second look, nobody even knows that I’m the same person, so there’s almost no  Ken is almost a separate entity.

AFP: That’s usually a sign of a good character actor.

MP: I appreciate that. Yeah, yeah, it’s just bizarre, because they’re still very separate. Ken is kind of a force of his own as a character and as a brand, and everything. He’s kind of like this other thing that I can switch over to his world, but there’s still a huge separation between Matt Page, actor/filmmaker, and Master Ken.

AFP: What’s it like wearing that mustache?

MP: Itchy.

AFP: It looks itchy.

MP: It’s itchy, it’s not the most comfortable, it’s why I’ve grown it out a couple of times, but for whatever reason I find I don’t get cast as Matt when I have a mustache. I tried, I tested it, and I just didn’t get cast for a dozen auditions when I had a natural mustache and then I shaved it and I booked the next two jobs I went out for, and I was like, okay Matt doesn’t wear a mustache; Ken wears a mustache. It’s gotta be a separate thing.

AFP: What is it like engaging with other YouTube martial artists, specifically as your character rather than as you?

MP: It’s actually easier a lot of the time. There are some people that I know personally, and when I see them at an event we recognize each other, and we can talk. Chris Casamassa is a good example, that really great guy  he played Scorpion in the original Mortal Kombat movies  an awesome guy, great martial artist, great businessman, great person, really fun dude, and one of those guys that when I see him at an event, I’m like “hey!” We get along really well.

But there are other people that in a way haven’t really met me. They’ve met Ken. Because it’s weird to switch when I’m in the get-up, so I kinda just stay in character the whole time, and it’s not a method thing, it’s that it’s confusing to people if Ken’s voice lightens up a little bit or if he starts smiling and laughing, because Ken doesn’t smile, Ken doesn’t laugh, Ken is dead serious about everything.

So, in terms of continuity it’s actually easier to just stay in character. So there are other martial artists that I feel have never actually met Matt.

AFP: How’s it feel to have met so many other iconic martial artists per se?

MP: Awesome! Awesome! Meeting people, not to name drop, but…

AFP: Oh, by all means!

MP: Meeting and working with people like Michael Jai White, Cynthia Rothrock, Chris Casamassa, and UFC fighters, like the Karate Hottie, Michelle Waterson, having her on the show, she’s so awesome, she’s so fun, so talented. Every time we get somebody new on the show in a big way, it’s exciting to work with them, but it’s hard not to fangirl a little bit when they show up.

AFP: Yeah, I would probably fangirl a little bit if Michael Jai White walked in.

MP: Yeah, that was crazy. When he agreed to show up on the show, I was just sitting there like, “I can’t believe he’s just gonna walk in the dojo and do a video with us.” It’s so cool.

AFP: That is pretty awesome. I don’t know how I would react to that.

MP: That’s another place where Ken saves me a little bit because, again, Matt is a little nervous, and sometimes a little insecure, and Ken doesn’t care who you are. So Ken is like a barrier. Ken can be a great barrier.

It even helps offstage if I’m about to go out and there’s a big audience or they sound a little hostile or whatever, Matt would be pretty nervous, but Ken is like “You guys are lucky I’m here!” So I can use Ken to try to protect me from some of that sometimes.

AFP: You were recently covered in Black Belt Magazine.

MP: Yeah.

AFP: Last spring, as I recall.

MP: Yeah, I think so.

AFP: And they are one of the most iconic martial arts publications in the United States.

MP: Yeah.

AFP: Did you ever think they would cover you?

MP: No. And again, because as I mentioned, I feel  I love martial arts, it’s always been a hobby that I’m really passionate about, but I feel like I’m a hobbyist at best. I enjoy training but I don’t think that I ever would have reached a level of excellence in competition that would justify that.

But, Ken’s popularity, because people relate to Ken, or people are like, “I totally trained with a guy that talks like that”, or “I had a drill instructor that was exactly like that”. I get these messages all the time of like, I know that guy! He just, what he represents resonates with people in the martial arts world so much that it did make sense to me once that opportunity presented itself that Ken could be a big enough character to justify that.

Even though it caused a lot of controversy, because some people were upset that a character was on the cover instead of a  you know what I mean, like Chuck Norris isn’t a character. Chuck Norris is a champion martial artist that is in movies. Ken…

AFP: I wasn’t aware there was any controversy.

MP: Yeah, there was some angry comments and messages when the cover came out. At the same time it was also an incredibly popular cover.

And similar to when Ken was on the cover of Martial Arts Illustrated in the UK, which is their biggest magazine, and they told me when Ken was on that cover it was the highest selling copy they ever had aside from when they had Bruce Lee on the cover. So his recognition as a character is is vast nowadays.

AFP: That’s quite global.

MP: But that’s sort of what drives Master Ken too is controversy. Controversy is part of his weapon, that’s part of his popularity, is that he says and does things that upset some people but it gets their attention.

AFP: Are you going to take the character to Okinawa? To Japan? To Hong Kong?

MP: We have talked about doing that. That very well may happen. At some point. It feels like he should go to the Shaolin Temple or something, and tell them what they’re doing wrong.

AFP: If you do, I want in.

MP: Yeah! I think that’d be great!

AFP: You got any room for a Shotokan stylist in there?

MP: Sure! Sure, come on with us! That would be fun!

AFP: YouTube’s advertising algorithms.

MP: Yeah?

AFP: Have they made it so it’s a little more profitable to keep this going? Because you’ve got Season 4 completed, you’ve got several tactical training tips, you’ve got several “insult the other martial artist” bits.

MP: Yes. The “Bullsh*t Videos” as we call them.

AFP: You’ve got so much content there, are you getting any revenue from the advertising streams?

MP: We do generate revenue. It’s not what people think it is. I will say that. They see that we have millions of views on the channel and they equate that to, people just assume, oh they must make a dollar a view. If that was the case, I would be very happy. But it’s not that. It does generate revenue, but it’s something we can’t sit back and relax about.

We constantly have to be producing, we constantly have to be creating new content. I have to do live shows, I have to sell T-shirts, I have to sell sponsorships, I have to do a variety of things in order to make it a business that allows us to continue producing videos.

And it’s not a huge staff of people. I wear a lot of hats to keep the show going, just out of necessity. I would love to hire a team of people, I love to have a room of editors to just shovel raw video to and just say “give it to me when it’s done”, but it doesn’t quite work like that. Not yet anyway.

AFP: Think it might?

MP: I would love it to! I would love to get it to that point. I just roll with this because really, this was just supposed to be a goof. We got together for a weekend. I wrote a 15 page script of a few episodes and I was like, “this would be funny, right?”

And so, we just got together, cut those together, released them, and the response was so much different than anything I had done up until that point as a filmmaker that here we are six years later and the interest just continues to grow.

AFP: That is amazing. Can you talk to us about any projects you are working on that are unrelated to Enter the Dojo?

MP: Yeah, I’ve been writing a lot, I have a couple of other shows that I’m hoping to do. I have a couple of short films, I have a couple of features, and as it happens, behind the scenes, trying to do those, the more traditional routes of getting funding, it gets close and then they don’t happen.

And actually the thing that has stopped me from launching another web show is I know how much work it is, so I’ve gotten close a couple of times, like I’ll just make it myself, and then I’m like, wait a minute, what if people watch it? Then I have to run two web shows at the same time. I’m worried it would kill me.

AFP: You need to sleep eventually.

MP: Right. But I am kind of excited to produce a few new things, and I also really like working with other local filmmakers in the indie scene in New Mexico. There’s directors like Keagan Karnes, and Alejandro Montoya, and there’s some really talented filmmakers here locally.

I really like what Catharine Pilafas is doing. There’s a lot of really talented local filmmakers, so when schedules line up and I’m able to act in their stuff, that’s awesome too. I just like working.

AFP: What do you enjoy doing when you are not either training or filmmaking?

MP: Sleeping.

AFP: Sleeping is a good answer.

MP: I just am always in the show. I’m always writing. I’m always editing. I’m always driving to the dojo to shoot something, because something happened in the news, and United Airlines kicked somebody’s ass, and now we got to go make a video about how to fight on a United Airlines thing, but it’s gotta be released by tomorrow morning, because it won’t be trending in 24 hours. You know what I mean?

It sounds like such a boring old man answer to say, but whenever I don’t have to do that I just want to sit still, I just want to watch a movie. I still like watching movies, I still like watching television, hiking, but what I do takes up a lot of time. It sounds like I don’t have a life. That might be the case.

AFP: There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

MP: Sure. I don’t know, I got to make up some hobbies, I got to say that I’m a passionate juggler or something.

AFP: Well, you’re definitely in the right state for hiking.

MP: Yeah, that’s one thing that I love about living here.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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