The final 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.
This is the third and final installment of the interview.
AFP: What is success or failure to you?
MP: That’s a really good question. I feel like that changes, or at least that’s changed for me. Because I feel like when you’re just starting, success is just working, just getting on anything, getting anything done, getting hired. And I feel like as I’ve progressed, I started to learn there’s differences here. It’s different working on an indie short than it is working on a big-time television show versus an even bigger movie versus a web series versus theatre versus stand-up.
I would really say that for me success tends to be doing work that I’m passionate about, in whatever form that takes. Because some jobs are just a job, and that’s okay. But I really find the gigs — whether it’s a pet project or somebody else’s stuff where I really connect with the script or the character or the work or whatever — I just think that being able to do work that you’re passionate about should be the goal.
Because I don’t think any level of success in terms of — this is gonna sound like a cliche — but I really believe that being paid a lot or being validated by a bunch of attention, getting your face on the cover of a magazine or whatever, it doesn’t fix anything. If there’s things in your soul that you’re trying to fill, you have a couple of those experiences and you go, “shit, I’m the same person, I’m the same person that I was before this happened. I thought that once I reached this point that would solve whatever it is that I’m seeking”.
So I don’t find those things to be solutions for anybody. I think you have to do the work for the sake of itself, and if you really enjoy the work, and you get to work regularly, then that is success.
AFP: Is Enter the Dojo your dream production, or do you have your eyes eventually set on something bigger, dreamier, weirder?
MP: I’ve got a lot of weird ideas and I’ve written a lot of other weird things. I’ve got this pizza guy show that I’ve been sitting on for a while that I really want to do because I delivered pizza for a long time.
Ironically, because I’ve had time to think about this, Enter the Dojo is kind of unintentionally all of the things that I ever was interested in kind of melded together, because even the other day I was watching some old Three Stooges films that I used to watch all the time when I was a kid. And I was watching it going, I’m kind of doing this, the slapsticky part of our show is very Three Stooges.
And I also really enjoyed Chevy Chase and Bill Murray on SNL, and I also really enjoyed action movies with Jean-Claude van Damme, and so it’s like I’ve kind of inadvertently melded all the stuff together that I loved into one show, so in that way it is, it’s kind of this ultimate combination of what I like to do.
AFP: I’m not sure a lot of people can say they’ve been able to do that.
MP: Yeah, well, it wasn’t on purpose. I just sort of, in retrospect I looked back and I was like, oh yeah.
AFP: Is it ever on purpose?
MP: No, I guess not. It probably isn’t. I just sort of accidentally discovered I kind of just blended everything that I put in my brain as a kid. It kind of just came out as this show.
AFP: Do you think being a working actor makes you a better writer and director?
MP: I would say yes in that at least you understand what the actors are up against. I really do believe that even if you have no interest in being an actor, that if you are working in any aspect of film, I really think it’s a good idea to take an acting class once in your life, just to understand what that process is, because I think any preconceptions people have about actors can come from just not understanding what that process is like.
And I think as a writer/director you can tell when you’re writing things and being like, oh, this could be a real moment for them, or this might be pretty difficult for them.
AFP: Would you say there are advantages to working in New Mexico film versus other markets?
MP: Yeah, I mean, I feel like it’s a really tight-knit community. I think that’s a good thing. I mean people call it a mini-Hollywood. I really think it is because there are these really great opportunities that I think would be harder to come by in a place like Los Angeles.
And I like the fact that you can still get this kind of small town lifestyle of living in a smaller city but you drive to set, if you can get the job, and be on a $100 million movie too, which is crazy.
AFP: Is there any advice you want to give to those who are just starting out in film? Especially in this market?
MP: Yeah, I usually give two kinds of advice on that. The first thing is know why you’re doing it. That kinda goes back to what I was saying: if you think getting famous or making some money on a movie will fix your spiritual side, you might want to reevaluate that.
You should do the work because you want to do the work. If you really enjoy doing the work you can absolutely succeed at it, and keep succeeding at it, so I think you need to know why you’re doing it. And I think if you’re starting out and you want to make your own stuff, just start. Just start making your own stuff.
And what I advise people to do is, I tell people to focus on tangible production. Don’t write a script where you’re like, “this is my passion project and this is all I want to do in my life, it’s going to cost $40 million, I need Benicio Del Toro, and the whole thing happens on a submarine”.
And don’t pick that for your first. Write the movie but then put it away, and then write something that you can shoot with your friends, in your house, on your phone if you need to, so that you’re making stuff. Because I know people who have clamped onto one idea and a decade goes by and they never make the thing because they’re convinced they got to make this one thing.
I think it’s better to just pick stuff you can make and be in the process. You know, if you’re an actor, act; if you’re a writer, write; if you’re a filmmaker, make films. Just go and start doing it. Don’t wait until you’re ready, because I can say after 15 years of this stuff, I never feel ready for any opportunity that comes my way. I’m always feeling like, if I just had a little bit more time to prepare. So that feeling never goes away in my opinion, so just go do it.
AFP: And this feeds your soul pretty well?
MP: Very much so. I feel very lucky.
AFP: Excellent. One last question.
AFP: Red or green?
MP: Green. I feel like I should say Christmas to be diplomatic in this divided country of ours. I feel like I should say Christmas, but if I’m being truthful: green.
AFP: Now, Hatch or Chimayo?
MP: Oh, man, now we’re really…
AFP: Oh, yeah, I like the nitty-gritty.
MP: I would say Hatch. I don’t want to upset anybody.
AFP: I don’t think you’re going to upset anybody about that.
MP: Okay, good.
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