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Getting his kicks: ABQ actor Matt Page has role in martial arts comedy ‘The Paper Tigers’

Albuquerque-based actor Matt Page has a role in the coming film “The Paper Tigers.” (Courtesy of Matt Peterson)

Editor’s note: Venue Plus continues “In Case You Didn’t Know,” a weekly feature with fun tidbits about New Mexicans and their projects.

Matt Page has studied martial arts nearly his entire life.

It’s become a constant in his life.

In fact, his web series “Enter the Dojo,” which follows the training style of fictional character Master Ken, is loosely based on his martial arts education.

Imagine how enthralled he got when he was contacted by the team behind the coming film “The Paper Tigers.”

“They reached out to me,” he says. “They were familiar with Master Ken, and one of the producers is a mutual friend. They had mentioned me, and it was such a fun opportunity.”

But the journey was long.

“They reached out to me to gauge my interest,” he says. “Then I waited a year before hearing back. Then (Dojo co-star) Joe Conway and I were on our way back from a Master Ken appearance. We were changing planes, and I got a call from the director. They had the financing in place. And I was, like, ‘You bet.’ I had six weeks until the shoot. I know martial arts, but I didn’t study kung fu. I had a month to learn as much kung fu as I could.”

“The Paper Tigers” is an action/comedy that tells the story of three Kung Fu prodigies who have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men, now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties and old grudges to avenge his death.

“It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of,” Page says. “It’s a martial arts comedy, and that’s what I’m familiar with. It’s a great film with a great cast.”

The film was scheduled for release this year – then the pandemic hit, which altered its trajectory.

All wasn’t lost, though.

The film found success on the film festival circuit, where it picked up awards at the Boston Asian American Film Festival and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

The film also got a distribution deal from the same company that put out the “Ip Man” series.

“This makes me feel that it’s going to get seen,” Page says. “We were excited about getting together in a theater to see the film. While that won’t happen, audiences will get to see it from their home.”

While Page waits for “The Paper Tigers” to be distributed, he continues to work on his successful “Enter the Dojo.”

The web series often had special guests for each episode, and Page is now writing himself into the series more.

“If things continue the way they are, we might have to spin off with myself and Master Ken, since they are the only two that can film together,” he says with a laugh. “I’m still creating Master Ken content. The pandemic has certainly changed my production model.”

Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Page:

1 “I was cut out of my first movie. I got into SAG by booking a one-line role on ‘In the Valley of Elah.’ I was nervous because I was supposed to say the line to Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron. I practiced it a million times. ‘Sorry to keep you waiting.’ That was all I had to say. Everyone on set was very nice, and I got through the scene just fine. I told my entire family and all my friends that I was in the movie, so of course many of them went to see it opening day. I saw it at noon, and sure enough, my scene was cut out completely. After taking several phone calls from loved ones saying, “We didn’t see you! Which part did you play?,” I learned to stop telling people what movies I worked on until I was sure I made the final cut.”

2 “I delivered pizza for 7 years. I started at Domino’s, and then when I moved out to New Mexico, I switched to Pizza Hut because it was closer to my apartment. Of all the jobs I’ve had outside the entertainment industry, pizza delivery was the one I enjoyed the most. I was a terrible waiter. I was a terrible customer service representative. But with this job I got to drive around all night listening to the radio or chatting with friends on the phone in between deliveries, and as long as the pizza wasn’t insanely late customers usually gave decent tips. I enjoyed not being stuck inside all the time and always having a little bit of cash in my pocket … even though I was still really broke.”

3 “I funded my first short film with loose change. Back when I was delivering pizza and aspiring to be a filmmaker, the only way to be taken seriously was to shoot an actual motion picture film. I looked on eBay and found an old Super 8mm film camera for $600. My mentor at the time agreed to pay half, so I bought it and then figured out that I would likely need at least $1,000 to pay for enough film, processing and video transfer to make a 7-minute movie. At the end of every shift at Dominos, I always had a fist full of loose change. Most drivers exchanged the coins for cash. Instead, I had a change jar, and every time it got full, I’d roll it up in coin wrappers. After about 6 months, I’d saved $750 and decided that was close enough to shoot my first actual “film”. It was clunky because I was still learning, but it actually got into a few film festivals!”

4 “I’m chronically late. I can’t seem to be on time. For anything. Ever. To the point where if people who know me well want me to be somewhere they eventually learn to lie about what time any event or gathering starts in order to compensate for my inevitable tardiness. My mother even told me that my sister’s wedding started two hours earlier than it actually did because she was so worried I wouldn’t show up on time.”

5 “I discovered soy sauce in my 40s. At some point in my life, not sure when, I decided I did not like soy sauce. I don’t ever remember trying it. But I was sure I didn’t like it. I love Chinese takeout but always refused to add soy sauce. A couple years ago, a friend of mine asked me why I didn’t like soy sauce, and I couldn’t explain why. She convinced me to try it, and I absolutely loved it. I spent my entire adult life up until now thinking I hated soy sauce for no good reason.”

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