Streaming platforms have become one of (if not THE most popular) ways we consume content over the past years. With this, it has become even more obvious that certain groups and voices were being under represented. When cable first expanded, we had a few shows that were more inclusive (Queer as Folk, The L Word, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and network television began to expand a little (Will and Grace, Ellen, Modern Family) but there are still groups that receive little or no mention. It seems that as more platforms emerge, it creates competition that creates windows for representation but it’s still a slow climb.
What can be done to spark even more change? What can be done to ensure a more even playing field and better validation of more groups? If you’re Matkai Burmaster, you co-create a brand new platform, appropriately called ‘Fearless‘.
Content creators with an eye for diversity, perk up, this one is especially for you. Everyone who has felt their voice has been lost or silenced in entertainment, pay attention, this is one you want to watch.
Q: Tell us a little about Matkai Burmaster. Where did you grow up? How did you become interested in entertainment?
Matkai Burmaster: I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. At a young age, I was the most dramatic and energetic kid you could have met and I loved movies and theatre since the get go. I was always the kid who would dance with the shopping cart in the grocery store. Most parents embarrass their kids, but I was the kind that embarrased my parents. I studied dance and acting all through primary and high school. After graduation, I moved to Toronto where I studied Theatre at York University and Film & TV studies at Seneca College. I’ve also always been extremely entrepreneurial; I started my first business while I was still in high school and I ran a summer drama camp and a blackbox theatre venue in Sudbury. I’m also a filmmaker and an actor, so you could say that entertainment is every part of my being.
Q: You have a streaming app called Fearless that showcases LGBTQ, female, and inclusive content. Tell us more, how and why you started it.
Matkai Burmaster: As someone who is part of the LGBTQ community and grew up in a conservative town, I was told that being straight is the only “normal” path and that being different is frowned upon. It took me a long time to come to terms with my true self and embrace every piece of me. I struggled with my weight, my sexuality, my career choices (where I grew up, it was considered wrong for a boy to want to do dance and acting as opposed to a trade or sports). I don’t belive that anyone should be told that they are not enough or not valid for being their true selves. A big part of that is the entertainment that we consume. That’s why I created Fearless along with the other co-founder, Deanna Widmeyer. We wanted to make a space where every story could be celebrated especially those by independent creators and those that feature inclusivity for under-represented voices and themes. “Let no story get left untold” is the motto of everything we do. A company can do real good in the world and the film industry can improve. It just takes everyone doing their part.
Q: What are some shows we can find on Fearless?
Matkai Burmaster: Fearless has titles from just about every genre so members can always find something they enjoy from comedies to dramas and thrillers to documentaries. If you’d like to watch some content that I made, you can check out the shows So That Happened and It’s Complicated as well as the short films Stripped and Committed. Some of my personal favourites from other creators on Fearless include the shows Giving Me Life, 2 Self Help Books Away from Being Perfect and Extreme Actor. I also really love documentaries myself so An Honest Liar, The Millennial Dream and Rocketman are right up my alley. Of course, content changes weekly (every Friday) and availability of titles varies by regions sometimes as well so the best bet is to DM @watchfearless on Instagram or Twitter if you ever feel like you’d like a suggestion based on your personal tastes.
Q: Do you think the LGBTQ community is being represented better in mainstream media with new streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, etc. and on network TV?
Matkai Burmaster: Better than before certainly, but we have to ask ourselves if that is enough. While Netflix and Hulu have made strides in including more minorities, they also produce content that is problematic towards those same goals. LGBTQ characters are often the “sidekick” or secondary character as opposed to the lead, female crews are still sparse and even shows that have a racially diverse cast often have a non-diverse crew and background actors. I was also saddened to see that Netflix permitted the word “faggot” in many of its non-LGBTQ titles in ways that are extremely derogatory. One such example is in the film How It Ends where a “bad guy” calls the main character a “faggot” in an attempt to get him to get out of a car, which was unecessary and extremely insensitive for a company that says its working to build more positive LGBTQ inclusion. Other films like Disney’s Onward, feature an LGBTQ character in a way that is very small and could easily be omitted in international distribution. Tactics like those are used to maintain high profits for those companies while making it seem like they are bringing LGBTQ inclusion to the table, but adding a slice of strawberry to the bottom of a bowl of vanilla ice cream does not make it strawberry ice cream. True inclusion in entertainment means that you allow diverse voices to the table to tell their own stories in their own way, featuring inclusive crews, inclusive casts and without the “watering-down” of those stories due to network meddling aimed at increasing the bottom line. It also means that when derogatory words, phrases or themes are present in other films, that you inform the creators that they may want to omit such references that further marginalize under-represented voices. In short, we have so much more work to do and the big players would do well with some education to better approach these topics. In the meantime, there are thousands of independent creators that are already making their own films and series that are fantastically inclusive that we could (and should) be supporting – and that’s exactly why Fearless exists.
Q: You are also an influencer, although I think there should be a better word for it these days that differentiates people who do it for the right reasons. How did you start working in that space and how has that changed over the years?
Matkai Burmaster: I’m not sure I ever really woke up one day and “decided” to be an influencer. In fact, I barely consider myself one. I am simply a guy who has gained a following due to my posts that feature LGBTQ activism and body positivity vibes. I have also gained a bit of a following as I am a self-made entrepreneur who has built three businesses from the ground up and I am ruthless in ensuring that equality is present in everything I do. In terms of what I share on social media, I simply ask myself: how can I make the world a better place, and then I post content that I think will acheive that goal, or at the very least, make people smile. I think there was definitey a point where I started to realize the impact that my content could have on people though and it was then that I started calling myself a “creator” (I prefer to use that word as opposed to influencer). Film has always had an immense amount of power in shaping the way that people see the world and engage with it and my acknowledging that I have a great deal of influence on society by the art I make, empowers me to keep doing it. As an entreprenur, and by running Fearless, I have an even greater power as I get to help other creators share their stories too. Movies really can change the world – they can showcase a better world that we can aspire to and they can show us a destructive world that we can work to avoid.
Q: Speaking of change, how has the influencer landscape changed because of Covid19 and the current pandemic?
Matkai Burmaster: I love this question. I think that the quarantine has leveled the playing field. Now, big stars are posting from their phones in their living rooms in way that literally everyone with a phone can also do. There is no fancy set or big budget equipment. Now, a large celebrity and an everyday person has the same ability to share their stories and make an impact. That’s powerful and that’s true equality in action. An influencer is nothing more than someone who is doing something people enjoy a lot so they flock to it. The influencers that are truly inspiring people are the ones that got there by mistake by simply posting amazing content that people enjoyed and wanted to share. And due to the quarantine, I think it has only highlighted the fact that no matter if you are a celebrity, influencer, or just a regular person, you have the same ability to impact people and its nothing more than how many people you can impact.
Q: How have you been dealing with the pandemic on a personal level? What are you doing to keep busy and sane?
Matkai Burmaster: I worked from home before the pandemic and I will work from home after it as well, so not a lot has changed for me. However, my partner generally works at the office, so getting used to working together during the quraantine has been a new experience, but overall its been totally manageable. To keep myself busy, I’ve been having fun doing some creative photography for Instagram and some funny videos for TikTok. I also have been exploring new music (especially music by LGBTQ artists) and I’ve been going for runs. What I’m most excited to do once we are safe again is to go to the beach and go out dancing – those are the two things I am missing the most in quarantine.
Q: Describe yourself in 3 hashtags.
- #LGBTQ – My sexuality and my connection to the queer community is so important to me personally and my work. It defines me to my core.
- #SpreadItLikeCreamCheese – If you’re like me, you don’t put only a little bit of cream cheese on your bagel, you put a LOT. I think we should have the same approach with spreading joy, humour, and good vibes. The world needs a little more encouragement and I hope that people can start to embrace themselves for who they truly are.
- #AbsNotRequired – Much of the conversations I’ve had in recent years that have touched people have been about my stance on body positivity. I really feel like society places too much value on guys having abs and it leads to men that aren’t okay with their bodies. Confidence is sexy and you don’t need to look like Zac Efron to be confident.
Q: Since this is for ‘Addicted’ magazine, what are some things you are addicted to these days in a good way?
Matkai Burmaster: That’s so fun. I’m starting to feel the summer vibes, so I’m addicted to watermelon (yes the food, it’s delicious), the song Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen and going for nice long runs in my neighbourhood (with full mask and staying 6ft away from others, of course). Other music I am addicted to right now is Happily Ever After by queer artist Kisos, anything by Steve Grand and some throwback 90s hits to feel that nostalgia and those good vibes. I’ve been curating some playlists on my Spotify profile too if anyone wants to check them out and listen to what I listen to.
Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Matkai Burmaster: I would have to say that I absolutely cannot live without my MacBook Pro (with internet access) as everything I do is on that device and the internet is just such an amazing invention that allows me to explore other communities, opinions and knowledge beyond my own. Plus, I can watch movies and listen to music on my computer which is 99% of how I spend my free time. As for what I believe we could all live without is single use plastics – they are hurting our environment and I know we can do better with just some small changes like brigning reusable bags to the grocery store and so on.
Q: What’s up next for Matkai Burmaster and ‘Fearless’?
Matkai Burmaster: I want to continue to push the envelope and increase representation and inclusion in the film industry. The same goes for Fearless; we want to grow to more countries and continue to expand our library with bold, original, and inclusive movies, shows and short films. And along the way, I hope to spread some more joy, humour and positivity. Feel free to connect with Fearless @watchfearless, as well as me personally on social media @matkaiburmaster to see what’s next. And of course, don’t forget to download Fearless on the App Store for iPhone/iPad and the Google Play Store for Android.