Greenfield resident plays key role in No. 1 Harry Potter fan website

  • Kat Miller, the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan website, MuggleNet, at her home in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller, the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, shows off her Hedwig owl backpack at her home in Greenfield on March 14. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller stands reflected in her replica Mirror of Erised at her home in Greenfield on March 14. The mirror’s inscription read backward says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller, the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, shows off various replica wands in her collection at her home in Greenfield on March 14. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller, the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, shows her scarf of the Black family tree at her home in Greenfield on March 14. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller, the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, shows off her replica Gringotts vault key at her home in Greenfield on March 14. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller, the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan website MuggleNet, shows off a limited edition copy of “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” at her Greenfield home. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Harry Potter memorabilia displayed at the Greenfield home of Kat Miller, who is the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • A custom-made wand owned by Kat Miller, who is the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Harry Potter memorabilia displayed at the Greenfield home of Kat Miller, who is the marketing and creative director of the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Harry Potter memorabilia on display at the home of Greenfield resident Kat Miller. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Kat Miller battles with Paul Harris, wand choreographer for all the Harry Potter films, during A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in 2014. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Greenfield resident Kat Miller (at right) poses for a photo with MuggleNet Content Manager Beth Warsaw, Creative Content Manager Madison Ford and friend Megan Barrow at A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in 2017. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Kat Miller attends the London production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with then MuggleNet Twitter Manager Kristen Keys and friend Megan Barrow. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Kat Miller attends the advance screening of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” in New York in November 2016. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Kat Miller poses with the MuggleNet staff, Universal Orlando creative team members and Chris Rankin, who played Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films, in front of the Weasley family’s car at MISTI-Con 2015. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Greenfield resident Kat Miller poses for a photo in 2014 with Mark Williams, who played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Kat Miller poses with Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Kat Miller poses for a photo with Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander in the “Fantastic Beasts” series, at the New York City premiere of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Contributed photo/Kat Miller

  • Greenfield resident Kat Miller poses in Harry Potter-themed garb. Contributed photo/Kat Miller

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/11/2018 2:55:00 PM

Step into Kat Miller’s Greenfield home and at first glance, you may not realize she’s a huge Harry Potter fan.

Look closer, and you may notice the subtle pictures on her wall are maps of Harry Potter lands, or posters of newspapers from the Harry Potter world. A small mirror on her wall may look normal to the average visitor, but a Potter fan would notice it’s a replica of the Mirror of Erised.

A closer peek at the bookshelf next to her couch reveals multiple editions of Harry Potter books, souvenirs and boxes of wand replicas.

Miller sat on her couch, clutching a water bottle with Potter-related designs. She told the story of how she unexpectedly became such a fan, which led her to become an integral part of MuggleNet, the No. 1 Harry Potter fan website in the world, which reaches approximately 160 million people a month through social media.

From observer to mega-fan

When Miller was in her early 20s, she worked at a record store that also sold movies. She sold plenty of Harry Potter films, but it didn’t interest her at all.

“They were the epitome of nerdy,” she recalled, laughing.

One sweltering summer day, a friend encouraged her to take a chance and watch the movies. They watched the first two movies at home, then went to the theater to see the third, “Prisoner of Azkaban,” which had just been released.

“She dragged me into the theater,” Miller recalled. “I didn’t understand, like, 80 percent of it.”

The same friend told Miller that perhaps she’d better understand the movies if she read the books.

“I picked up the first book and as they say, the rest is history,” Miller said.

Quickly, Miller read all the books that were published at that time, up to “The Goblet of Fire.”

“I devoured them,” she said. “It took me a couple weeks to read them all.”

She recalls that she’d often become so immersed in the books she’d surpass her hour-long lunch break.

When Miller finished “The Goblet of Fire,” she was in a bind. There was an excruciating two-year wait until the fifth book, “Order of the Phoenix,” was set to be published. Miller needed to fill the Harry Potter void.

Then, she stumbled upon MuggleNet. 

It was in 2006 that Miller officially joined the site. The site sought volunteers to update their Photobucket gallery, which Miller did.

However, with Miller being a self-proclaimed “total type-A Ravenclaw,” she started to work on other parts of the site. She revamped the “Fan of the Week” page in 2009 to make it more widespread and inclusive.

“I was able to get stuff done quickly, so I was given more responsibilities,” she explained. “Then, it grew from there.”

Miller was promoted to senior staff in 2011.

The first event she covered for the site was the Harry Potter exhibition opening in Boston in October 2010. She interviewed Matt Lewis, who plays the clumsy-yet-lovable Neville Longbottom.

“I was 24 and single, and he was hot,” she laughed. “It went great!”

After this event, Miller said her job “ramped up from there.”

In 2012, Miller took her current position as the marketing and creative director of the site — one of two paid positions for MuggleNet.  

“Essentially, the site runs 99 percent off of volunteers,” she said. “They make my job fun and easy. We have the most dedicated group of volunteers I’ve ever seen. They do it purely because they love Harry Potter.”

There are over 150 volunteers for MuggleNet across the globe. Miller heads two teams: social media and creative.

“There are lots of meetings and lots of Skype calls,” she said. “Basically, I nerd out about Harry Potter every day. It’s pretty awesome, I’m not going to lie.”

She has a day job, too, working as a graphic designer at a local office.

MuggleNet

MuggleNet has been around for almost two decades and has a “very special” relationship with Warner Brothers, Pottermore and Bloomsbury Publishing, Miller said.

“We are almost (their) partner once removed,” Miller said. “We are incredibly valuable.”

“There are certain things we aren’t allowed to do, like profit off of Harry Potter,” Miller continued. “The relationship is very trusting, super respectful, with good communication. They want and need MuggleNet and we need and want them.”

Miller’s involvement with MuggleNet may be a Harry Potter fan’s ultimate dream, but she still has to spend a lot of time convincing others that her job is real.

“I don’t just sit in chat rooms and talk crap about Severus Snape for seven hours a day,” she said. “It’s a job with real people, real numbers and a real influence.”

“Oh... that’s your job?” she hears frequently. She brushes it off, because she knows what a positive impact MuggleNet has made on her life.

“Most of my friends I’ve met through MuggleNet,” she said. “I know someone I can visit in pretty much every city in the U.S. and the majority of the world.”

She’s had the chance to meet countless cast members from the Harry Potter franchise, including actor Eddie Redmayne from the “Fantastic Beasts” movies. They met for the first time in November 2016, and he even remembered her name almost a year later when asking her colleague how Miller was doing.

“My job is really fun but also really hard,” she said. “I’m working with people from different time zones, with different beliefs … but it’s all worth it.”

A sad day for the fandom

One of the most difficult days in the Harry Potter fandom was Jan. 14, 2016: the day actor Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape, died suddenly from pancreatic cancer.

It was also one of the most difficult days for Miller.

“I hadn’t had to deal with a major death like that before,” Miller said. “It takes a certain kind of attitude to motivate grieving volunteers to help cover something that’s pretty important to the fandom.”

She remembers waking up that morning to a flurry of text messages. While she’s usually a slow person to wake, this specific morning she was out of bed immediately.

“It was emotionally draining,” she continued. “It was definitely intense. I don’t think I ate until 3 p.m. that day because I was making phone calls.”

She emailed every cast and crew member she could think of to give them a chance to tell stories of Rickman.

“It was kind of great because we got to hear really wonderful things about him,” she said. “But it was still difficult.”

Approximately 10 days after Rickman passed, a tribute was put together at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. Miller said between 2,000 and 3,000 people lined up in Diagon Alley for a moving presentation about Rickman.

“That’s one of the cool things about fandom in general, not even just Harry Potter — you have a built-in family,” she said.

Souvenirs and priceless pieces

Part of the benefit of working for such a popular site are the chances to collect priceless souvenirs, many of which are promotional items given to her from Warner Brothers and Universal Studios. She’s collected an impressive amount of Harry Potter-related items over the years, some which are one-of-a-kind or very rare.

“Universal goes all out with their press kits,” she exclaimed. “It’s awesome.”

In 2013, she took a week-long road trip with friends around England to see some Harry Potter filming locations. In Wales, she scooped up a jar of sand from the beach where the beloved house elf Dobby died. The jar now sits in her living room along with other mementos.

Also among her souvenirs are approximately 12 wand replicas from different characters, a Hedwig backpack, Tom Riddle’s diary and the Black family tapestry as a scarf. She also holds an annual pass to the Harry Potter Wizarding World. 

Being the marketing and creative director of MuggleNet has many benefits, including special access to movie premieres. Miller will soon be invited to the world premiere of the new “Fantastic Beasts” movie in November, with expenses paid by Warner Brothers. This time, the premiere may be held in Paris.

A multi-generational impact

Harry Potter has joined the likes of “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” as a hit that multiple generations will enjoy. But what made J.K. Rowling’s books and the moves such a huge hit? Miller believes the internet is a large factor at play.

“Harry Potter hit the world at a time where the internet was becoming a thing,” she said. “It was exploding exponentially faster than we could keep up with it. People very quickly realized that you don’t have to just rely on your local community to experience the things that you love. In a lot of ways, (Harry Potter) was the foundation of the online fandom community.”

While some view the series as children’s books, Miller believes the themes appeal to anyone.

“The themes — love, friendship, bravery, acceptance — they’re not even a good and evil thing,” she said. “They’re universal themes told through the eyes of a very relatable character. Everyone has a bit of Harry in them.”

Staff reporter Christine Wisniewski started at the Greenfield Recorder in 2018. She covers Montague and Gill. She can be reached at cwisniewski@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 258.




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