UT alumnus Matt Muir premieres film “Thank You a Lot” at SXSW

Lee Henry

UT alumnus Matt Muir’s new film “Thank You a Lot” is a fun, winsome example of the collaborative relationships formed in the school’s Master of Fine Arts program. The film follows Jack (Blake DeLong), an unsuccessful music promoter, through the Austin music scene as he struggles to sign his estranged father to a recording contract. As he attempts to convince his father to return to the studio, he confronts long-standing issues he has with his family and himself about his failings as a manager.

Muir’s first film is an entertaining exploration of a man scrambling to stay ahead of rapidly deteriorating circumstances. Muir pulled double duty as director and screenwriter, but he also enlisted some of his peers from the UT MFA Film and Media Production program to work on the film. 

“I had a really good group of classmates that I was in there with,” Muir said. “We started great relationships there and continue them to this day with our professional experiences.”

Production Designer Caroline Karlen studied alongside Muir at UT and introduced him to his producing partner Chris Ohlson. Both worked with him on “Thank You a Lot.” 

“I graduated from the MFA program in 2005,” Muir said. “It was a great way to engage with an incredible group of creative people who are always kind of making stuff constantly and working on each other’s projects.” 

This is Muir’s second submission to SXSW. His short film “Sons of the Rodeo” screened at SXSW in 2005.

“Thank You a Lot” is akin to Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” an influence Muir identified. Music is a driving force in these characters’ lives, but in a way that feels measured and nuanced rather than saccharine. 

Jack’s life revolves around music, but it is his relation to the musicians in the movie that matters. Muir wrote Jack’s role with DeLong, a friend and frequent collaborator, in mind. DeLong’s charming dopeyness, which is visible when he swings his body across a bar or slouches into a board meeting, makes his character more relatable. Veteran actor Sonny Carl Davis delivers a lived-in, remarkable performance as Frank, Jack’s father’s manager and oldest friend, and actress Babs George exudes Susan Sarandon levels of calm and subtlety in her few scenes. 

“Thank You a Lot” is an engaging portrait of family and failed ambition and an effective first feature from Muir.

"Thank You a Lot"

Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Where: ZACH Theatre

Credentials: Platinum badge, gold badge, music badge, music wristband

Sunday, March 9 at 9:30 p.m.

Where: Marchesa Hall & Theatre

Credentials: Platinum badge, gold badge, music badge, music wristband

Saturday, March 15 at 11 a.m.

Where: Vimeo Theater

Credentials: Platinum badge, gold badge, music badge, music wristband