Matthew McConaughey visits UT to teach his “Script to Screen” class, and give film students advice on the film industry

Chase Karacostas

Academy award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey visited UT on Friday afternoon to speak to a crowded auditorium of almost 300 radio, television and film students about his career and his new movie, “White Boy Rick.”

McConaughey, an alumnus of UT’s RTF program, was joined by the director of “White Boy Rick,” Yann Demange, for a question-and-answer session moderated by Scott Rice, film professor and instructor for McConaughey’s class at UT, “Script to Screen.”  

“Show me what you’ve got,” McConaughey said in his advice to students during the Q&A. “Don’t act like (a filmmaker), be one. It’s an outlaw industry. The guards at the gates of Hollywood are not there to keep you in. They’re there to keep you out.”

Excited for McConaughey’s visit, RTF senior Mitch Chaiet arrived at the Q&A wearing a burnt orange custom hat that said “McConaughey” and “Alright Alright Alright.” Chaiet said he appreciated the way event normalized McConaughey as a person.

“I don’t even want to be an actor,” Chaiet said. “(But), realizing that I’m aligning myself in ways that made him successful is nice. The most helpful people have been the ones who have accomplished things and are very real about it.”

Typically, McConaughey only visits the “Script to Screen” class that he co-teaches with Rice, but this time he was able to fit the moderated Q&A into his schedule.

“We are so lucky and fortunate to have Matthew as not only an alumnus — he’s an Oscar-winning actor — but to be so supportive of our students and our program is truly amazing,” said Jay Bernhardt, dean of the Moody College of Communication. “

In an interview with The Daily Texan, McConaughey said the class was something he wished he could have taken while he was a student. The class, along with his home here in Austin, is what McConaughey said keeps him coming back to UT.

“I’m glad I’m able to come back to the campus and give something back,” McConaughey said. “It’s fun for me. There’s nothing laborious at all about this for me… I started my career here.”

Before he was an RTF student, McConaughey said he wanted to go to Southern Methodist University for law school, but came to UT because of the cost. Once here, he studied philosophy and had a near-perfect GPA before he transferred to RTF. He enjoyed writing but switched when he discovered he could tell stories through film.

McConaughey said the idea of going into acting at the time was terrifying. Now, he said he realizes that he had a larger desire to pursue acting than he had been willing to admit when he was in college.

“In my family, growing up, you were taught that you get a job, and you work your way up a ladder,” McConaughey said. “I called my dad and said I wanted to go to film school and there’s a long pause on the phone, and I was really nervous about what his reaction was going to be… and he said, ‘Well, don’t half-ass it.’”

Reflecting, McConaughey said his time as an RTF student gave him something the UT acting program or SMU could not have: it taught him how film sets work. When he entered the set of his first major film,  “Dazed and Confused,” he said he felt comfortable, making it easier to focus on acting and perfecting his role.

“I think it’s highly unlikely I would be sitting here right now 25 years later, if I did not come to Austin, and go to the University of Texas,” McConaughey said.