Q&A: Matthew McConaughey discusses filmmaking at Hogg Auditorium

Noah Levine

After facing an onslaught of syllabi on UT’s first day of spring session, some students also received a special screening of “The Gentlemen,” followed by a Q&A from the minister of culture himself. 

The Daily Texan attended the event, monitored by Scott Rice, radio-television-film associate professor of practice, and organized some of Matthew McConaughey’s responses here. 

The Daily Texan: What qualities do you look for in a director? 

Matthew McConaughey: Good storyteller. There are plenty of great performances that none of us have ever seen because they ended up on the cutting room floor. The story wasn’t told well. It’s the directors story. I want to have a similar measure of excellence as the director, a similar sense of humor. I want to have at least a general agreement just so I know the tone (and) have an idea of what movie I’m in. (On the set of) “Free State of Jones,” eight days in, (the director) Gary Ross and I did eight takes. I came back and watched all eight takes and told him, “I’m going to write down what I think the edit choices are, you write down what you think the edit choices are. We’ll switch papers and see what we think.” (The papers) said the same thing. We were seeing the same way.

Scott Rice: What’s the one thing you want students to learn from your course Script to Screen? 

MM:  Prepare. Do the work. But then be open to being inspired. You don’t have to lock yourself into a one-lane direction. Pick your direction (and) have an idea about what you want the movie to be about. You want (your crew) to bring something new to it that you didn’t even think of. You want to empower your crew to be inspired themselves to take ownership in what they do. One of the most powerful words you can tell an actor is “Yes.” The least creative word is “No.”

SR:  What do you get out of being a teacher?

MM:  I realized that I have 20 years of experience under my belt. I can give you some science behind the magic, some science behind these questions about “What am I, the student, gonna do? How am I gonna do it?” That’s hopefully helpful. When I was studying directing I thought I had to know every single answer, and if I didn’t have the answer then I was failing. What I learned from going to make films was that that’s not the case. (Richard Linklater) would take a good idea from a (production assistant). It doesn’t matter where the good idea comes from. Best idea wins. If someone’s got 25 good ideas in a row and you don’t have one, root for them to have a 26th. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Put fuel on their fire. It’s not about ownership of the idea. Best directors say less than they say more.