AUSTIN (KXAN) — Matthew McConaughey is returning again to the University of Texas next semester for his class Script to Screen as a professor of practice — but with a new twist. Instead of film, this class’ topic will be commercials.

The class will be available for the first time to Radio-Television-Film students and now Advertising students as well. Students will now get the chance to become familiar with his commercial work and get an inside look at his passion for the advertisement process.

The original Script to Screen

Academy Award Actor Matthew McConaughey has carved out a vibrant career of diverse performances in over 50 films, establishing himself as a household name in Hollywood. However, to the University of Texas at Austin students, the name Matthew McConaughey has become something more since joining his alma mater as a professor of practice at the Moody College of Communication starting in the fall 2019 semester.

Since 2015, there has been only one version of his course, Script to Screen. According to the class syllabus, Script to Screen is an essential “how-to” for students who are serious about writing, producing, or directing. The students of the fall semester studied the behind-the-scenes of three films starring McConaughey: “The Gentlemen”, “The Beach Bum”, and the “Free State of Jones.” Students garnered insight into making major motion pictures. The original version of the class is not being offered for students to take for the Spring 2023 semester; instead, Script to Screen: Commercials is being introduced

Introducing in 2023 NEW Script to Screen: Commercials

Spring 2023 will be the premiere of McConaughey’s class Script to Screen: Commercials – the second incarnation of his course exploring another aspect of the actor’s repertoire. McConaughey has acted and been involved in the development process as a creative director for notable commercials for companies such as Lincoln, Salesforce and Longbranch. When McConaughey is not in the classroom, the class will be co-taught by Professor Scott Rice and Professor Laura Bright. All three professors will be involved in the new class format.

“The idea for the class was Matthew’s idea. So we thought it was a cool idea to cross-list the class with advertising and went from there,” said Rice, a professor at UT’s Moody College of Communication department of Radio-Television-Film who teaches the original class alongside McConaughey. Rice is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and commercial director.

Rice said McConaughey came up with the idea back in the spring, but developing a new course takes a whole year.

I think it’s about time… the idea of including the advertising students just makes so much sense,” Rice said.

“We should cross-pollinate. We should work together. The advertising students can come up with the campaign, and the production students can make it, so that’s very exciting. Seemed like a no-brainer to me.” Rice said.

The structure for Script to Screen: Commercials

Bright, an associate professor at UT’s Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations, will focus on lectures surrounding commercials’ consumer insights, while Rice will highlight the production side.

flowchart showing three class modules
The three different pods: the broad arch of the class curriculum. (KXAN/Christine Bergmann)

This class brings those two departments together for the first time in one class.

“I think this is a unique opportunity to see how a commercial is made from start to finish and give them that exposure of all of the work and detail and logistics that are required to really bring those ideas to life, especially on the commercial production side, that’s not something that we provide as much in our major (Advertising) and so that’s why this is such a cool idea to have us collaborate on this because the advertising students can get that production experience,” Bright said.

Script to Screen: Commercials will take students behind the scenes of McConaughey’s latest commercial work.

“We’re going to be studying three different campaigns of his, so the Salesforce campaign will be the lead campaign that we look at because that’s the newest. We’ll also do the Lincoln campaign and his Wild Turkey campaign that he did for Longbranch Whiskey,” Bright said.

McConaughey’s role in the classroom

In October, Professor McConaughey came to the current Script to Screen class to discuss his movies, “The Gentleman” and “Free State of Jones.” That’s also when he told them for the first time about the new version of the class.

mcconaughey sits and talks with another professor nearby
Professor McConaughey and Professor Rice in Script to Screen class in October (University of Texas Photo/Courtesy Professor Charles Ramirez-Berg)

McConaughey will provide the content and guidance on how the class will be taught, including the structure of the class.

He will continue to appear in the classroom as an integral part of the course, according to Rice. He may come to the school for class, the lab or on Zoom, and students will be able to ask him questions about his work and hold an open discussion led by the professors. His appearances will potentially be accompanied by the directors, producers and people he has worked with on the commercials, Rice said.

“Having access to not only Matthew being in the classroom, but also the other creative professionals that we are going to bring in to help inspire the students. That, to me, is just the best ever when it comes to the class,” Bright said.

Professor Scott Rice elaborates on McConaughey’s appearance and role as a professor in the class.

Experiential learning

Rice and Bright said they are working with the marketing team for Salesforce as part of the class content. They went to Los Angeles in September with current Script to Screen students to see McConaughey in action for his Salesforce commercial coming out at the end of November. The students who flew out to LA for the commercial shoot were chosen based on being the first to email Rice when the opportunity was announced.

five people smiling in front of a film trailer
Professor Scott Rice, Professor Laura Bright and film students Kyle Decker and Paola Juarez arrive on set in LA to observe Professor Matthew McConaughey shoot a commercial.

“We got to take two students to LA to see a production that was shutting down city streets in downtown LA, and see a huge massive production with drones flying around and cranes. And that kind of thing is just really exciting. And I think gets students more excited about going into the business,” Rice said.

Bright and Rice discuss the fun of the class and the experimental learning.

Rice elaborated on experiential learning at UT Austin and how it is very important to them right now, “It’s something we’ve been doing in scripts and Scripts to Screen already allowing students to kind of, you know, step into the world, post-graduation the actual industry,” Rice said.

The professors plan to continue implementing experiential learning opportunities for their upcoming students.

Steps for next semester

In preparation for the course, Rice, Bright and McConaughey have been meeting and emailing back and forth to go over the primary campaigns they will be covering to iron out the curriculum, Bright explained.

Bright was able to attend the Script to Screen class in October when McConaughey and Rice were teaching. After the lesson, the professors grouped for a planning session.

Jay Berhardt, Dean of the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin snapped a picture of Professor Laura Bright, Professor Matthew McConaughey, and Professor Scott Rice planning session at UT for the upcoming class.
Jay Berhardt, Dean of the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin snapped a picture of Professor Laura Bright, Professor Matthew McConaughey, and Professor Scott Rice planning session at UT for the upcoming class.

“Scott and I are already having fun together, just doing the planning and coming up with ideas,” Bright said.

The class will be available to Advanced Advertising and Radio-Television-Film students interested in making commercials one day, Rice said.

“The students I’m excited to have in the class are both media and creative students because I think this is a unique opportunity to see how a commercial is made from start to finish and give them that exposure of all of the work and detail and logistics that are required to bring those ideas to life,” Bright said.

Coming soon… Script to Screen: Production?

McConaughey’s new version of his class content may be the start of a series of classes for Script to Screen with the discussion of a third class — Script to Screen: Production. The third incarnation of the course would take the students’ ideas created from the two predecessors — commercials or movies — and put them into production.

“The idea is that students who develop projects, either film projects, music, video projects, or commercial projects, and either class Script to Screen: Movies or Script to Screen: Commercials can then go ahead and produce those projects, and the Script to Screen production class and using UT equipment facilities like the studios,” Rice said.

Rice is hoping that class will start in the fall of 2023.

Rice explains the vision for Script to Screen: Production for fall 2023. Another idea McConaughey wants to create will allow students to take action on their projects that are developed in his prior classes.

UT Austin senior Sophie Attkiss is going to be taking Script to Screen: Commercials next semester.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the commercial side of the entertainment industry, because even though it’s not what I expected to want to do post-grad, I think it’s important to know as much as I can about all sectors of the industry,” Attkiss said. “I’m also excited for the experiential learning aspect and obviously to learn through Matthew McConaughey’s work!”

The highly-anticipated class filled up quickly during the November registration for spring classes since it is a single-offered class with no additional class times. There is a waitlist currently of 47 students wanting to take the course.

“I was a little nervous about getting into the class because I had heard from other people that it fills up really quickly. Luckily I had an early registration time, so it ended up working out,” Attkiss said.

Professor Bright and Professor Rice encourage students to come to take their class and are excited for what is to come, with all the students will get out of it.

“Matthew does a great job of keeping that Austin culture that we all love so much alive, and sustaining that on the UT campus,” Bright said.

“You can tell that Matthew is very much invested in the students and very excited about being able to share his experience and expertise with them. He seems very open to making UT and Austin a better place. So I appreciate the good energy that he brings to the class, students, and campus,” Bright said.