It started, simply enough, with a golf course conversation between two concerned Texans.
What resulted was creative collaboration, a labor of love, produced from the hands and minds of Radio-Television-Film students and recent graduates.
Matthew McConaughey, who co-teaches a film class at the Moody College of Communication, was taking in the action last March during the PGA Tour’s Dell Match Play when Texas attorney general Ken Paxton approached him about raising awareness to combat human trafficking in Texas.
McConaughey agreed to appear in a public awareness video package, and immediately suggested students from his Script-to-Screen class come together to edit and produce the video. McConaughey’s co-teacher, longtime director and lecturer Scott Rice, went to work assembling a crew.
“It was a great opportunity for students to work with Matthew as their teacher,” Rice said. “I mentally made a list of students who had the production chops to pull this off -- students in the class who know how to produce and put video together. We needed a cinematographer, an editor, everything.
“It was a true RTF effort. We all knew each other.”
After Rice created the production plan, the crew of nearly 20 came together in May to transform a bare-bones studio into a dramatically lit and curtained film set. Yet even with the look and feel of a professional production, teachable moments managed to arise.
About 15 minutes before McConaughey was due in front of the camera, the teleprompter was all but useless thanks to a glare that rendered any words rolling through it unreadable.
In this setting, Rice is the teacher, director and example. His tone was serious but not frantic or emergent. He encouraged the crew to think of a back-up plan – i.e. find another teleprompter – while also leading them to be calm, focus and work the equipment.
With minutes to spare, the teleprompter was fixed, and McConaughey walked through the door with a smile, looking around and asking, “Do I see any familiar faces?”
Creative tension erased, necessary adrenaline infused, it was time for lights, camera and action.
“It’s fun to put on the director hat and teacher hat at the same time,” said Rice, who has been teaching at UT since 2004. “Yes, I want to create a piece that effectively communicates this important message and highlights the professionalism of our students. So there’s pressure to get it right, but not at the expense of learning. I know the wiggle room I have to let students stumble a little and have those eureka moments without compromising the quality of the product. That’s the true value of a field experience like this — the learning that takes place.”