Many wise and inspiring words are shared during commencement speeches across the nation. Here is Dallas Buyers Club star Matthew McConaughey sharing valuable insights gleaned from his personal experiences of being an actor. The Academy Award-winning thespian spoke to graduates of the University of Houston, and here are just a few of his main points; these ones refer specifically to lessons learned via his career.

Find joy in the process

When starting out in the industry, Matthew found himself placing a lot of emphasis on what others thought of his work. But, with more experience, he came to the following realization:

“Now personally, as an actor, I started enjoying my work and literally being more happy when I stopped trying to make the daily labor a means to a certain end. For example, ‘I need this film to be a box-office success. I need my performance to be acknowledged. I need the respect of my peers.’ All of those are reasonable aspirations, but the truth is, as soon as the work–the daily making of the movie, the doing of the deed–became the reward in itself for me, I got more box-office, more accolades and respect than I’d ever had before.”

Know who you are and who you’re not

As for actors who have their hearts set on getting as much screen time as possible, McConaughey understands; he’s been there before. But he’s learned that sometimes it’s best to keep the bigger picture in mind. He told a story about watching his earliest film, the 1993 coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused, several years after it had come out. As a more mature actor, he noticed a flaw in his character’s behavior. Indeed, Matthew had been initially hired to play the high-school girl-chasing David Wooderson and was given three lines within three day’s work. The director Richard Linklater, however, made a creative decision to go with the charisma of this new young actor and invite him back to set over the course of three weeks–increasing Matthew’s screen time and lines each step of the way. A lot of McConaughey’s lines were either written on the spot or improvised to give him more screen time. Eager and grateful, Matthew accepted each opportunity, happy to be collecting $325 per day. Years later, older and wiser McConaughey noticed a problem though. “I noticed two scenes I really shouldn’t have been in. And in one of these scenes, my character Wooderson exited screen left. I head somewhere, and then I re-entered the screen and double checked if any of the other characters wanted to go with me. Now, in rewatching the film … Wooderson’s not a guy who would ever say, ‘Later,” and then come back to see if you were sure you didn’t want to go. Now when Wooderson leaves, Wooderson is gone … Wooderson has better things to do–like liking those high-school girls.” But in those early days as an actor, he said he loved, “cashing that check and having a ball, I wanted more screen time, I wanted to be in the scene longer and more and come back into the scene, right?” He concludes: “It’s just as important where we are NOT as it is where we ARE.”

Dissect your successes

When it comes to bad reviews, McConaughey notes that he doesn’t “obsess on the unfavorable review,” but rather, he looks for a golden nugget of encouragement in the words. After all, he believes the critics’ “displeasure actually uncovers and makes more apparent what I am successful at, and then I dissect that.” By choosing to focus on what he does right, he believes his positive state of mind and joy are what makes him evolve and improve as an actor.

 

 

 

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