Matthew McConaughey shoots public service video at Akins to promote safety


Robert Lockay

Akins students serve as background actors during a professional video shoot with actor Matthew McConaughey that was filmed on campus on May 6.

A cinema-style video camera sits on a track in the driveway at the front entrance of the school. A cinematographer sits in a chair watching camera footage. Akins students stand still waiting for the director to yell “background” before walking into the camera’s line of sight.

Then the director yells “action” and actor Matthew McConaughey walks into the scene and begins talking to the camera that follows him to the main entrance of the school while he talks about a law passed last year called the “Safer Communities Act.”

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The Oscar-award-winning actor’s appearance at Akins on May 6 wasn’t just a celebrity photo opportunity. Instead, he was starring in a public service announcement video that was filmed at three different locations on the Akins campus with a professional film crew.

McConaughey, who grew up in Uvalde, Texas has recently become outspoken on gun violence issues after the mass school shooting in his hometown last year on May 24. Even before his involvement in gun violence issues, McConaughey had founded the Just Keep Livin Foundation, which has worked to promote healthy living and mental health strategies to teens through the creation of after-school clubs at 44 schools across the country.

Science teacher Matt Stricklen, who has led the Just Keep Livin Club at Akins since 2016, served as a liaison between McConaughey’s film crew and the school officials who were on hand to make sure the film shoot went as smoothly as possible in the 10-hours or so they were on campus to film it. Student members of the Just Keep Livin Club volunteered to serve as background actors, walking around McConaughey as he walks around the school, up the main stairwell, and into a classroom in the STEM hallway for the filming of the video.

“It’s all about safer schools, making resources available for safer schools,” Stricklen said.

This film was made to encourage districts and schools in Texas to take advantage of the grant money provided by the Safer Communities Act.

In an interview conducted with The Eagle’s Eye staff during the video shoot, McConaughey said he was prompted to film the video when U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents Uvalde, asked him for help to promote a federal grant program that provides funds to schools to improve campus security and mental health services.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act implemented several changes to the mental health system, school safety programs, and gun safety laws. McConaughey said that some districts have been slow to apply for grants because of political bias and the workload to apply for grants.

“So I’m here because it would just be a shame if (the law is) nothing but a symbol,” McConaughey said.

Gonzales had advised McConaughey to help promote the large sum of grant money provided, which is meant to help support schools.

This support includes “from mental health professionals, or increased security personnel or just simple things like better doors, better hardware, better locks. It’s all about making safer schools,” Stricklen said.

Students in Just Keep Livin’ Clubs from Akins, Navarro High School and a charter school participated in the making of the public service announcement.

Seniors Amber White and Lukas Cardenas who are a part of the Akins Save Club were invited to participate in the video as background actors. The student-led Save Club started this year to promote efforts to reduce gun violence at schools. They have advocated for an anonymous reporting system that would allow students to notify school officials to stop school shootings and ensure their classmates and friends are receiving mental health care.

White and Cardenas are also part of the Law Practicum class, which have made their own efforts on campus to promote school safety and mental health access.

Students like White and Cardenas spent hours waiting for the directors and crew to set up the shots.

“It’s not as glamorous as they make it seem, right,” Cardenas said.

The video is expected to be seen on television and in online ads starting in June.

McConaughey said school officials who want help writing grants to receive the federal money should visit

“There’s a bill with billions of dollars is not being utilized. Why not?” because they cant fill out the grant,” McConaughey said.