He sits with an emerging beard under his nose, scruffy yet well-shaven at the same time. His long torso, which leans forward in an interested language, is addressed toward his director as she critiques him.
“Better job being ‘in love’ today,” she remarks.
Immediately, a brief smile plays on his cheeks.
From above, it’s easy to assume he is just another student attending Sam Houston State University. Not one moment would you assume he’s the grandson of a three-time Oscar nominee, and a film director in his own right, but he is.
“He” is Chase Parker, a 23-year-old graduate of Emerson College who within the last five years has acted, produced and directed five short films: “Left Behind” (2013), “GroupLove” (2014), “Paladino” (2015), “E” (2017), and his latest, upcoming film, “American Fishtrap” (2018).
“I always loved movies, growing up as a kid. It seemed by far better than anything you could do in school or anywhere else,” said Parker. “I wanted to emulate what I liked in movies and make something fun. It just happened to spiral into what I do now.”
Parker, however, is not new to the film industry. His grandmother was Eleanor Parker, best known as the Baroness in the “Sound of Music,” and Parker himself had multiple guest roles when he was younger in shows such as “General Hospital” and “Sunset Beach.”
These are surprising facts to consider when Parker noted how, “nobody in the family wants anyone to do film because of how hard it is on you as a person, and as a whole.”
Advice he seemed to have heeded as he and his family moved to Texas to live a “normal life” — if normal can be defined as being behind the screen instead of on it.
Yet, even at The Woodlands High School (where Parker graduated from in 2012), his background followed him.
“Life finds a way, as it gets near your senior year, to grab you by the head and point you where you’re suppose to go if you listen,” said Parker, expressing how it did so to him — in the form of a broken foot.
For most, a broken foot is nothing but temporary, although terrible, pain.
It breaks and a cast is put on your leg.
You’re given crutches, and after a specific amount of time, your foot heals.
For an athlete, though, a broken foot can be a career-ending injury, as it was for Parker.
Thus, when his coaches explained to him he wouldn’t be able to play “for a long time,” he quit.
“I found myself walking the halls after that,” Parker said, “when I saw a poster asking people to come audition for ‘You Can’t Take It With You.’ It was this beautiful 1930s play, where the moral was basically to do what you want, not for the money, but because you love doing it. That fell at a perfect time in my life where I realized this is what I want to do.”
So Parker, who had been seriously considering becoming a doctor up until that point, followed his heart.
“Unbeknownst to my parents, I tried out for all the theater schools in Texas: UT, Texas State and Sam Houston State. They were going to kill me when I told them I was giving up my scholarships to Mary Hardin-Baylor to study film and theater, but you only live once,” Parker said. “My parents, who have supported me through everything in my life, weren’t very supportive of my decision at first. But after seeing how dedicated and serious I was about it, they became supportive.”
Now working on his fifth short film, “American Fishtrap,” Parker has had his work featured in multiple film festivals across the United States, Canada and even in the Cannes Film Festival in France.
“I want this to be the worst film I’ve made 50 years from now,” Parker said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be growing. I hate when people, say ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever done.’ That’s a mistake. If I wasn’t growing after every film I directed, or even after every theater show I acted in, I would quit, because it would mean that this was something I wasn’t meant to do. I need to learn from everything I’ve done wrong in my previous projects and adjust for everything I’m going to do next.
“(For example), one thing I’ve never been able to encapsulate perfectly enough is silence — using silence to your advantage. Embracing it versus rushing through it. There’s a scene in ‘American Fishtrap’ where if you just talked out the scene, it would be two minutes, and it is a six-minute scene. I’m very excited about it.”
But even after “American Fishtrap,” Parker hopes to forge a new path for film — one different from the current types of movies cycling through the theaters.
Parker believes movies are made for entertainment, not for thought.
“The other day, I went and saw the new Spider-Man movie with my girlfriend. It was very entertaining, and very well-made,” Parker said. “I’ll give them credit, but it was the third (Spider-Man) franchise that’s surfaced in the last 15 years. On top of that, every trailer that played before it was either a remake, a sequel or a superhero movie.
“This is why nobody goes to the movies anymore,” Parker continued. “That’s why we stay at home and watch Netflix. HBO is killing it right now with ‘Game of Thrones.’ It’s so good, and we don’t even have to get up. Movies aren’t setting the bar that high. If we can find people, even if they aren’t me, to set the bar higher than we can establish what film really should be. Still, as he jokes about hoping the future of film can offer him a job, and a house, he seems relaxed and calm.
Five years ago, he began this journey that changed his life forever. And although, as he puts it, he’s “met some connected people,” he hasn’t fully entered the scope of what he wants to do.
“I don’t even think I have personally (broken) into (the film industry) yet,” Parker said. “There are different levels to it. As far as Austin, New York and Boston are concerned, I definitely have, but I’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to L.A. I’m just starting in my eyes. I have so much more I want to do.”