Y.O.L.O. The saying a little dated now, but not obsolete. And not untrue. Except for a few brave souls, or for when consequences are minor, the human race tends to make practical decisions. People do what makes the most sense or what has the highest probability of success. And it’s okay to take risks or splurge every once in a while, but how about when it comes to someone’s career options?
Following one’s dreams sometimes comes at a price. Stability being the big one. The opposite is also true. Stability may come at the cost of getting stuck in some dead-end job, or maybe even a fairly decent job, but either way, it’s a job where there’s always something missing: passion.
Some think that there’s no point in life if they’re not doing what they love. One who shares this belief is Chasen Parker, a senior theater-turned-film major coming full-circle from SHSU to Emerson College in Boston and back to SHSU.
“The first show I did in my life…was a show in my senior year of high school called You Can’t Take It With You, and the basis of it was that you should do what you want, not for the money, but because you love doing it,” Parker said. “I was originally set to go to [medical] school, and that message hit me really hard, so I dropped all of that.”
Strangely enough, it was You Can’t Take It With You that drew Parker to SHSU. During his tour of Texas schools, he met with the head of the SHSU theater department for an audition. She then recommended he attend that weekend’s showcase the play that started it all. He saw that as a sign prompting him toward the life of a Bearkat.
Acting flows through his family’s blood. His parents, Rich and Annie Parker, starred in movies like Die Hard and Robocop. Three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker, Chasen Parker’s grandmother, appeared in over 80 movies and TV series throughout her career. She even earned the nickname “Woman of a Thousand Faces,” one of which was the Baroness from The Sound of Music (1965).
Growing up in such a family, it shouldn’t be any surprise that Parker would follow in their footsteps. But while his relations did influence his view of the big screen, they had little to do with his decision to go into filmmaking. He’d rather not have “the family trade” define his path.
“When I was a kid, I always watched the older Clint Eastwood westerns…and people that make incredible work that is entertaining, but [work that] you can also get a lot out of,” he stated. “I always loved watching super intense movies, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Theater extended into narrative filmmaking when Parker was 18 and began to connect with people who were already making their way into that field. At 23, he had completed four 14 to 40-minute short films with another in the works.
“[‘E’] is a fantasy-fiction-revenge story taking place in 1994 with the whole Enron scandal, way before any of it went public in 2001,” Parker said.
Parker shot and directed “E” back in August 2015 and the final cut will start its festival run in Las Angelas, California and Miami, Florida in the coming weeks. Next on the agenda is pulling together “American Fishtrap,” the piece that Parker is proudest of.
To Parker’s relief, this project was near effortless. A team of about 40 cast and crew members packed up for a five-day shoot in the middle of nowhere, where a man with one hundred thousand acres of property allowed the team to assemble, free of charge. Except when it came to their campfire scene. The property owner worried about the city’s burn ban and the potential risk of losing his land to either fire or the government. Parker and his group understood, of course, but their film would have a gaping hole without the scene. Thankfully, one of the team’s producers remembered a chance event from the day before.
“We were shooting on a historical site in Burnet, Texas, and the mayor of the city showed up…and she was like the nicest lady in the world, and she gave me one of those ‘adult nods’ [as if to say], ‘If you ever need anything, give me a call,'” he stated.
So he did, and after explaining their predicament, the mayor told him to wait 15 minutes. A little time goes by, and sure enough, Parker gets another call.
“I [got] a phone call from the fire chief of the city saying the mayor gave us ordinance to bypass the burn ban for that property, and he was going to bring two fire trucks with his best squad to come monitor the shoot to make sure everything [went] smoothly.”
And the shoot progressed exponentially better than expected.
“It was the most epic day of filming I’d ever had, not just because we had fire trucks and everything, but the campfire scene included this massive shootout using real guns – shooting blanks – and I’d never done that, so that was incredibly exciting,” Parker stated. “We also had tons of horses and wagons come to set – that was pretty cool.”
Once the final cut for “American Fishtrap” is ready in December, it will follow a similar path to that of “E.” In the coming months, Parker plans to submit the film to festivals that will hopefully keep it in circulation until 2018 or 2019.
Looking ahead to graduation and beyond, Parker is still deciding between moving to Austin for a while or heading straight to L.A.. Either way, he intends to make his first feature film within the year.
“If you have something that you love, do that,” Parker said. “Like, I could die tomorrow, and I’d rather go out knowing I was doing what I loved, or at least trying to.”
No one should have to give up on their dreams. Not entirely. It might be wise to have a backup plan, but, if there is something that someone enjoys, and he can do it well, then the only person holding him back is himself. This is it. College prepares students for the long run. Don’t settle for what’s “practical.” Don’t let the opportunities pass you by. After all, you only live once.