Chasen Parker chases a filmmaking career at Cannes

by Mark Gartsbeyn / Beacon Staff • September 10, 2015

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Promotional photo for Parker's upcoming short film "E."
Courtesy of Chasen Parker
Promotional photo for Parker's upcoming short film "E."
Courtesy of Chasen Parker

Every year since he turned 18, Chasen Parker has flown to Cannes to showcase his short films. No, not at the Cannes Film Festival, where directors compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or—but for an 18-year-old, it’s somewhere close.

Parker, now 21, is a regular attendee of Cannes Court Métrage, known in English as the Short Films Corner. It’s a networking event that runs parallel to the official competition, uniting nearly 2,000 filmmakers from around the world.

“It’s always intimidating right before you get there,” Parker, a senior visual and media arts major, said. “I was afraid that I’d make myself sound like such an idiot. But then you realize that people are just there because they love movies.”

In 2013, Parker brought “Left Behind,” about a disgruntled young adult and his role in a school shooting, to the Short Films Corner. He debuted “GroupLove,” about a creepy character at a campsite, in 2014. And this May, Parker showed “Paladino”, his most recent short film. It follows the story of Vincent Paladino, a Boston mobster six months out of prison.

“He struggles with his conscience… he has to balance his home life with his work within the Irish-Italian mob in Boston,” Parker said.

A transfer student from Sam Houston State University in Texas, Parker said his move to Boston influenced him to make “Paladino.”

“Just walking down Charles Street, taking in the city, I was absolutely inspired,” Parker said. “I met some real stereotypical Bostonian characters.”

“Paladino” was shot in January and February of this year, during Boston’s most brutal winter of all time. Due to the seemingly endless snowstorms, Parker faced several delays in production. The short film utilized a crew of around 50 Emerson students, according to Parker.

“One thing that resonated with me at Emerson [while shooting ‘Paladino’] was how well everybody worked together,” Parker said. “It’s the type of vibe that I always wanted to have.”

His upcoming short film, “E”, is loosely based on the Enron scandals of 2001, which caused thousands of employees at the American energy company to lose their jobs. Parker said that he had friends and family working there at the time of the scandal.

“It’s a bit like ‘Inglourious Basterds’ meets ‘Office Space’,” Parker said. “It’s a revenge story about a company in Houston doing some dirty stuff… some of the employees find out and plan to exact revenge in a very brutal manner.”

Parker recast Eddie Troy and Lance A. Williams, two actors from “Paladino,” in “E.” He said he enjoyed working with the pair because of their ability to take on his characters and understand his dialogue.

Troy, 24, said that he enjoys working with Parker because Parker gives his actors free rein to experiment.

“When I read the script I can see how he’s picturing it in his head,” Troy said. “I end up adding things that I thought he thought of, and then he just goes with it.”

Williams, 25, said that he plays a “nerdy, schizophrenic character” in “E.”

“[Chasen and I] Skyped multiple times and talked about movies to watch, character references, different pieces of literature,” Williams said. “We did a lot of research on schizophrenia.”

Troy and Williams both commended Parker’s strong directing ability.

“He manages to get people in a certain mindset that keeps you very focused on the task at hand,” Troy said. “Everyone’s on the same page, and for a young director, that’s quite an accomplishment.”

Working on short films as a young adult wasn’t Parker’s first foray into the media world. As a child, he played Benjy Evans on the 90s soap opera “Sunset Beach,” and he also had a guest role on episodes of “7th Heaven” and “General Hospital”. Nearly fifteen years later, Parker returned to the screen to act in his own shorts—in fact, he won the EVVY for best screen actor last year for his role in “Paladino.” A long-time actor, Parker said that it wasn’t until high school that he had even considered making movies.

Parker also has a bit of a pedigree in the film industry. He’s the grandson of three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker, who most famously played Elsa von Schraeder in “The Sound of Music.” The young filmmaker said that he was very close with his grandmother, and that he was devastated when she passed away in 2013.

“You wouldn’t have expected it, she was 90 but she looked 60,” Parker said “She was one of my best friends when I was a kid. If I work hard enough, hopefully I can do half of what she did.”