Cameras roll at Fort Croghan

RICHARD ZOWIE/THE HIGHLANDER

After a career as a child actor, Chase Parker grew up in Houston and is now carving out a career as a writer and director. He shot most of his newest film, “American Fishtrap,” in Burnet, this past week. 

 

By Richard Zowie

Highland Lakes Newspapers

Perhaps it’s not so unusual at Fort Croghan to see people dressed in mid-19th century attire, even in the sweltering Texas summer heat.

It might be unusual, though, to see people in such anachronistic attire while standing next to modern-day cameras, boom mikes, lights and other filmmaking equipment.

Led by actor and filmmaker Chase Parker, a crew of actors, actresses and those who work behind the camera spent the second week in July in Burnet to film scenes for an upcoming western film, “American Fishtrap.”

Parker said the film takes place the day after the Civil War ends, when two brothers-in-law return home to learn that their wife and sister-in-law has been kidnapped.

“I’m a huge fan of westerns to begin with, and I’m a huge history nerd at heart,” said Parker, whose television credits include “General Hospital,” “Seventh Heaven” and “Sunset Beach.” “I’ve seen all of the Clint Eastwood westerns and the John Wayne westerns, and I really wanted to dive into the era of the Civil War.”

Parker estimates that 99 percent of the film is being shot in Burnet, particularly at Fort Croghan. The other one percent is being shot out of the area at a lake.

“I found Fort Croghan on Facebook, and one of my friends told me about it,” said Parker, who grew up in Houston following a career as a child actor. He currently attends Sam Houston State University. “They’d been here once on vacation with their family. My dad told me about it and had looked at it.”

He has found the local response to be positive.

“People in Burnet and at Fort Croghan have welcomed us with open arms,” said Parker, whose crew includes film people from Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Texas. “They’ve been incredibly nice to us. We have nothing but the utmost gratitude for the entire city of Burnet.”

Rival Studios is involved in “American Fishtrap,” and principal photography was scheduled to finish on July 14. Parker hopes to have the film completed by the end of this year.

Hooray for Burnet’

There may not be a hill with the word “BURNET” mounted in capitalized white letters, but, as it turns out, “American Fishtrap” isn’t the first time a movie has been shot in Burnet.

Milli Williams, director at the Fort Croghan Grounds and Museum, said she and museum board member Carole Goble were extras at a clothes line in a scene of that movie.

“We had a film crew out here,” said Goble. “It was never released that we know of, but it might be released in the future.”

As for “American Fishtrap,” Goble said the filmmakers came to see if the fort would be viable for what they needed and, after seeing it, decided it would.

Ann Taylor Nelson, president of Burnet County Heritage Society, described Parker and his crew as “a good bunch of kids.”

“They’re very careful about how they handle stuff,” she said. “They’re very professional. They’re not wasting a whole lot of time but trying to get things just right. It seems to be working.”

Financing a film

Part of producing a film includes getting the financing needed to pay the actors, crew members, director, along paying for equipment and for securing a location. Parker described the film financing process as “up and down.”

“You pitch it to people,” he said. “If they like it, they help you out. If they don’t, they don’t. Especially for myself, I’m 23, so I’ve been very fortunate to have people from Conroe — specifically, the Gullo family that owns Gullo Ford and Gullo Toyota. They have helped me out over the years. I wouldn’t have been able to do pretty much my entire film career without them.”

Return to Cannes?

Prior to “American Fishtrap,” Parker’s recent film credits include “The Caretaker,” “Paladino,” “GroupLove” and the recently-completed “E” about the fall of Enron Energy.

Three of his films, “Left Behind,” “GroupLove” and “Paladino,” have been featured at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

“I would be absolutely honored for this film to go to any film festivals I’ve attended, along with Cannes as well,” said Parker.

Acting bloodline

In acting circles, if Parker’s surname sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the grandson of the late actress Eleanor Parker. She received Oscar nominations for her work in the movies “Caged,” “Detective Story” and “Interrupted Melody.”

She also played “The Baroness” in “The Sound of Music.”

“My grandmother was one of my best friends growing up,” Parker said. “I spent so much time with her, since both of my parents were working. She gave me a lot of advice. The most important thing she taught me was to not only be honest about myself, but also about my work also and all the things I do. She’s probably one of the most brutally honest individuals I’ve ever met, and so I like to think that I keep that lone quality alive from her.”

Parker is also the nephew of actor Paul Clemens, who co-starred in the 1982 horror film “The Beast Within.”

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