One night in Los Angeles, Adrian Grenier, star of the HBO series “Entourage,” encountered 14-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk. Astounded and inspired by the fast-talking, faster-snapping teen, Grenier (HBO’s “Shot in the Dark”) decided to turn the cameras on Visschedyk in an effort to better understand this unique teenager’s world and gain insight into what motivates people to stalk the famous.
An official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, TEENAGE PAPARAZZO takes an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the illusion and the reality of celebrity. Well-acquainted with fans who have trouble distinguishing real life from fiction, Grenier says it is “strange that I get all this attention because I play someone who gets all this attention.” He decides to hang out with Visschedyk and the “paps” to uncover what is going on in “a culture so fixated on fame that its children stalk celebrities at night.”
Grenier trails Visschedyk as he goes out to look for “the perfect shot.” When other paparazzi suggest Grenier see what it’s like on the “other side,” Visschedyk helps him purchase a camera and teaches him the basics. On his first outing as a paparazzo, Grenier joins in on the snapping as Brooke Shields is spied leaving a restaurant, and gets a taste of the adrenaline.
Visschedyk’s parents have differing perceptions of their son’s “hobby.” His father sees it as a bit of a nuisance, refusing to drive his son to scope out a tip of a Cameron Diaz sighting, but his mother calls it normal teen exploration. She feels her son is “trying to figure out who he is and what his role is in the universe,” calling such behavior “typical for his age.” Despite spending late nights standing outside Hollywood clubs, Visschedyk gets good grades while being home-schooled.
Curious about the market for celebrity photos, Grenier talks to executives at OK! magazine. Film historian James Hosney explains about how celebrity media attention was once controlled by the Hollywood studio system. Grenier learns from Visschedyk that stories nowadays are often invented, based on pictures taken out of context.
Grenier and paparazzi magnet Paris Hilton decide to conduct an experiment to see if they can create a false rumor about themselves. They begin to meet in public on a regular basis, with Grenier even visiting her house. Sure enough, the story that they are romantically involved quickly surfaces in gossip magazines, columns and blogs.
In addition to Visschedyk, Visschedyk’s family and Paris Hilton, Grenier interviews actors Alec Baldwin, Lindsay Lohan, Eva Longoria Parker and “Entourage” co-stars Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara; TV personalities Rosie O’Donnell and Mario Lopez (host of “Extra”); celebrity blogger Perez Hilton; comedians Lewis Black, Jaleel White and Whoopi Goldberg, and others.
Grenier also talks to psychologists, press and academics. Journalist Jake Halpern discusses “parasocial relationships,” which he describes as “weird one-way relationships where we don’t actually know the people on TV, but we feel like we do,” and admits he has a hard time not addressing Grenier as “Vince.” Mario Lopez says that at different events and around town, celebrities will come up to him as if they know each other, almost like they are part of an “unspoken fraternity.” NYU professor Thomas de Zengotita, the author of “Mediated,” observes, “In this society, if you are not famous, there is a certain very real sense in which you don’t exist.”
A few years after their initial encounter, Grenier visits Visschedyk again, asking the teenage paparazzo where he’d like to be in five years. Visschedyk responds, “Papping, no. Photographing celebrities, yes.”
Adrian Grenier, director and producer of TEENAGE PAPARAZZO, stars in the hit HBO comedy series “Entourage,” currently in its seventh season. In 2002 he founded Reckless Productions as a vehicle for socially responsible human stories, both documentary and fictional. He made his directorial debut with the feature-length 2007 HBO documentary “Shot in the Dark,” which chronicled Grenier’s year-long search for his estranged father.
TEENAGE PAPARAZZO is an HBO Documentary Film in association with Reckless Productions, JLoar Productions and Bert Marcus Productions; directed by Adrian Grenier; producers, Adrian Grenier, Matthew Cooke, Bert Marcus, John Loar, Robin Garvick and Lynda Pribyl; co-producer Evan Ferrante; associate producers, Kimberly Brook and Jon Divens; editor, Jim Curtis Mol; director of photography, David Serafin; music supervisor, Janice Ginsberg; executive producer, Sandlot Venture Group.