“Hello, my name is Adrian Grenier and I’m a celebrity. Or at least I play one on TV.” These are the opening lines of Teenage Paparazzo, the documentary directed, produced and written by Entourage star Adrian Grenier. Oh yeah, he’s in it, too. And if that isn’t enough to get the attention of every teenage girl, the doc’s other star, 14-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk is a ringer for Justin Bieber. In what ultimately becomes a coming of age story, the documentary chronicles the relationship between Austin and Adrian after a blitzkrieg of camera flashes initiated by the young pap provoke Adrian’s own study into the concept of celebrity.
We first meet Austin running amok in Hollywood, a huge camera around his neck, finagling his way through crowds of grown men to scream out “Paris! Paris! Paris!” Sure, we’re used to seeing videos and photos of wobbly celebrities late at night, surrounded by aggressive photographers. And as unsettling as those images may be, nothing is as uncomfortable as seeing cherubic Austin at 3 a.m., flanked by drunks in front of Les Deux, hoping to get a picture of an heiress. He runs in front of cars, takes taxis and uses his Razor scooter to scuttle between home and The Ivy, and curses like a sailor. But what about school, homework, baseball, and other 14-year-old appropriate activities?
Ends up that Austin is home-schooled (ahem, once a week) and lives with his slightly-concerned father and checked out mother. But the celebrities love Austin. They think he’s cute (he is), and are more than happy to pose for him after they do a double take. Paris Hilton even calls him “sexy.” Also, he’s good at what he does. His photos sell between $500 and $1,000 a pop, and with that, who better to mentor Adrian into the world of paparazzi than Austin himself?
Adrian was joined at the premiere by celebrity friends Alexis Bledel and Gretchen Mol
Austin helps Adrian to buy a camera, and ironically, a picture of Adrian and his shopping bag surfaces in Us Weekly‘s “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” spread (they buy cameras!). Adrian fails miserably as a pap. He’s not fast enough, his toes get stepped on, and his perfect scruff and bright blue eyes could never fool a full-on professional. But with the attention from celebrities and Adrian’s own camera crew, Austin’s small head grows exponentially. He lands his own reality TV show, bullies his mother, and tells girls that Lindsay is his best friend. A true fame monster.
Adrian, who claims responsibility for the boy’s downfall, attempts an intervention. To broaden his horizons on photography, he shows Austin the famous Kent State photograph, but the boy declares it uninteresting and unmoving, only to run out to Mr. Chow for more picture snapping. It is not until the end of the film that we see a change in Austin, and self-realization kicks in.
But the film is bigger than one boy’s experience. There is a great deal of insight into the media industry provided by educators, historians, editors, and other objective voices. We learn some fancy media terms (parasocial, if you will), and celebrity appearances abound (we’re talking Perez, Lindsay, Eva, and more) with some true laugh out loud moments. Fame and celebrity certainly get a makeunder.
Teenage Paparazzo has been picked up by HBO Documentaries and will debut in theaters this fall. View a clip of Adrian talking about the film at Sundance below.
The Gen Art Film Festival, which is celebrating its 15th Anniversary, is a week of premieres that spotlight the most talented emerging filmmakers in North America. Click here for additional red carpet photos and video.