TV Junkie: Interview with Adrian Grenier about his film 'Teenage Paparazzo'
Adrian Grenier's Teenage Paparazzo premieres tonight at 9pm on HBO. [Photo of Grenier at the "Boardwalk Empire" premiere by Thomas Attila Lewis]
We all know Adrian Grenier from his role as superstar Vincent Chase on HBO's "Entourage" but not as many know of Grenier the documentarian and more should. Grenier's Shot In The Dark, his documentary about fatherhood and the search for his biological father adeptly brought us into an intensely personal story.We've waited a while for another feature-length documentary from Grenier and with "Teenage Paparazzo" (HBO @ 9pm) again he's again delivered a story with a personal connection - the connection he made with 14 year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk who got his start snapping pictures of Grenier. Grenier explores the story of Austin and the people whose pictures he takes. There are also interviews with social scientists who weigh in on how we got to this place where celebrity is king, where fame is more important than how somebody got famous. Matt Damon states "people ask me 'what's it like being famous?' Not, 'what's it like to make a movie?" Over the two years that Grenier made the film we see Austin grow in many ways and there is some hope in the conclusion that he may choose a more meaningful and less exploitive path.
Grenier also asks the question about who is exploiting who here - a question that doesn't have a clear answer but the process of asking is both entertaining and informative. It was also refreshing to see how objective Grenier remains during the creation of the film (and his sense of humor as well, see his "S'Leb Suit" promo at the end of this post). He has Austin pick out a "paparazzi set up kit" at Samy's Camera and he joins the pack to chase down a few celebs himself. While Grenier does his best to open up a dialogue of understanding with the paparazzi as a whole, only some individual connections are made as the group appears to be too suspicious to accept such frankness.
We spoke with Adrian Grenier on the phone on Friday, September 24, 2010.
LAist: What is your perspective from being a subject/target of the paparazzi, is this environment a machine, is it a monster? What is being perpetuated?
Adrian Grenier: I guess it can be monster-like but what I was trying to do with the film is defuse the scariness of it the overwhelmingness of it. I think we're in a really positive place now with the amount of access that everyone has to communicate with their personal media devices and that's what I saw in this young boy - the autonomy of his own actions. To me, on the one hand we're all contributing to a hall of mirrors but what I'd like to suggest a way to navigate this hall of mirrors and not get lost in the seductive illusions but to effectively be able to utilize it for the common good.
LAist: What I thought about while watching your film was that a week or so ago I was speaking to you on the red carpet of "Boardwalk Empire" along with other media and you kindly gave me a minute of your time to give me a soundbite about "Entourage" (see clip at the very end of post) because that's the place to have that kind of reasonable exchange. But there were also a ton of photographers in the photography section of the line, and I know for a fact that a bunch of those guys shoot at red carpet events but they also sit around in their cars or SUVs and follow and lurk around corners to chase down celebrity photographs. For anyone else, going to the grocery store would mean that you would park your car and walk in a straight line up to the store to get your stuff but you can do that and that seems surreal, unreal, and unreasonable.
Adrian Grenier: I one of my favorite sayings is "It is what it is, you're famous," it's something you have to reconcile and deal with and make the most of. So my way of reconciling that experience was to make a film about it and reaching across the weirdness and divide that separates me from the paparazzi and makes the paparazzi a scary and selfish bunch of monsters and makes me just a paycheck in their eyes. I was really hoping to find the humanity and meet with them. The media can be really inhuman, it's a reflection of our humanity but it's not human.
LAist: One thing that is frustrating as a journalist is to see that some of these situations are virtual set-ups with the intention of having the subject look bad or to have them say something angry or confrontational. LAist recently reported on Russell Brand's run in with paparazzi that resulted in his arrest [and could result in his being barred from traveling to the United States] - he has nothing but my sympathies as the airport is already a hectic enough place, but here he is getting arrested and "looking bad" when the truth could be something very different.
Adrian Grenier: We explore what I call the dictatorship of the image where the media seems absolute when in fact images tend to lie more than they tell the truth - or they tell half-truths at best. The only way for me to come to any real decision about the paparazzi or even news in general is to vet out all the perspectives. I was really attempting to do that and present all sides of the story and also to recognize my role in it.
LAist: I thought it was very interesting that you are able to remain so calm in these situations, you figured out how to defuse them. Your movie could be a primer to those who would want to get involved in the industry, on either side of the lens, a tool to learn what to do or not to do.
Adrian Grenier: I think in a lot of ways it was for Austin. If he is, in fact, going to be in the limelight after the film comes out, or if he is going to be pursuing his own fame, maybe I can give him some insight so that he's able to deal with it or in a more graceful way.