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IFFBoston 2010 Review: Teenage Paparazzo

‘Teenage Paparazzo’ is a great documentary from actor Adrian Grenier about 14 year old Austin Visschedyk, a young paparazzo. Going into the film, I wasn’t sure what I was going to see, I’m familiar with Grenier as an actor, but as far as his directing skills, I was curious to see what he’d done with this very captivating premise. The documentary goes much further then just about Austin, it delves deep into the paparazzi culture, and even examines our obsession with celebrities.

The film opens with a quick background on Grenier, and how he is in the position that he is now, a celebrity that has to deal with the constant snapping of the paparazzi. One day, Grenier is leaving an event, and a young boy runs up to him with a camera. At first, he assumes its just another fan. Once he’s hit with the snapping of 75 shots, he realizes, this kid is a paparazzi.

Grenier tracks Austin down, and turns the cameras on him. Following him as he goes about his life, and interviewing the various people in and around him, including other paparazzos. The film is insightful and looks at many different aspects of the culture.

A great part of that is the journey of a photo, which is outlined for us in detail. For example, if one of these professionals snags a quick picture of Paris Hilton walking out of a coffee shop, how its downloaded, uploaded, and on a picture editors desk for a tabloid before she even gets home. It’s quite remarkable.

The films opening I’d say is its weakest part. It begins a bit on the self-indulgent side. I will admit, it is hard to not come off self-indulgent when you narrate the opening of a film telling us why you’re famous. But, I’m sure there are people who don’t know who Adrian Grenier is, and why he would be a “victim” of the paparazzi. Thankfully, we move right past this, and it only strengthens from there.

It is clearly evident that Grenier truly cared about this story. It apparent when he voices concerns that once Austin grows out of the cute, “I’m a 13 year old paparazzi,” he’s going to be wasting his talents as a photographer. The actor actively goes out of his way to encourage Austin to explore his talent in other ways, in hopes that he can make something even more out of his life.

Another great sequence in the film is when Grenier goes out of his way to test the lies many tabloid publications make up based on the photos they receive. He stages a shoot with himself and Paris Hilton, just to see how it comes out on the other end. And of course, the rumors fly that there is a burgeoning relationship between the too.

The most touching part of the film is the friendship and bond Grenier builds with Austin. Its amazing to see how this taste of fame effects Austin through out the filming process, as he is very different at the end of the film then from when we first meet him.

My favorite sequence in the film had to be the point where Grenier decides to get his own camera, and see what things were like on that side of the world. I have to admit, if this hadn’t happened, I would have left the theater extremely disappointed.

‘Teenage Paparazzo,’ features great appearances by a wealth of different personalities, Matt Damon, Eva Longoria, and Alec Baldwin show up giving their opinion on everything from paparazzi to literally how different your life is when you are in the public eye.

Baldwin makes an amazing statement, he discusses how media conglomerates profit both from his work as an actor, and his personal life. For example, while he was working on the Departed, he’s doing the talk show circuit, appearing on shows produced by Time Warner, whose WB arm produced the film. But then, one of the company’s other outlets, TMZ, is dragging his name through the mud for the scandal with the angry voicemail he left his daughter. So on one end their profiting off his work, and on the other, their profiting by exploiting a situation in his personal life. Showbiz…there is nothing like it.

I really enjoyed ‘Teenage Paparazzo,’ and I’m glad to see its been picked up by HBO Films. It is a great film that offers a lot of insight to the world of these photographers, and gives you a feel for what its like to be both behind and in front of the camera.

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