Watch the trailer above for Adrian Grenier’s HBO film Teenage Paparazzo.
Say what you will about Adrian Grenier, but one thing is certain: he has an appreciation for irony.
Six years ago, Grenier became famous for playing someone famous, heartthrob actor Vincent Chase, on HBO’s Entourage. Now, he’s used his notoriety—namely his connections to other celebrities and the media that feed on them—to make a documentary about the culture of fame itself.
Teenage Paparazzois, in part, the story of Austin Visschedyk, a 14-year-old paparazzo Grenier met three years ago. Intrigued by the boy’s tenacity, Grenier set out to follow him on the celebrity hunt. But after interviewing the teenager’s laissez-faire parents, his Hollywood targets, and historians and other experts, the film became more of a meditation on the uncomfortable truths of the celebrity industry.
The movie, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival last January, has received positive buzz so far. The LA Times called it “a clear-eyed investigation of the fame apparatus.” And according the Village Voice blog Voice Film, Paparazzo is “far more intellectually engaging than a film about celebrity made by a celebrity has any right to be.”
The College of Communication and HBO Documentary Films are bringing filmmaker and film to campus tonight. The screening, which will be held at the Photonics Center at 6 p.m., will be followed by a question-and-answer period with Grenier. (As of noon today, this event is sold out.)
BU Today caught up with Grenier on Tuesday, just before the Los Angeles premiere of Teenage Paparazzo, to talk about what it’s been like to see celebrity from both sides of the camera lens.
BU Today: This is your first visit to a college campus. Why bring the movie to BU?
Grenier: This is actually very exciting. It’s the first college screening in what I’m hoping will be a continuing exhibition series. I think there are a lot of elements in the film that people who have an active interest in studying media can really appreciate.
The thing about documentaries is, not only can they be really fun—and by the way, my film has lots of humor; you’ll laugh the whole time—but they also have educational elements. That’s what I’m trying to do with filmmaking, to continue my own education.
How did spending time with paparazzi change your view of the business?
I really began to see the paparazzi as human beings for the first time. For so long they’ve been these faceless, lurking monsters in the bushes who were out to get me, but after I got to know them and spent some time in their shoes, I was able to appreciate their human side.
What’s your least favorite place to be encountered by paparazzi?
On the toilet. I don’t like that. The thing about paparazzi—it’s really what you make of it. You can be willing to accept it, smile, look at it as part of the funny tapestry of your daily experience. Or you can really let it get under your skin. I choose to have fun with it.
You picked up a camera to try photographing celebrities during the shooting. What was that like?
If you want to get to know your subject, you really have to put yourself in their shoes. I was able to understand the exciting nature of what the paparazzi do and how it sort of indulges this animal instinct, the thrill of the hunt.
What do you want the audience to take away from the film?
I saw in this kid, Visschedyk, the spirit of a young, independent hipster who’s capturing images and making something of his world. I think there’s a parallel to that in the independence we all have now—the autonomy we have with digital cameras—to comment on our world. The lesson for all of us is to embrace the tools of technology, but also to question the role we play in contributing to celebrity tabloid culture and to take responsibility for it.
Entourage is shooting its final season. What’s up next for you—more directing? Acting?
I think I’d like to do both if I can. It depends on the project.
Your character in Entourage developed a drug problem and hit rock bottom at the end of this season. How do you stay levelheaded about fame and its perks?
I make documentaries. If you stay engaged, participate in things you like, and seek truth, you won’t get taken in by the superficial pitfalls of celebrity.
Teenage Paparazzo will screen tonight, September 23, hosted by the College of Communication and HBO Documentary Films, at 6 p.m. in the Photonics Center, 8 St. Mary’s St., Room 206. A question-and-answer period with Grenier follows. As of noon today, this event is sold out. The documentary will debut on HBO on Monday, September 27, at 9 p.m.