Teenage Paparazzo

Teenage Paparazzo (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

While out in Los Angeles, Adrian Grenier, who directed the film, noticed a thirteen-year-old paparazzo trying to get his attention in order to get the perfect picture. His name was Austin Visschedyk and it seemed like he had been a pop-stalkerazzi, a term he despised, for quite some time. Intrigued with Visschedyk, Grenier decided to contact the teen and make a movie about him and the fame he tried to capture using his expensive camera. “Teenage Paparazzo” had some interesting tidbits to say, some involving the ethics of paparazzi and privacy, but its vision wasn’t always clear. The first half of the picture was Visschedyk’s almost obsessive nature in capturing images of celebrities. He claimed it was fun, easy, and one great shot could get him a thousand dollars. And while he acknowledged that there were dangers in being a part of the paparazzi (he carried pepper spray), he turned a blind eye most of the time. He wasn’t the only one in denial. His parents allowed him to stay out past 3:00 A.M. (including school nights) to follow celebrities in downtown Hollywood. I’ve been in downtown Hollywood around that time of night and to say that the area is “unsafe” is an extreme understatement. The parents’ defense was they wanted to encourage him to pursue his passion. However, most of us can say that it’s simply a case of bad parenting. The second half, while backed with research about teens and how important fame was to them, it felt unfocused because it moved away from Visschedyk’s story. The documentary eventually became more about young people craving to become famous in any way, shape, or form. There was a survey given to middle school students which showed that they would rather become assistant to celebrities instead of being a CEO of a company, presidents of Ivy League institutions, and other prestigious positions. While it was a shocking result, it did not fit the thesis of the movie. I enjoyed the film best when Grenier and Paris Hilton showed the ridiculousness of trashy gossip magazines and television shows like TMZ. The duo informed Visschedyk and his paparazzi friends that they would be at a certain place and time and the rumors created from the pictures were amusing. It was great to look at things from behind the scenes. All the more disappointing was the fact that there were nice insights from great actors like Matt Damon and Whoopi Goldberg as well as intellectuals like Noam Chomsky. It wouldn’t have been a missed opportunity if the connection between the teenage paparazzo’s story and fame was stronger. Visschedyk’s admission that he wanted to be famous was not enough. I’ve seen his website and I have no doubt that Visschedyk has a gift for photography. In the end, I’m happy there was a glimmer of hope that he could channel his talent to something he could actually be proud of.

2 replies »

  1. Franz,

    I agree that this movie tried to do a little too much and in the process didn’t drill down deep enough on its most interesting poiints, but I liked it more than you. First, it’s really funny, like the way they tried to set up a fake paparrazzi story with Grenier. Second, I think it worked as a meta-movie on more than one level. There’s not only how it’s a film about us as fascinated and reflexively repelled on-lookers to the paparrazzi beat, but also about how the whole paparrazzi phenomenon has shaped what we expect from celebrities.

    Maybe I’m alone on this, but I have (perhaprs semi-consciously) come to expect of celebrities that they always be accessible, maybe because I regularly frequent forums with tons of pics of Nick Jonas filling gas or Zac Efron having coffee or something mundane like that. For a moment, I felt ashamed of my media habits, even though that’s not that’s not to say that they have since changed (See how I talk about this much the same way I talk about porn consumption? My relationship with it is pretty much the same. Momentary shame, then back to the same old).

    I also tend to appreciate all movies about craftsmanship, and however much we may dislike it, paparrazi photography is a craft, too. I was deeply fascinated, and repelled, by the machinations of the beat. That said, I always think of Kristen Stewart’s comparison of seeing pap photos of herself to getting raped. While not the most fortunate comparison, it tells you something about the invasion of privacy that it represents. This movie doesn’t judge, at least not very harshly, but it made me think while it kept my entertained.

  2. I’ll give you the fake paparazzi story. I was amused by how easy it was for a story to be picked up and advertised as the truth. It was a nice, very possible behind-the-scenes look at celebrities in terms of what they and/or their reps want us to know and ultimately believe.

    I can’t relate with you in terms of expecting celebrities to be accessible. I don’t //want// them to be accessible because, in a way, I feel like it takes away their allure. I think it’s why I’m most interested in celebrities who don’t like to give out a million interviews, public appearances, etc. etc. in one year unless absolutely necessary for a great cause or to advertise a movie or to honor a filmmaker in the awards circuit. For example, our beloved Leo.

    But to expect a certain accessibility with them is nothing to be ashamed of. Some of my friends in college were //obsessed// with celebrity pictures you described. I thought it was kind of funny and a little bit creepy that people would //actually// want to see celebrities getting gas or eating a cupcake. I mean, I wouldn’t like it if I’m just minding my own business and suddenly a picture of me doing laundry is all over the internet with a scandalous tag at the bottom. I guess what I’m saying is, in a perfect world, everyone should respect that line between personal (eating a cupcake, who’s dating who) and work (movies, music, “reality” show). People tend to forget to think, “Well, if I were in their shoes would I want [this] to happen to me?”

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