Film review: Teenage Paparazzo [Documentary, 2010] by Adrian Grenier
It's everywhere. You turn on the television set after work, and you have at least three different celebrity-type shows airing. You lineup at the express lane at the grocery store (waiting for the person in front who clearly doesn't understand "1-8 items") and it's there. There's even an entire show that shows behind the scenes of TMZ. Although I have never had a real interest in celebrity gossip and news, I can't say that I've never payed attention to it. Angelina, Brangelina, Natalie Portman is pregnant, Mila Kunis just broke up, "Britney's Back, Bitch!", Mel Gibson was arrested, and it goes on. No matter how much some of us hate to acknowledge it (while it's a daily conversation for others), we all have some interest in celebrity gossip at some level.
One of the most interesting insights of Adrian Grenier's Teenage Paparazzo was when he sat down with MIT Comparative Media Studies Professor - Dr. Henry Jenkins, to dissect why ("normal") people love to gossip about celebrity. "In the era of the internet, who do we choose to talk about? We can't talk about our aunt and our uncle or the guy down the street, because we don't share that in common. But we share you (Adrian Grenier, other celebrities) in common... I would say that one of your jobs as a celebrity is to be the subject of gossip." Dr. Jenkins goes on to say, "When we gossip, the person we gossip about is actually less important than the exchange that takes place between us... We're using that other person - the celebrity as a vehicle for us to sort of share values with each other."
The next question: is paparazzi fair to celebrities? They're just human beings with basic rights, right? If you're walking down the street and someone starts snapping photos of you, you'd feel the right to say "stop taking pictures of me". On the other hand, how many of these celebrities relied on a PR agency to get their name out in the first place? The fans and the mass are what drives people to be famous, and to turn your back on all of this once you've reached fame - is that fair to the fans?
Red carpet pictures, studio photo shoots - they have their purposes but most fans would consider them boring. In fact, it's the paparazzi type photos - the grocery shopping, the sun bathing, the on the way to the gym photos, the night out on the town photos, those are the ones that stimulate the interest of fans and really dance to the beat that they've been playing all along - celebrities are "just like us". The issue of paparazzi from a photographer's standpoint and from the subject's standpoint isn't black and white, and it's hard to draw a line that's "fair" for both sides.
Grenier's documentary of then thirteen year old, Austin Visschedyk, really gave insight on to why photographers choose being a paparazzo/paparazza as a career. The rush, the excitement, and the money. Competition is fierce amongst photographers, and the scene isn't too civil, but the satisfaction of snapping that thousand-dollar photo, makes them long for the rush even more. In fact, a lot of the times, photographers have to have their laptops out on the spot to submit pictures to magazine agencies - by the time celebrities get home from an event, the photos are already up. In terms of income, according to Austin Visschedyk's experience, paparazzi photos can make anywhere between $500-2000 on average per photo. Crazy, eh?
Adrian Grenier really does a great job on exploring the world of paparazzi by turning the cameras on them. One of my favorite parts of the film, was when Grenier himself went out to buy a Canon (5D Mark II I believe), and started joining the paparazzi frenzy around Brooke Shields - however, it wasn't long before everyone identified him, "Hey Brooke, you have a fellow star mate out here today!".
It turns out we all have paparazzi in us. It's only human.