In between his seasons of “Entourage,” Adrien Grenier has been making documentaries. His latest one doesn’t deviate too far from the Hollywood-centric show though. Teenage Paparazzi starts as a profile of a young photographer Grenier met in Hollywood. Following 14-year-old Austin Visschedyk educated Grenier on the business of paparazzi, and the value of it.
In the trenches of Hollywood, Grenier saw the ingenuity involved with locating photo ops, and even tried his hand at shooting once. He interviewed celebrities about their relationship with the paparazzi and even spoke to scholars about the social phenomena of people communing over their shared knowledge of celebrities.
This was a good opportunity to catch up on Vinnie Chase too. “Entourage” just wrapped its latest season with a cliffhanger as Vince spirals into drug use. There are rumors of a movie and one last short season to set that up. Grenier talked revealed some insight on both “Entourage” and paparazzi in our interview.
SJ: Will Austin’s business drop off when he’s middle aged and it’s not cute anymore?
AG: I think if you’re in this business of media and images, you always have to adapt and always create fresh ideas and new images. So I don’t know. He’ll have to adapt also. He can’t be cute forever and that story gets old eventually.
SJ: It seems like he’s already doing that.
AG: He’s changing, yeah. That was one of the most interesting, fascinating moments is to see just how much he had changed in such a short amount of time. That’s the great thing about Austin being the subject is he was an innocent kid. He hadn’t been yet jaded so there was so much potential for him to absorb and learn and change through the process.
SJ: He said the photos are worth thousands of dollars. If he’s sold as many as we saw, and more on his own, does he have a massive savings now?
AG: I never really got into his finances. To me it was enough to know that yeah, you make a lot of money and the specific numbers I guess weren’t important to me. I was more interested in the phenomenology and the cultural effects of this.
SJ: Is he set for college at least?
AG: Yeah, I guess if we want to encourage more kids to do it. Have fun and earn college tuition by being a douche bag.
SJ: Did you discover the social value of the paparazzi photos?
AG: The Henry Jenkins moments, I do. I think it’s just a matter of recognizing that and dispelling the myth that had been propagated by the tabloid industry that there’s some newsworthiness to it. It’s not news. It’s entertainment. To explore this subject, I think it would’ve been a mistake to just point figures and cast stones and dismiss the industry. It would be too simple and I would just be creating more tabloid or more gossip about them. I thought the only way to really truly defuse this whole notion of gossip is to not gossip but actually get to know the pros and the cons, the subtle complexities of the subject and of the people, of the paparazzi themselves.
SJ: If any celebrity feels invaded for a few minutes, as you show Julia Roberts or Bruce Willis yelling at them, is the other side that paparazzi live a sad life waiting there since 8AM to get that minute of photo time?
AG: Yeah, and I guarantee you they’d rather be doing something else. If they had the choice they would be doing something else. They do have the choice. I take that back, they do, but I’m sure if they could trade places with any of the celebrities, they would in a heartbeat. Look at Adnan [Ghalib], the guy who married Britney. The guy who married Britney Spears and had her baby, he’s a paparazzi.
SJ: What is “Entourage’s” role in the perception of celebrity?
AG: I think “Entourage” was a response to our public’s fascination and curiosity of celebrity and the celebrity lifestyle. In a lot of ways, it’s the triumph on the American dream or at least perceived as such because celebrities have it all. They have money, they have infinite options. That in a lot of ways has been the American dream. It’s changed because of the media. Hip hop culture and the bling of the rock star lifestyle and fabulous celebrities… at one time the American dream was about hard work, contributing to your local community, buying a house, having a couple kids and that was the American dream. Not anymore. Now the American dream is all about bling, American bling. I guess ultimately the fantasy, the indulgence in these fantasies isn’t all that bad necessarily. It’s just when you start to believe them and start to feel inadequate if you don’t have it or your real life starts to become less real because you’re always comparing yourself to the power of the illusion or the image.
SJ: Have you enjoyed the direction Vince has been going?
AG: It’s been great. It’s been a challenge. I’ve been excited to have the opportunity to go there with Vince. I’m looking forward to next year.
SJ: Can it go back to the fun party?
AG: I think that’s the point. A lot of the lessons I’ve learned are from “Entourage” where you start to look at the real value in life. The thing that lasts, the thing that keeps you sane and safe is not the partying. It’s the friendship. It’s the family. It’s those values, not the lifestyle.
SJ: What are your feelings about possibly doing a movie?
AG: I’m excited about the movie and I’m always open to the evolution of the show. We don’t have to keep it the same. We can’t. It wouldn’t be fun.
Teenage Papparazi premieres September 27 on HBO.