Notes From Sundance, Take 6: “Teenage Paparazzo” Is A Must-See

OK, first of all, who’s sexier than Adrian Grenier? Pretty much nobody. On film, in person, digitally—the guy’s just hot. It’s hard to call a favorite film at Sundance this year, but if I have to recommend a purely fascinating film, go see the absolutely scrumptious Adrian’s “Teenage Paparazzo.” It’s a documentary but, wait, don’t stop reading. This flick has got everything: friendship, suspense, danger, (fake) romance, and personal growth. The cast is composed of a long list of stars, all talking about the invasion of their personal lives by paparazzi—one of whom is 13 years old.
Adrian says he noticed cherub-faced Austin Visschedyk when the lil’ darling popped up in public one day to spray him with a barrage of digital clicks from his high-speed, hellah-expensive digital camera. Austin’s signature move after he “sprayed” a celeb was to run away. Sensible, since he didn’t have a driver’s license. Adrian, with his considerable charisma, was able to coax Austin back to talk to him. After a little questioning, Adrian realized the kid acted like a professional paparazzo because he was one.

When Austin gets a scoop on the whereabouts of a celebrity, he’ll take a cab or get a ride from his mom. He’ll go shoot LiLo coming out of the Ivy before you can program your GPS to even find the place. Then, he’ll upload his pics to a photo agency, which will sell the most perfect and provocative of them to zines like Us Weekly (and to blogs like, um, The Frisky), so you can see what you missed. He’ll bank thousands of dollars, sometimes for just one picture. Then he’ll go catch up on his homework.

Adrian was fascinated. A celebrity who plays a celebrity on TV, Adrian was a natural to pick up on the mutual use that celebs and paps make of each other. He started interviewing other celebrities, at first about Austin. Paris Hilton had a pet name for him—“Sexy.” Eva Longoria was worried about his safety.

In the doc, Adrian explores the competitive and often secretively menacing world of professional paparazzi. But if it started off skewering the paps, the doc became more of an examination of why they exist. He staged experiments with Paris, letting Austin and his colleagues photograph them smiling at each other. Tabloids duly began speculating on the possibility of Par-drian (a word I totally just made up) romance. Adrian began to see that the beast was feeding him, even as he fed the beast.

“It was me reaching out to the paparazzi and … saying lets make this a two-way street,” Adrian said in the Q&A, after the midnight screening I saw. The guy wore lumberjack boots with a day-glow painted ’80s t-shirt, and he still looked like sex on toast. “I wanted to share the bizarre experience of being a celebrity.” Share he did.

Before the documentary wrapped, Austin had been swept up into the celebrity side of things. He fielded offers for his own reality show, and his mom was chasing older girls out of Austin’s bedroom. Adrian became concerned for changes he had helped to bring about. He and Austin had formed a real friendship. I won’t tell you how it ends, but there will be no reality show for Austin—at least not now. And Austin has his driver’s license now. Attending the Q&A, Austin still has an angel face, but he’s shot up. I could see a burgeoning heartbreaker who may one day more fully explore the other side of the lens.

Until the flick gets a wide release, check out, to sate your curiosity.