Adrian Grenier on Tabloid Media and His ‘Teenage Paparazzo’

“I didn’t want this to be just yet another piece of tabloid or gossip — I wanted it to be something that got beyond superficial slander”

As a star of HBO's insidery Hollywood comedy "Entourage," Adrian Grenier is no stranger to exploring the world of celebrity culture. His documentary "Teenage Paparazzo," which premieres Monday night on HBO, is an examination of Hollywood tabloid media conducted from the other side of the camera.

On the surface, "Teenage Paparazzo" is a look at the life of Austin Visschedyk, a 14-year-old celebrity photographer who Grenier met one night in Beverly Hills. But through its examination of Visschedyk's late-night star chasing, "Teenage Paparazzo" offers complex questions about celebrity culture and media.

Let's talk about the first time you encountered Austin Visschedyk —
Well, I saw him and I thought he was just a little boy, a little cute, innocent kid. And in fact, it was something a little more sinister, because he broke out his camera and he basically accosted me with all those flashes and I was taken aback.

Of course, when you see a kid out there late at night, your first instinct is, "Where are his parents?" And of course, I had to interview them and they were part of the story. The film is about parenting on many levels — what do we want our kids to take away from tabloid and how does tabloid sort of influence them?

Was having this teenage boy take your picture late at night your weirdest experience with the paparazzi so far?
That definitely took the cake. It was a blessing I guess, because you take this sort of tapestry of paparazzi for granted and it all sort of blends into what you expect. It's like the glitch in the system that I was able to witness and a little thread that I was able to pick at to take a larger look at the whole thing.

What made you want to look at and critique the celebrity media culture?
I had read a book called "Mediated," and that sort of primed me to think about this topic in a different way. I didn't want it to be just yet another piece of tabloid or gossip. I wanted it to be something that got beyond superficial slander.

I think tabloid has come about for very, sort of, selfish reasons. Everybody's out to make a buck and I think people's ethics tend to get overridden when there's this opportunity to make money. So, I guess what I'm looking for is just taking personal responsibility and bringing back a sense of personal moral guidance … I certainly have to look at my own role, not only by playing a celebrity on a show about celebrity.

We've basically been sold that making money will bring us happiness and that making money is the American dream … but I think that the American dream is about community and making a positive contribution, especially now with the internet. We all contribute in our own way to this media scape. 

This is the second documentary you've directed, after "Shot in the Dark." What attracts you to the format?
It's just something I've always enjoyed. When I go to the video store, well actually, nobody goes to the video store anymore — well, when I go to my Netflix queue and I'm adding movies, I often add documentaries because I like them. You know, being in the film industry … I have a certain understanding of how films are made. With documentaries I have an easier time getting lost, because it's based in something tangible and real. Also, it often indulges a more educational aspect.

What are you planning to do next? More documentaries or something else?
I think I have one more documentary in me at least … I am working on a couple scripts, narrative features, that I might direct as well. But what my next project is, I'm not quite sure.

I think I'm going to try to focus on acting and bringing Vince back from the virtual dead. He was in a rough place at the end of the last season of "Entourage."