Yesterday, I had the opportunity to experience a day in the life of an X17 photographer. X17online.com is one of the hottest sites and paparazzi photo agencies around. This week, the big Hollywood story is Paris Hilton.
At 7:30am, I meet with my producer to get to our meeting spot at 8am. Meanwhile, by 9:30am we are still waiting around for our photogs to meet us. A few calls later, we discover they were out until 3 AM following the heiress around. Supposedly, no one thought she would be out and about, but once again Paris surprises her followers. We are then told to meet a new group of shooters in front of Paris' house in West Hollywood. A few wrong turns later, we arrive at a fork in a road with a parking lot. All the photogs park their cars there, which makes me wonder how they all safely get out at the same time. Right up the street is Paris' house, which seems to be an ideal location for paparazzi. It's pretty easy to find and almost too convenient to be true. She could easily live anywhere, and it interesting to see her choice is down the street from the busy Sunset Plaza and includes a parking lot nearby She has a gate where she parks her car, but keeps it open. She could easily get in her car behind the gate, so that the paps only get a shot of her in her car, but instead she steps out of her house to pose perfectly for photogs.
We get to her house at almost 10am. Shooters are getting their equipment ready. They chat with each other. It's the typical water-cooler talk most co-workers share with each other with a cup of coffee before heading to their cubicle in the morning. Finally, after a bit more waiting (seems to be the name of this game), our photogs from X17 show up in their black Audi. They're two Brazilians guys. One is 24 and the other in his late 20s. Their parents are friends from back home and they both came to the U.S. around 3 years ago knowing no English. One was a valet when he met an X17 fellow Brazilian photog and was lured by the money. They make an average of $6,000 a month and on a good month maybe $12,000. That's unless they get that exclusive "money shot", which could get them a promotion and and even more money. Video footage of Lindsay Lohan partying the night before she got busted reportedly went for $40,000. Some shots can go for as much as $200,000.
We wait on the side of the road for Paris' 1-minute appearance outside from her front door to her silver Porsche. X17 photogs work in shifts. For a big story like Paris, they are working 24 hours a day to get as many shots as they can before she heads behind bars. Before you know it, Paris steps out and a swarm of around 15 photogs rush towards her. It's like a scene out of a movie, but for her it's real life. Weird! What a weird life to live on either end.
Once they get their shot, they jump in their cars. Tires screech, some cars run lights (I find out some of these shooters have $500 worth of tickets per month). During the car chase, I learn there's car paparazzi positioning. The best positions being 1,2 or 3. After that, a car will probably get a red light and will miss out on where Paris is heading. On this day, she was being driven to her Mom's in Beverly Hills. We get there and wait for almost 2 hours. One shooter throws around a football on the strip of grass across the street from the estate's entrance.
A mobile lunch truck is smart and stops by. I meet another interesting group of paparazzi who founded a company called Phamous Fotos. One of them used to be with X17 before he went off on his own. He is well-spoken and says that he's able to draw the line between when to shoot a celeb in his professional life and when not to in his off-time. Launched earlier this year, the company has already made $500,000 since Thanksgiving.
A car suddenly comes through the gate. Not Paris. More Waiting. I need to pee. What do you do if you have a shift and need to pee? Well, I guess if you're a guy (most paps are) you do it the natural way. But, what if you can't? Hmmm...
Finally, at 3pm or so Paris makes her much awaited exit. The chase begins once again. This time, I'm in a car with another X17 Brazilian, Jose. Speed, sudden stop, speed, stop, speed, stop. Yep- pretty nauseating (imagine how my cameraman felt watching it through a lens). Jose is considered one of the veterans and has only been doing this for two years (gives you a hint at the longevity of this career). He wants to be a photographer and tells me this is just a stepping stone. He points at the black Audi, which has gotten 1st position right in back of Paris. Other paps fly by going through lights. He would go faster, but we're in the car. There's a lot of controversy with paps and the safety of the celebs they're following as well as the general public. Even Lindsay is now accusing the paparazzi for her curb crash instead of her drug consumption.
We are the last car to get back to Paris' abode. I run out of the car. All I can see is Paris' back, flashing cameras and their owners backing up around her and screaming randomly. She makes her exit from ours back into her world. Before the waiting begins once again, a fight breaks out as a newbie gets reprimanded for getting too close to Paris and nipping one of the other guys cars. They want the newbie to know that he had crossed the line.