Thierry Guetta is Real.

22 04 2010

In the past couple of weeks a lot has been made about street-artist Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. At the center of this filmThierry Guetta, a documentarian (of-a-sort) that has now gone on to fame as a street artist himself, using the name Mr. Brainwash.

For those who haven’t seen it the world of street-art is the backdrop for the film, but the central story revolves around Guetta’s transformation from a somewhat-lovable goof with a camera to a full-fledged, sought-after Artist.  All of this, despite the fact that his art is awful, derivative, meaningless, slop filled with noisy “symbolism” signifying nothing.  Don’t believe me: Exhibit 1Exhibit 2, and Exhibit 3.

Since the film premiered at Sundance a number of critics and viewers have questioned whether or not Thierry Guetta actually exists.  There’s a creeping suspicion that he is somehow himself a prank, that Banksy and Shepard Fairey have constructed him.  Well, this ties in nicely with the episode of Sparrow Songs we’re currently working on which happens to be about The Truth, or rather people who believe they have the truth and feel the need to share it with others.  This, oddly, is exactly how I feel every time I read a piece questioning the veracity of Thierry Guetta’s existence.

You see, a year and a half ago I got a phone call from a friend looking for someone to help out on a potential documentary about Shepard Fairey.  It was in the early stages but from what they said, they had tons and tons of unbelievable footage of Shepard bombing various cities all of shot by a crazy Frenchmen, named Thierry.  I was finishing up my thesis film for UCLA, needed money and this seemed like a good fit.  I was told that the job would entail logging the footage and sorting it.  “Okay, not too bad,” I thought.

For those of you who’ve seen the Banksy film, you know that this wouldn’t be an easy job.  Thierry shot everything. Everything.  The camera never stopped rolling and the tapes were in no discernable order or grouping.  The logs ended up looking something like this:

TAPE 64

  1. Shepard in hardware store. (6 mins).
  2. Shepard walking down street (3 mins).
  3. Camera left rolling on table while people eat dinner (42 mins).

TAPE 65

  1. Camera still left rolling on table while people finish dinner (33 mins).
  2. Camera blocked by dessert tray (6 mins).
  3. Walking down street in New York (12mins).
  4. Thierry talks to woman (5 mins).
  5. Shepard pastes New York water tower (20 seconds).
  6. Thierry getting lost near Holland Tunnel (15 mins)

… and so on.

This is all to say that while I’ve never met Thierry in-person I’ve spent days and days going through his footage.   In a recent LA Weekly piece Banksy described the strain this puts on an editor:

“The film was made by a very small team. It would have been even smaller if the editors didn’t keep having mental breakdowns. They went through over 10,000 hours of Thierry’s tapes and got literally seconds of usable footage out of it.”

When you spend that much time with someone’s footage it feels like you’re spending time with them. You see the world the way they saw it and you hear their questions, frustrations and observations.  As bad as the footage was Thierry’s   personality came through in the tapes — he speaks in non-sequiters, doesn’t respect people’s personal space and is distracted by all things equally.  It was maddening.

In fact, if you want to replicate Thierry’s footage all you need to do is strap a camera to the hood of a muscle car, remove the steering wheel, hit record and drop a brick on the gas pedal.

All of this is to say that in the time I spent with Thierry’s footage I found that he is without a doubt absolutely fundamentally lacking any self-awareness.

Which is the exact reason people seem to think that he’s a character constructed by Banksy and Shepard.  How could anyone possibly stand behind the work he does?  How could someone keep a straight face while standing next to a painting of Larry King in a Warhol Marilyn wig? How could people believe him?

I don’t know, in fact I have no idea, but I know that Thierry Guetta is real because I spent weeks and weeks wishing he weren’t.

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26 responses

1 05 2010
bigredradio

I did some snooping. Thierry is a real person. Does realestate as well as sells clothing with his brothers. Look up 3E Productions as well as DUST productions. I don’t know if he is the same “character” that is in the movie, but there is a Thierry Guetta.

13 05 2010
gotham

ah, interesting. good story. fantastic film.

19 06 2010
Lewis

I loved the movie, but when thierry started copying banksy and shep’s art completely I just got so annoyed. He wasn’t bad at the start, I enjoyed finding out about his life and how he got into filming graffiti, but towards the end he became such a prick, I just wanted to yell at him.

26 10 2010
Peter Briers

It’s simply Supply & Demand man.
He creates silly, non-meaningful works & asks a lot of money for them. Just like he did with his clothes-shop. He show us how stupid & pretentious the artworld is, and by doing that, he’s actually a performance artist. :)

30 06 2010
Mike Casey

Do you know if Thierry’s documentary (his original cut) is available ? I’d love to see it.

Also, what has happened to the raw footage now? That would be an incredible resource for projects I have in developing film/music out of mountains of unstructured raw footage/audio.

-MkC

24 07 2010
sarah

I really enjoyed this blog post, but then read the comments. Mike Casey, are you insane? Did you not see the bit about thousand of hours of unusable footage? And their effect on mental health?

Sparrow Songs, I don’t know if I completely believe that this documentary is real, but you’re very convincing..

13 09 2010
l3utterfish

I guess he´s real then…

I don´t know, it all seems so Banksy-made….

28 10 2010
Optoisolator :

when i go to a gift shop, i always look for cute little stuffed animals and other cute stuffs.~~

17 11 2010
jessie

I was given a gift of jeans with mICKEY AND FRIENDS. It have a label of,
Too Cute with Guettta Brothers. Cannot locate where it is carried. Can you help.

30 11 2010
Aurore

There is no doubt that Thierry Guetta is a real person and that he’s filmed all this footage, but the question here is : is Mr Brainwash really his own project?

26 12 2010
no

I am a professional film editor. While this story does sound like it was written by an actual editor, I don’t believe it for a second.

This story is another example of clearly fabricated “evidence” that the film is real.

Good film, though a little slow.

1 01 2011
yes

@no your stupid.

9 01 2011
jbtvt

Nice, I just came across this after writing my own blog on WP which verifies some footage was shot at the time claimed. And thanks for the footage work, better you than me!

http://jbtvt.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/hello-world/

18 01 2011
Maybe
24 01 2011
iumi

It sounds like it was Banksy’s joke on us

26 01 2011
Alex Jablonski

I maintain that Thierry is indeed a real person. Banksy and Thierry are two totally different, separate human beings.

Thanks for all the reads. While you’re here, check out: http://www.thesparrowsongs.com

2 02 2011
Me

Hate to break it to everyone, but Thierry Guetta IS Banksy. Right in front of all of you – in plain sight. He did such a great job that nobody even seems to even notice.

2 02 2011
jbtvt

Seriously?? What. A. Tard.

11 04 2011
You

Thierry Guetta is Thierry Guetta. Banksy is Robin Gunningham. Here is a photo of Banksy and the story
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1034538/Graffiti-artist-Banksy-unmasked—public-schoolboy-middle-class-suburbia.html

4 02 2011
2011 Academy Award Nominee: Best Documentary Feature – Exit Through the Gift Shop | Slucherville

[...] opens the film by being interviewed, and he quickly introduces the co-protagonist of the story, Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman living in Los [...]

22 02 2011
lisa

i just dont think most people think its real becasue of the art is question… how can anyone buy something from mbw.. and bankey is making a statment on that. after all we all know someone who belives there work is the best— american idol anyone>? maybe mr brainwash is just the willam hung of the art world.

28 02 2011
Penor

I can’t get my head around the fact that people even considere(d) Thierry Guetta to be “FAKE”. He is just mental, that’s all.

“I don’t know, in fact I have no idea, but I know that Thierry Guetta is real because I spent weeks and weeks wishing he weren’t.” lmao

2 03 2011
Exit Through the Gift Shop | paigelealav

[...] documentary last Saturday. I found the film in its entirety to be just okay – main subject Thierry Guetta started to wear on me sometime in the middle of Mr. Brainwash‘s artistic debut – but [...]

5 05 2011
Koowie

I saw it and I didn’t think it was a prank at all.

25 06 2011
Timi Boose

Hi. Which clothing store in LA does he own?

6 08 2011
artgirl

Interesting film, don’t believe it for one minute.

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