PORTLAND — A Paris native is creating a big stir online with a video where he “interviews” himself at 12 years old.
Jeremiah McDonald, 32, of Portland uploaded the video to YouTube on Thursday. Since then, the video has been viewed more than 5.4 million times. In it, he seems to have a conversation with himself, using footage he shot when he was 12.
“I think I'd like to talk to myself in the future,” the young McDonald says on footage from an old VHS tape. McDonald said he was living in Paris when he shot the original tape.
With some heavy editing, McDonald and his 12-year-old self appear to discuss the Internet, his boyhood pets and the British TV series "Doctor Who." As an adult, McDonald doesn't offer much advice to his younger self, instead drinking whiskey and blowing off his younger self's questions.
“Are all your questions going to be about pets?” he asks his younger self. “The answer is, they're all dead.”
The four days since posting the videos have been a jolt for McDonald. The same day he posted it to YouTube, the "Today" show called him. “The next morning I'm talking to them on the phone and we're there making travel arrangements.”
NBC flew him to New York for interviews on "Today" and the NBC "Nightly News."
McDonald, a professional filmmaker, has made popular videos before, but none nearly as successful as this. The song “YouTube Is My Life” has nearly 2 million views, and “Jazz Dispute,” where he mimes Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's horn playing as an argument, was seen more than half a million times.
“Those happened more gradually, in a way that was easier to deal with,” McDonald said, laughing. “I thought I knew what it was like to have a video go viral.”
A viral video is one people share with their friends through social media, leading to thousands or millions of views in a short time.
The video has even resulted in McDonald being recognized. In the airport before leaving for New York, he started noticing people staring at him. In New York, he was walking through Central Park when a girl recognized him and struck up a conversation and even took his picture.
With so many famous people in New York, McDonald was shocked to be recognized there.
He said going viral wasn't his primary goal. The video is more personal, ending when he sees a cartoon rabbit he drew when he was 12 and remembering his dream of becoming an animator. “Then I got lazy and went into filmmaking,” he says on the video.
He links to a page where people can ask him to draw things. He said he expected a few requests from people he knew, but over the weekend he's received thousands. “I don't know how I'm going to do it. It's an interesting problem to have.”
It's not the first time he's made a video with the 20-year-old footage. When McDonald was 26, he made a similar video using the old footage. He learned a few lessons, including that he should show a montage of video of himself through the years to prove the 12-year-old wasn't an actor.
As a 12-year-old, he was a fan of science fiction and he filmed a pretend dialogue with his future self. McDonald said the challenge was writing a script using the things he said as a child and moving them around to form a narrative. “I had to construct this in a certain way. I had to make a story of it,” he said.
McDonald has been making movies with his older brother from as early as he can remember. As a teen, some of his own videos were aired on Norway-Paris Community TV. It wasn't until YouTube was launched that he got to share them with the world.
Under several accounts, McDonald has produced well over 100 videos, mainly musical and comedic videos influenced by Buster Keaton and Peter Cook. The success of “YouTube Is My Life” in 2008 led to a job at Comedie de Caen, a theater in France where he produced short videos for them and was a silent actor.
He mimed during performances while a narrator off to the side spoke. McDonald called it “very, very French stuff.” It worked well for McDonald, who said his French isn't very good.
He said traveling to France for theater was “an amazing experience,” but when the job ended in February, he was back in Portland working at his old day job.
“I had such a specific resume with the theater,” McDonald said, and he wasn't sure where he'd go next. He figured the video would get him back into drawing as he fulfilled people's requests.
McDonald lived in Paris from when he was 8 years old through college. He performed with the Oxford Hills Music & Performing Arts Association in "Arsenic and Old Lace," "The Foreigner," "Grease" and other plays and musicals.
He studied at the Celebration Barn Theater with Tony Montanaro. “That had a huge impact. I think one of the major reasons I got the French job … the mime training I got in South Paris was a huge part of that.”
At 23, he moved to Portland. He said the advent of YouTube was a big step in his career, giving him an outlet for all the videos he'd been filming. In the video, McDonald warns his young, aspiring animator self about how the Internet will change his life.
“It's going to completely take over your life. You're going to spend many hours sitting in a room, staring at a screen,” he warns.
Young Jeremiah McDonald isn't fazed by the news. “I'm knowing about my own future. That's cool.”