July 7, 2012

Mirror image: Maine video goes viral

A Portland man has a chat with himself by splicing an old video with new footage.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - It took eight hours for Jeremiah McDonald, an aspiring artist who works in a parking garage, to become an Internet sensation.

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Jeremiah McDonald, above, at age 32, has a talk with himself at age 12, below, in his YouTube video that went viral in about eight hours this week.

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Before going into work Thursday, McDonald, 32, posted his latest video project -- a conversation with his 12-year-old self -- to the popular YouTube website.

The video is a mix of footage he recorded in 1992 and footage he recorded this year, to create an entertaining conversation between him and his childhood self.

"Gradually, the updates started trickling in" after the video went online, McDonald said Friday.

First, it was praise from his family and friends on his Facebook page. Then, the video got picked up on popular news sharing sites like Reddit, Boing Boing, and the grandmamma of them all -- the Huffington Post.

"What followed was the most frustrating eight hours of my life, trying desperately to update (social media sites on) my phone while also having to cope with work," McDonald said.

Next thing he knew, the video had more than 1 million views. By Friday night, it had more than 2 million views. Film critic Roger Ebert and British sitcom writer Graham Linehan were among those micro-blogging about it on Twitter.

McDonald's email inbox flooded. One of the first emails he read was from NBC, which wanted to him to appear on the "Today" show. He's flying to New York City today to appear on Sunday's show.

"I'm still taking it in," said McDonald, who lived in South Paris before moving to Portland in 2003. "I'm still kind of in shock."

McDonald said Entertainment Weekly is interested in interviewing him, and he has read about himself in the Hollywood Reporter.

"Eight hours. Seriously, it happened that quickly," he said. "I don't know how that happened."

McDonald's career, as it were, started when he was 10 and his family got a VHS recorder. His father, John, a Maine author and humorist, designated his son as the family cameraman.

"He was very good at it," John McDonald said.

Jeremiah was capturing not only family memories, but footage that would put him in the yet-to-be-invented Internet spotlight more than two decades later.

He said he made several recordings of himself simply talking into the camera. At one point, he made a video of his 12-year-old self talking to his 10-year-old self.

He taped over much of his work on the finite space of VHS tapes.

But this one survived. It starts with him having a simple conversation with himself and acting goofy. Then, he asks his future self questions, inquiring about the condition of his pets (they are all dead) and commenting on how old he looks as an adult.

Twenty years after he shot it, suspecting he was sitting on a gold mine of footage, McDonald began plotting what would become his viral video, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the original recording.

McDonald recorded about 40 minutes of new footage using a Canon HV 40 digital camera. He then began editing it down and blending in the old footage.

The result is 3 minutes and 47 seconds of what amounts to something of an existential crisis, humorous but cynical, touching and irreverent.

The video starts with the 12-year-old saying he wants to talk to his future self. Then comes a collage with one photo for every year from 1992 to 2012 -- included to thwart anyone who might accuse him of hiring a child actor.

At one point, the 32-year-old begins telling his younger self about the Internet.

"Life before the Internet is kind of a blur to me," the 32-year-old says. "It's going to take over your life. You're going to spend hours sitting in a room staring at a screen."

(Continued on page 2)

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