This weekend, the 32-year-old professional filmmaker and long-time YouTube contributor will appear on TODAY to discuss how he spliced together a movie he made of himself when he was 12 with footage from here and now, in order to create a conversation with his adult self. The edits are so tight, and the comedic timing is so seamless, many are calling shenanigans, while even more are raving about it.
About five years ago, McDonald made what he calls a "trial run," of the self-interview video, he told TODAY.com, in a pre-show interview. Nobody thought much about it at all. "I remember showing it to people and they'd politely nod and say, 'That's cute. So who was the kid playing you?'" he said. And it didn't even occur to them that the kid might be me. They were taking it in as they would any work of fiction, and on that level the video fell drastically short."
The bland reactions he received from that effort made McDonald realize, "that if I was going to do the video again (which I'd always planned for 2012) I would have to 1) try to demonstrate that the kid was me by including a montage, and 2) try to make the video good enough so that it wouldn't even matter if it was fake or not. Even though the footage is real, the piece is still a surreal work of fiction."
Spend any time combing through McDonald's massive YouTube archive however, and you realize that McDonald has spent every year between 12 and 32 with a camera — and often on one.
"For better or worse, almost everything I've ever made is available on YouTube, including some very embarrassing early videos," McDonald told TODAY.com. "If you look at enough of them you get a better sense of how I grew from that 12-year-old kid to a thin, awkward teenager, etc."
Given its popularity, this "remake" is getting the attention McDonald hoped for, and he doesn't begrudge the doubters. "I realized that, paradoxically, if I made the conversation seem too convincing, it would seem more fake," he said. "I'd like to think I found the right balance what with the response and all. But either way, I'd much rather have people passionately calling it fake than the more ambivalent response I got to the older version. It's a lot more fun."