Anatomy of a Viral Success: Jeremiah McDonald, “Conversations With My Twelve Year Old Self”



I finally got around to watching this clever video which, if you haven’t been on the internet lately, is where a filmmaker digs up footage he shot when he was twelve, then has a dialog with himself twenty years later.  Super clever!

Brilliant concept, well executed.  Went viral this week and already has over 2.5 million hits on YouTube.   Good for him! The one issue I have with this guy is that he’s actually not very organized, so I feel like he might be missing out on some opportunities that can come with a success like this.

With this in mind, here is my breakdown of Jeremiah McDonald’s digital media network.  Please use this example to make changes to your own digital inventory so that when YOUR film goes viral, you can leverage all of those eyeballs to get you to the next level in your career.

OK, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a filmmaker who has been sent this amazing video and wants to hire Jeremiah McDonald to work with him, or maybe a reporter who wants to cover this story, shall we?   Let’s see how difficult it is to actually find our way to Jeremiah McDonald, the person, to give him work and shower him with compliments and opportunities.  Remember, the whole reason you want a video to go viral like this is so more people will know about your awesomeness and give you these opportunities.

  1.  The original YouTube video that is being passed around has a link underneath it, and that link is this:

I like this film, so I click this link because I want to know more about this clever person.  This is a Tumblr blog where I guess he posts something that he draws every day .  There is an email at the top of this blog, (tellmetodrawsomething @ gmail . com), but it’s not that visible and I’m not sure it even goes to him.    I want him to make a film for me (not a drawing), so instead I will Google him to see if he has a website.    To me, this is a HUGE missed opportunity–  the link in that now-viral video should go STRAIGHT TO HIS WEBSITE, where the social media icons should be on display.  It should take potential employers five seconds to find this guy, and instead he is making it hard.

Moving on, I Google “Jeremiah McDonald”  and find that he has a website.  Great!

2.   I visit the website,, where frankly I am a little shocked to not his HUGE HIT VIRAL VIDEO on the homepage.   Jeremiah McDonald—put your video on your homepage!  Connect that branding, man!

3.  I am starting to doubt this is even the same guy.  I go over to the “About” section, where there is a mention of some French filmmaking and his association with a French company.  In fact, there is so much talk of France, I would have given up on this page were it not for the picture of him, which looks like the guy in the video.   I move on to the “My Work” tab and click on “Weeping Prophet,” which is the username for the YouTube video that went viral (but again, this is more work than an entertainment industry person would EVER do, I am just doing it to illustrate a point).   Still, NO MENTION OF THE VIRAL VIDEO.

4.  I go over to the Press section.  This is the section I’m supposed to go to if I’m a member of the press and I want to give this guy some press, right?

Nope.  It’s press about him, and it takes you off of the site.  Another dead end.

5.   I go to the Contact page, where I am presented with the following options:  Email (this goes to someone’s Yahoo account and forces my email to open, which annoys me).  Still can’t tell if it’s him.  I count this as a dead end.

Blog:  an abandoned Blogspot blog that hasn’t been updated since last year.  Another dead end.

Twitter:  FINALLY!  I click on Twitter to find that THIS is where the esteemed filmmaker Jeremiah McDonald has been hiding himself.  He seems to be responding to tweets, which is great.   Hopefully his following on Twitter knows about the video because the link in his profile goes to…..

A totally random Vimeo page that also DOES NOT CONTAIN THE VIRAL VIDEO.

So, in summary:  I see a great video.  I want to hire the guy that made it.  It takes me at least twelve actions to find him on a Twitter feed.


–Change the link in that YouTube video to

— Add social media to a permanent sidebar on the main site as well as to the Tumblr blog, making it 1000% easier to get in contact with you.  I promise you, your Twitter following is going to increase exponentially.

–Put a “Contact Me” form on the website that goes straight to you (instead of opening a random email)

–Make  a Facebook Fan Page for yourself so you can capitalize on all the social sharing that’s going on.

— Change the link in your Twitter profile to point back to the main site.

— Update all references on your site to affirm that, in fact, you are the guy who created that AWESOME VIRAL VIDEO.

— Put a statement on your site that indicates what, exactly, you are trying to do in life, because right now is the time when you have everyone’s attention and someone might give it to you.  Do you want to make movies in Hollywood?  Are you a screenwriter?  Do you want to work in animation?  Tell everyone what you want, and then make it crystal clear how they can get in touch with you to help you get those things.

The point of this post is not even to get on Jeremiah McDonald’s case—in fact, I honestly hope that he sees this and makes these changes, because I think his network being disorganized is losing him people and opportunities, and I want to see him succeed because he’s clearly talented and has been at this a long time.  This is his big moment!

The lesson, though, that we can take from this is:  please put at least as much time into making sure your digital foundation is strong before you make anything that has the possibility of going viral.  What you want is for the world to notice your work and think it’s awesome, then for people to be able to actually find you to give you the opportunities you so richly deserve.

We’ll see if Jeremiah McDonald actually reads my post and takes my advice (fingers crossed), but in the meantime, use this opportunity to clean up your own network.  Look at your own website/ social media like you were the person who you’d ideally like to be giving you your “big break.”  Can you easily find a way to contact yourself?   Does your network give the impression “this person has their shit together and would meet a deadline if I hired them?”

I’m all for making awesome stuff that goes viral.  I just think we all should remember that ART IS BUSINESS, and act accordingly.  YouTube is certainly not giving back that bazillion dollars they just made from advertising on that viral success, after all.   They are set up as a business that wants to make money, and that is what you should be as well.

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  1. Matt
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    You place an interesting case, though perhaps proof reading your work may make it easier to read. My problem with your logic is that not only did the video go viral, but Jeremiah has been interviewed on the Today show, CNN as well as many other news organizations in a very short time after the video screaming out of control. It your argument is valid that the media won’t pursue these steps then how is this explained?

    • Lori Culwell
      Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      Interesting. He didn’t answer any of my Tweets or emails, and he has no idea who I am or what I want to offer him. My whole point with this analysis was that opportunity-offering people are lazy, whereas reporters might be more tenacious to get their stories.

      And, thanks for your comments.

  2. Ginger
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    You make some good points about ways in which Jeremiah could go about maximizing on his viral experience, but I must bring attention to the fact that you said “let’s put ourselves in the shoes … of a reporter who wants to cover this story,” and then you go on to point out how hard it would be for said reporter to contact him. In fact, two major news organizations, ABC and NBC, had both contacted him within the first few (6-9) hours of the video being posted. His local news outlets also contacted him in a relatively short period of time. Hmm.

  3. Lorelei
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    You started out looking at his YouTube video at YouTube. Then you looked for his contact info by leaving YouTube…? YouTube accounts have buillt-in email. How it works is, you watch a video on YouTube and then you message them at their YouTube account. Sorry that was so confusing for you.

    • Lori Culwell
      Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      Where is the email functionality in YouTube? I actually looked at it again after you left this message, and couldn’t find it all over again. I don’t know that alot of people know this, or what the conversion rate is for that functionality. Also, I do know of a person with an active YouTube channel who hear from people that they’re sending them messages, but then they never get those messages.

      Bottom line: I don’t know that I would trust YouTube email to get me the leads that could be coming in. His network should be tighter.

  4. Josh
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Okay … I’ll be the first to admit I’m no marketing expert and I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to these internets. But here’s what I did after I saw the video.

    Below the video on YouTube I saw that the video was posted by “WeepingProphet.” So I clicked on the link. There, on the main YouTube page for Weeping Prophet productions, I see the viral video and just to the right of it, “About Weeping Prophet Productions.” There, along with a short biography (which, incidentally, explains the French stuff on his website), I can see that he’s got a couple other YouTube channels, a Twitter account, and an email address.

    I’ll agree, though, that the email address on his Tumblr page is very hard to find.

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