Tanner Stransky
July 13, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Most viral videos are happy accidents. But not ”A Conversation With My 12 Year Old Self.” This new Web sensation, which earned 5 million views on YouTube in five days, has technically been in production for 20 years.

In 1992, a 12-year-old Jeremiah McDonald recorded himself (on VHS, no less) asking his future self questions like ”So, how are things?” And ”Is [my dog] Molly still alive?” The grown-up McDonald, who’s an actor and a filmmaker, rediscovered the video and went about splicing in clips of his current self answering the questions, creating a sweet, funny conversation across time. (Sadly, Molly has passed on.) ”People are connecting to this story,” McDonald says. ”That’s rare in videos that go viral.”

McDonald has long known that the original tape was something special. He found extra motivation earlier this year when he landed back at an old day job after a stint at a theater in France. ”[I spent] three years flying into Paris as my job, but then I went back to being a parking-booth attendant. It kind of informed the mood of what I’m doing in the video,” says McDonald. ”Why would I pop in this old VHS? I’m delving into my past to be inspired by it.”

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