“This is Water”—The Unapproved Video Tribute to David Foster Wallace Goes Viral
In 2005, David Foster Wallace delivered the commencement address at Kenyon College. In an incredibly dry tone of voice, Wallace dished out his raw and inspiring take on life after college. Wallace’s “This is Water” addresses the “capital T truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away.” Fast-forward eight years, and the speech has now grabbed the world’s attention. Without any permission whatsoever, The Glossary, a small, Los Angeles video production firm, brought Wallace’s cynical words to life in a cinematic short film, aptly entitled “This is Water.” The video has already garnered millions of views and the views are growing fast. Adweek held a Q&A with the video’s director, Matthew Freidell, and its producers, Allison Freidell and Jeremy Dunning.
In the email interview, the creators of the video admitted that the undertaking was incredibly risky and said, “Wallace has an extremely passionate following and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to adapt the original version.” Additionally, the video was made without permission from Wallace’s publishing house. With great faith and passion, The Glossary made the bold move to film without consent. “We are in no way making any money directly from this video; it was purely a passion project. While we had high hopes for this, we could have never seen all of this attention coming. Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” the creators said. “Our main goal was to expose people to the content of the speech.” If the overwhelming number of YouTube views is any indication, Wallace’s words have officially been resurrected.
Dry, cynical, and utterly relatable, Wallace’s commencement speech is unbelievably inspiring and his unvarnished account of the truth can’t go unnoticed. While Wallace’s speech is powerful on its own, the addition of visuals elevates the importance of his words even more. The Glossary created the viral video without any permission, but Wallace probably would have appreciated their brave and unusual approach.
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