Reflections on Falling Plates

November 2014 by James Spradlin

Falling Plates was originally released on December 12th, 2012. A month later in January, we did a short interview with Jon. Because perspectives tend to mature over time, we decide to do a similar interview nearly two years later. Here is what Jon Strong had to say on this side of things.

Falling Plates has 4 million total views. So 2 years later how do you feel about the film?

Jon: I think I tried as hard as I could — but I still think it’s flawed. Every time I watch it I think it’s a little too long. I don’t feel as bad about all of it anymore.

Why’s that?

Jon: Now I just see it the same as any other thing someone is trying to do for God. It’s always infected with our own desires and our own mixed motives. It’s just a question of percentage — how much of our sin is in it.

How has the film changed you? 

Jon: That film killed me.

I put all this effort in it, love for God and lust for glory — and once we released it, I felt really unfulfilled. I got what I wanted, and it left me feeling empty. For about a year and a half (December 2012 – June 2014), my purpose in life died. Because my purpose was set upon the wrong thing. I loved God and wanted to live for him, but deep deep down, interestingly, that film showed me what my true purpose in life was: to get love, affirmation, and, to some degree, fame with my talents.

I guess in a way I wanted to live forever through how good my films are.

I realized I’m just like any other human being.

“I will die and people will forget me.”

So realizing that, life seemed pretty worthless and pointless. I lived my version of Ecclesiastes or Job, where everything seemed meaningless — for a year and a half. Why was I even making films? Other than that I have the talent. Other than to make a living, and I was barely doing that. My main reason for making them was gone.

This past summer God kind of resurrected my passion and my purpose. I’ve realized that, yes, everything I make is going to turn to ash — but I’m still called to make it. In the big picture, it will all fade away and may have no lasting purpose. But I’m still called to put my all into it for the sake of people knowing God and to do what I’m called to.

It’s humbling because it all just fades away.

So if you were to do it over, how would you do it differently?

Jon: I feel like it’s a dumb answer, but I would let go of it more. I think it probably could have been a lot better had I let go of that control — had I let there be flaws, and just live with it being imperfect. If God were to say, “Hey, yeah, it’s only 70% done to you, but this is how I want to release it,” I might be embarrassed releasing it, but now I’d release it and go with when he says it’s done, instead of when I think it’s perfect. Because it might be through that imperfection where it triggers that one person, where that wouldn’t have happened in my “perfect” version.

After being viewed 2 million times, do you think it’s been successful?

Jon: So I care about emotionally affecting people, and just imagining it has potentially emotionally affected 2 million people is pretty awesome.

That’s kind of a dream of a filmmaker you know.

It’s always the dream that the most amount of people would see your film. In terms of spiritual impact, part of me thinks its hard to imagine a video leading people to know the Creator of the Universe, and it kinda seems arrogant to say my video brought someone to know Jesus, or to emotionally experience him. Was it successful? <sigh> Ultimately it’s about if Jesus worked through the video, not about how good I made it to communicate Jesus.

“Therefore its not even about me. That’s what I missed before.”

Ok I’ll say it … Jesus can work through Fireproof or Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage. So ultimately it’s about if Jesus worked through it. And I’ve talked with at least one person, where God worked through Falling Plates.

What role did you play in making it go viral?

Jon: Campus Crusade for Christ desired to turn the four spiritual laws into a viral video. I went to the same church as the guy who was spearheading this thing. They originally wanted to make it for teenagers to know Jesus.

I kind of made it more for the masses, hopefully a wider age range that just teenagers.

And they originally came up with this version — the thing about things going in reverse. Which can be done really cornily. “We are sinful and black stuff drops into water and Jesus makes it go in reverse”. The whole time I was making sure it wouldn’t be corny.

“So the role I played in making it go viral was making sure that it wasn’t a bad Christian film.”

Making sure that it wasn’t corny and wasn’t Morgan Freeman talking to us as God. Making sure that I would want to watch the film. I just wanted to make sure that the only thing people found offensive about it was Jesus, and not how badly it was done. …I also shared it on Facebook. <laughs>

What do you see for the future of FP, of the film’s future?

Jon: I hope that in 2100 AD, that after the “singularity” has occurred that the super humans (that are half made of technology and half human) would watch it. Even in a world where our entire consciousness is on the Internet and we aren’t even humans anymore, that their consciousness would still be able to know Jesus.

I hope that in 81,000 AD that if Youtube still exists, or an archived version, that people would still hear about Jesus. But if I watch a film from 1900s it’s boring… so I’m sure it would just be “blah” for anyone 20 years from now. My hope is that its used as much as Yahweh wants to use it and then it dies.

Would you like to make more films like this?

Jon: Yes.

How could people contact you to pay you to make more?

Jon: <laughs>

Why do you want to make more films like FP?

Jon: Well. This summer my wife and I took a trip. While we were there, she was frustrated and said “I hate evangelism, because everybody has heard it, and nobody cares.”

Hearing that is what actually resurrected my passion.

Because yeah “everybody’s heard and nobody cares,” but if you say it in a way they’ve never heard it before, if you make them feel it — as opposed to them just seeing it as this fact that “Jesus existed 2,000 years ago and died on a cross”.

To help people experience that reality — which again easily crosses into arrogance thinking it’s all about how I presented the gospel is why people are coming to know God, its’ always a thin line your walking.

“But that’s my passion: to surprise people with an experience of Life.”

That’s a gift I’ve been given — to help people feel things.

Any last thoughts?

Jon: Life can be really beautiful.  Just amazing.  And life can be really ugly. And sometimes you barely want to live.

And, throughout all of it God is literally the giver of life and sustains us like a tree or grass — and he loves us.

Period?

Jon: Go to the source. I don’t know what else am I supposed to say?

It is funny how it still can — even when you are thinking of how effective a video has been, it can still go into arrogance. If you truly believe that God is bringing up this grass, this tree, you and me, keeping our hearts beating at every moment — you can’t do it through a video.

“A video doesn’t bring people to life and sustain their life.”

So there’s this great story. A seminary is teaching these people who want to be preaching pastors: they want to preach, they want to tell people the Word, bring them back to life, bring them to Jesus … so one of the final lessons they give the pastors is to write their thesis sermon. This is the sermon they want to leave the school with. The pastors put all this time into it doing the best they can. Then the teacher brings them to a graveyard and has each one stand at a headstone. The teacher says, “Ok your goal is to bring this person back to life with your sermon. Go.”

Obviously the person would soon realize that there’s not one single thing they can say to bring them back to life.

They are dead. It’s one of those tangible examples that ultimately only God can bring people back to life.

“No matter how much time energy, blood, or love we put into something — people are dead unless God brings them back to life.”

That’s it. That’s the lesson.