Evan Koons and Finding Unity in Camp Manna (Part 3)

John FarrellBy John Farrell7 Minutes

John Farrell: You mentioned earlier about your viral YouTube video called “Church Appropriate Dance Moves.” What prompted you to make that video and were you surprised when it went viral?

Evan Koons: The way that the video came about is we had been doing this series called “Coffee with Jesus.” It was about this guy having wacky conversations with Jesus about the things that he hoped Jesus would fulfill in his life. Then that spawned into more of him just trying to impress Jesus.

One of the improv skits we did in the original skits was where I did these dance moves from the Bible, and that video did well. It was just a little clip of me trying to impress Jesus. It was called, “How to Get More People in Church” or something like that. It came from a previous video.

Then we saw that excerpt, and we were like, “We should make a church countdown video of five minutes straight with no cuts of this dude just dancing through the stories of the Bible and see if we blow up. See what happens.” We’re like, “Alright.”

We sat down for a day and went through the Bible and started yelling all these things out and dancing with them. We did, I think, two takes of it. Then a month later we did two takes of it and that was it. We thought, “Yeah, that went pretty well.” And we were like, “I think we got something here.”

We put it out on the Internet and there was nothing. We were like, “This is weird. Oh well. I guess it is what it is.” You learn to keep going. That’s a lot of what movie-making is. You just keep trying things, and when they don’t work you try something else. If you try enough times, you just learn more.

Anyway, one day we woke up and this little church in Washington had bought the video and uploaded it to Facebook. Illegally mind you. But we were cool with that and we’re like, “Whoa, this thing is getting all kinds of views.” We were watching it on Facebook get tons of likes. We’re watching the numbers grow and grow and grow and grow.

Then people from all over the country started sending me messages, “Evan, is this you? Is this you?” People that I knew asked me, “You were in my church this morning, right?”

Actually, let me back up. Women’s Day magazine found it first and it did a run of like 100,000 views. We were like, “Oh, that’s cool.” Middle-aged moms everywhere. It was cool.

JF: It’s like Jazzercise to the Bible.

Evan: Yeah. Pretty much. Straight up Jazzercise to the Bible. It got picked up by this little church. Then it got picked up by this radio station in Oklahoma, and it just sort of bloomed from there, which was a wacky sort of stunt move because, to be fair, what are church countdowns even for? It’s just a way to spend $20 to have somebody come up to the microphone and say, “We’re going to start church now.” I don’t understand the concept of why we do church countdown videos. It blows my mind. Baffling.

So, it went viral that way. But it was also coming out at the same time that we had the more serious project, “For the Life of the World.” We thought, “Oh no, here’s the same guy doing something somewhat serious and doing something zany, off the wall. How are these two going to play together?” And they played just fine.

JF: There was a sequel to your video “Church Appropriate Dance Moves.” What was that?

Evan: “Camp Appropriate Dance Moves.” We were like, “Hey, Bradley is the character who would do these dance moves and think teenagers would love this.” I can’t think of any teenagers who would love that, but Bradley would think that.

A lot of people were saying, “Our kids love this.” So, we thought that was great. They’re like, “Let’s make one for camp. That seems like something that Bradley would totally do, and I think we even incorporated the “Salt, Salt, Salt” into the movie. We did that as just a way to get the word out and hopefully draw some parallels and connections between the characters and the world.

JF: And he’s wearing his trademark Boy Scout uniform.

Evan: Yes, his Passover Private’s uniform while he puts on a show.

JF: What is “For the Life of the World”?

Evan: “For the Life of the World” is a seven-part series for small groups and Bible studies that explores God’s economy of all things and asks the main question, “What is our salvation for?” A lot of times when we think about salvation it’s about what it saves us from, but our salvation is way more than that. It’s not that it gets us to the promised land, it’s that it teaches us to live and abide in the world, in the here and now, and in the present, or the not yet that is to come and to reveal the not yet that is to come.

It just really explores the question, “What is our salvation for?” Which when we were making the film, I had never thought about it that way. I always thought, “What is my salvation protecting me from?” So, it’s a way to live in the world and to give to the world gifts.