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Apocalypse Later: Harold Camping vs The End of the World

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Apocalypse Later: Harold Camping vs The End of the World

Zeke Piestrup
2014, 69m, biography, documentary, drama

"There is no possibility that it will not happen!" Christian radio evangelist Harold Camping sounded the alarm. May 21, 2011 was to be Judgment Day, God's intervention into our worldly affairs. The billboards declared: The Bible guarantees it! From where does this Apocalyptic excitement originate? Apocalypse Later traces the roots of end times predictions from the Book of Daniel to the historical Jesus and lastly to Paul, the "greatest Apostle." The same excitement that Harold tapped into for his May 21st prediction is the same excitement that helped birth a world religion 2000 years ago.

Produced by: Carl King, Sabrina Fox, Zeke Piestrup
Cast: Harold Camping, Bart Ehrman, John J. Collins
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The 3-week run for Apocalypse Later: Harold Camping vs The End of the World ended on Sep 28th, 2016. Thank you to all the fans that supported it!
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Zeke Piestrup

The Ten-Day Interview

10 questions with Apocalypse Later: Harold Camping vs The End of the World director, Zeke Piestrup at the half-way mark.
Saturday, September 17th, 2016
  1. 1 Hi Zeke! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, what was the initial inspiration that made you want to make this film?
    Mark 9:1 to May 21, that was the inspiration from the beginning. Many biblical scholars believe that Mark 9:1, taken at face value, is a failed prophecy that The End would arrive in the 1st century. Jesus tells HIS listeners: Yo, some of you standing before me, you will still be alive when the Kingdom of God arrives! Throughout Mark's Gospel, the oldest gospel in the Bible, Jesus makes many predictions that The End was to happen in the 1st century (also Mark 13:30 "This generation shall not pass...", Mark 14:62). Of course all of these failed prophecies have Christian apologetic answers, some more ridiculous than others (YouTube search: Eman Laerton Mark 9:1). So if your aim is to absolve Jesus, a Study Bible will come in handy. Because you know, Jesus can't be wrong about one tiny thing, can He? Apocalypse Later is about the revelation that Harold Camping's crime was the same as the supposed crime-less Jesus.

    P.S. Muhammad was likely apocalyptic, too. Preaching The End is coming! has been advantageous for supernatural salesman the world over throughout time. Amen.
  2. 2 Are you a religious person at all? How preposterous was the idea of the coming apocalypse and how did you navigate making a film about something you knew wouldn't happen without offending Harold Camping?
    I am a nonbeliever & nonsupernaturalist. I've been able to make those two dogmatic positions work in concert.

    No, I wasn't concerned that a Jewish apocalypticist from the 1st century would reappear 2000 years later riding a magic carpet ride of clouds. Not on May 21, not ever.

    As a longtime and avid consumer of Christian radio & TV, I was a big fan of Open Forum, Harold's call-in radio show. Harold Camping & Vin Scully operate on the same part of my brain. The part that relaxes. And for Harold, I was another fanboy. We got along great.
  3. 3 I really loved this film. Harold (to me) has a crazy idea, but he's such a nice guy. You don't really want to tell him he's crazy because he seems so honestly convinced it will happen. It doesn't seem like he tried to do this as a stunt or a way to benefit personally from it. But what are your thoughts on this after working with him for so long?
    How different than Harold Camping are pastors that are selling an imminent end? Many pastors say this is the last generation, that WE will witness the return of the Lord. Pastor Chuck Smith was saying it the 1970s, and now that he's dead, it's fair to say Chuck Smith was just as wrong as Harold Camping. And when Raul Ries dies, he'll be just as wrong as Harold Camping. Because if you're claiming your parishioners will see Jesus return in their lifetime, your death as a pastor marks your Apocalyptic prediction wrong.

    And no one is saying those pastors are crazy, but I see little difference in their actions with those of Harold Camping. Also, if believing in the Second Coming constitutes craziness, well then we're 80% crazy. That's a lot of crazy.

    I think Harold's shortcoming was a common one: ego. He liked the attention. You see it with the smile on his face at the May 23 press conference. The whole world was there, and it was to be a day of comeuppance, a time for humiliation. That's what Christians and atheists alike hoped it would be. But instead for Harold, it was a day of glorification. Look at all those cameras! Wow.
  4. 4 Was there ever a second when you thought, shit, what if he's right?
    Nope. The Second Coming is an answer to the riddle of Jesus. Jesus followers believed He was The Messiah, that He would liberate Israel from the Romans, and set up a physical kingdom run by God here on earth. Instead, Jesus got whacked. Well hmmmm. Perhaps He must come again to do what He was not able to do the first time! That's the Second Coming. Also, remember I'm a nonsupernaturalist. If I don't fathom the possibility of ghosts, I certainly am not far enough along the horror movie spectrum to expect graves opening up out of the ground (Matthew 27:52).

    I object to the immorality of the Second Coming. The Book of Revelation is what Dr. Hector Avalos calls "a revenge novel." Us nonbelievers get tortured for five months (Rev. 9:5). And you say Jesus is the God of Peace? Islam and Christianity share many of the same beliefs about The End (Gog & Magog, the Antichrist). The only real difference lies is the small sliver of Jews who survive the apocalyptic destruction. Those Jews either convert to Christianity or Islam. End Times' scenarios are built on immoral and completely whacked tribalism.
  5. 5 I thought it was strange that most of these religious scholars admitted that these false predictions happened very often and pointed out many flaws in the bible, yet at the same time, they're still religious. What was your thoughts on this and why do you think they've maintained their faith despite their knowledge of the bible's faults?
    Glad you picked up on that. It fascinates me, too. That you can believe in a fallible Jesus, one who was wrong about something, and yet still be Christian. The sophisticated (educated) theologian is in a very difficult spot. To be schooled in the Bible is to learn some very contra-orthodox stuff. Simple things like Matthew Mark Luke & John did not author the gospels is not even argued about anymore (outside of nonfundamentalist/evangelicals). The debate on gospel authorship has long been over. But, church-goers are certainly not interested in hearing their pastor say, "In the pseudonymous Gospel of Mark..." In the 1920s there were Presbyterian ministers being ordained who were denying the Virgin Birth! This and other events of theologians learning too much led to the famous Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy, opening huge schisms in most of the American denominations at that time.
  6. 6 How long did it take you to shoot and edit this film?
    I shot every day with Harold for two weeks = 14 days
    + 1 day with Harold a year after the non-Rapture
    +1 day shooting at the Society of Biblical Literature
    +1 day for each of the 4 scholars in my film = 4 days
    === 20 days of shooting
    I edited the film in 10 months.
  7. 7 Any war stories from the shoot?
    Jogging through a graveyard, tripping on a stair, and smashing the Sony EX3 on the concrete. Somehow that camera survived. The plastic mic holder did not. But if I had killed my friend's camera on only the 4th day of shooting, I would have been screwed. Jesus was definitely on my side that day.
  8. 8 Who are some of your biggest influences?
    My pop. He's the coolest. A composer, he wrote music for Buddy Rich, and he authored the In N Out Burger jingle. He hipped me to all my biggest inspirations: Lenny Bruce, Jacques Tati, Harry Nilsson, and he got me into Christian television a long time ago. To be clear, my pop is atheist. My uncle Dave and him would trade VHS tapes through the mail of all their favorite televangelists. Obviously a lot of Jim & Tamy Bakker at that time.

    Yoga has been a good influence on my life. Where my dad gets angry, I've learned to breathe.
  9. 9 Why did you decide to go into filmmaking instead of any other art form. What is it about film that made you want to become a director?
    I want to work with good content. It's hard to be passionate when the content is uninspiring. I was fortunate to be able to DJ at KROQ back in the day, and to land some hosting gigs on television. But, with TV and radio, you're always doing their content, and giving them the part of your personality that they need for their purposes. With TV hosting, that's great because the checks are really wonderful. I was able to land a Dreamworks hosting gig "How to Find Your Dragon" in 2012 and that one month of hosting work paid for the 10 months that I needed to edit Apocalypse Later. Thank you, Chris & Tim! Being on the radio is awesome in your 20s, but music is no longer the main distractor in my world.
  10. 10 What's next?
    I'm currently working with Chris Otto on his fantastic documentary. It's about a lone marijuana farmer struggling to survive and provide for his family in the lawless cartel lands of northern Mexico. The footage and access are special.

    My next film will be a narrative flick, not a doc flick. I'll be working with my longtime collaborator Carl King. I'm still constructing the full story, so I shall not put my INCREDIBLE IDEA out into the Universe quite yet.

    Always next is more reading and wasted time playing chess.
  11. About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
    Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
    Ben Hicks
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