Today (9 May) it was announced that CK Goldiing’s inspirational short film, 61 Hugs, will screen at the 2019 Sheffield Doc Fest. You can see the full festival programme here.
CK joins us on Close-up Culture to tell us more about the viral success of 61 Hugs, the scourge of overthinking, taking the film to the US, and much more.
Q: ‘61 Hugs’ is a short film about you overcoming the shackles of overthinking with a challenge that simultaneously spreads positivity to strangers. How has overthinking effected you as a person?
A: Staring at a 5kg box of washing powder agonising over whether the 8kg option – for an extra £2 – makes financial prudence is the best waste of time you’ll ever experience. Why can’t I just be a normal bloke who picks whichever is nearer the damn beer?
For the most part, overthinking brings me the burden of paralysis – as in, I’m so busy thinking, that no progress is made. I wonder how many more adventures, opportunities, relationships or big boxes of detergent I would have enjoyed over the years if I thought less.
All that being said, overthinking does bring rewards. It enables me to better refine creative ideas, resulting in projects like 61 Hugs, 100 Musicians or the beautifully well-received ad campaign I wrote-produced-featured in last year. Overthinking is one of my greatest superpowers and curses.
Q: It is such a fun and inventive idea to transform a normal walk to Sheffield city centre into something much more meaningful. Which of the interactions in ‘61 Hugs’ stands out the most to you?
A: Editing the penultimate scene featuring Brooke, Jodie and Josh was almost impossible.
When I reviewed the raw footage for the first time, I had to walk away from my Macbook and come back the next day. When the next day came, I did the exact same thing – closed my MacBook and walked away. It took me three or four attempts to emotionally detach myself from the scene and edit it in the manner it deserved.
I know this sounds hideously dramatic, but fact is, that scene is the most beautifully improbable thing I’ve ever filmed.
Q: What has the response been like to the film so far? And, how much have you enjoyed bringing it to different audiences?
A: My hope is that every artist, whatever their discipline, experiences their art going viral at least once, because the feeling is stunning, humbling and surreal.
I’ve produced online content for years, and not once, with any previous project, have strangers stopped me in the street to introduce themselves and request a selfie. 61 Hugs has brought me many clichés of producing a ‘hit’ video, including mainstream media interviews, people shouting beautiful things at me in the street and people all over the world messaging me.
Throughout all of it, I’ve had to challenge myself to not retreat and get overwhelmed by the tidal wave of visibility. It’s ironic, because as an artist, we crave progress, growth and for our work to be discovered, then when that moment comes, our immediate instinct is to question whether it is justified. It’s the most exquisite mind-fuck an artist will ever encounter, believe me.
I’m incredibly proud, however, by how I’ve fought against that instinct, refused to retreat and continue to allow the film to develop traction. I owe it to myself and all ambitious artists to embrace this moment instead of run from it, otherwise, why put myself through the harsh reality of being an artist, which is that 98.7% of the time, no one gives a shit.
Q: Giving it oxygen like flying to San Diego for its US premiere last month?
A: The most remarkable seven days I’ve experienced in many years, by the way.
Imagine that…. flying to San Diego to share a film I produced for zero pounds on a three year old Samsung S6 with an American film festival audience. Imagine further, members of that audience crying and laughing with all their heart, and one of them – a writer of US TV films – tweeting that he wants to cast me in something.
You see, these are the reasons I plead with all artists to challenge their fears of putting themselves out there. I know how icky it feels to share your art zealously, but the alternative, which is obscurity, is infinitely more painful, and I think deep down you all know that.
Q: And for you, pushing through that ickyness has led to 6’1 Hugs’ being selected to screen at the UK’s biggest documentary festival this summer, Sheffield Doc Fest…
A: Those beautiful people are screening it on their huge outdoor screen, meaning any passing human can watch it free. Seeing my face on a large outdoor screen will be odd, but no more odd than when Sheffield Hallam University told me they were using 61 Hugs as part of their Film & Screenwriting course, I guess. The mind boggles [laughs].
Q: Asides from overthinking, what have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in life and in your career? And, have you always found creative ways to overcome them?
A: My art isn’t yet my career, and that’s a source of ongoing irritation for me, and in fact, remains the biggest puzzle I’ve ever faced. To write and produce content as my sole mode of existence is the utopia I’m pursuing. The biggest irony, of course, is that knowing the creative mind as I do, I’m under no illusion that when that day comes it will be enough. Not a chance. Humans always find some other shit to chase, it’s a biological fact.
I’m grateful for my ability to craft engaging stories easily, so I’m never far away from producing something that makes people smile, laugh or cry. Of all my traits, that is the one I refuse to ever take for granted, because it’s the one that brings me the most fulfilment, and ultimately, is the one thing taking me closer to my ideal life.
Q: What do you hope to do with your voice as a filmmaker and content creator in the coming years?
A: We’re living in a world of endless education-based content, with everyone positioning themselves as a thought leader, educator, guru, inspiration wizard of mindset Yoda. In truth, I’m bored of it. Inspirational quotes and personal development mantras are the new digital currency, and among all of that, the simple business of escapism and entertainment has been lost.
I’m not here to preach to or influence anyone, I simply wish to produce stories that make you feel things you haven’t felt by showing you things you haven’t seen.
Q: I’m excited to see how you top ‘61 Hugs’. What is next for you?
A: [laughs] I’m flattered you’re intrigued to see the follow-up, but I should point out…I have zero interest in “topping it”. The follow-up to 61 Hugs will be whatever it is: people will either love it more, love it less or love it the same as 61 Hugs – in either case, I salute your choice.
I’m alarmed by how casual I’ve been throughout the entire promotional cycle of this film. Let me explain. As a creator, there’s often a pressure to repeat success immediately – I’m certainly not oblivious to people’s thirst for a 61 Hugs follow-up, but happily, nor am I rushing to quench it.
I’ve known what the follow-up to 61 Hugs is for months, in fact, I knew before it was even released. I actually know what my next three projects are, and there’s enormous comfort in that, because it allows me to enjoy the ride and give each project the oxygen it deserves, without frantically trying to figure out “what next?”.
The follow-up to 61 Hugs is called The Train, and you know what… the only pressure I’m putting on myself it to produce something that makes people feel things they haven’t felt by showing them things they haven’t seen
Watch 61 Hugs: