A bus journey takes an unimaginable turn for two strangers when one tells the other that he killed a classmate when he was 11. Using actual footage from their journey, and produced by award-winning filmmaker CK Goldiing, Waiting With a Killer is a true life documentary that immerses you in moments of darkness like never before.
Q: This documentary is centred around your interaction with a man you’ve just met at a bus station. What was it about this man and your own instincts that encouraged you to follow this conversation to such a deep and personal place?
A: Interesting you use the word ‘instincts’, because in truth, there is no rational reason for me starting a conversation with him, it was simply a reflex to his annoyance at a passing motorist. If I see someone displaying extreme emotion in public, be it happiness or rage, my curiosity kicks in, to the point where sometimes I’ll flippantly comment, with a view to defusing things. God knows why. With Mathew, his irritation at the motorist intrigued me. I asked “everything okay, mate?” out of pure nosiness. From that one question, our ‘relationship’ began.
In terms of the conversation taking a ‘deep and personal’ turn, well, that was entirely out of my control – I had no way of knowing where things would go.
Q: The gentleman speaks about conspiracy theories, childhood trauma and – as the title refers to – an incident where he killed someone. I think most people would feel uncomfortable having a conversation like this, especially being in a different country. Was there any moment in that conversation where you felt uneasy or is that simply not in your nature?
A: Another fine choice of words – ‘Nature’. When I sent the documentary to my friends, one of them barked, “What were you thinking?!” Nine months had elapsed between my conversation with Mathew and my mate asking me this, and weirdly, not once had I asked myself that question. I say “odd”, because it’s a bloody fair question. The second Mathew told me what he did, if I’m honest, the writer/producer in me kicked in, shouting much louder than the self preservation side of me.
Most people are intrigued by the darker edges of humanity, hence why true crime documentaries rate so highly. When I found myself face-to-face with Mathew, as he shared his story of darkness, if I’m honest, there wasn’t even an ounce of me that had concerns about my personal safety, because by that time, we’d been talking for over 30 minutes, and while that doesn’t mean I knew anything about his propensity for violence, it does mean that my subconscious hadn’t yet detected anything that made me feel at risk. By the way, do not underestimate how aware I am of how naïve that sounds, but it is what it is.
Q: We also bump into a number of other characters in the film, including Erin, Ember and Rosie. What did you feel these smaller interactions add to the documentary and its message as a whole?
A: Anyone in the documentary that isn’t called ‘Mathew’ is there for one reason – and that is to make it abundantly clear that this isn’t a crime documentary. I had no desire to make a crime documentary, instead, I wanted to produce something that reflected the truth of the situation, and the truth is that I was on holiday, minding my own business, standing at a bus stop, when I met a man who, in his own words, “killed the school bully.” Without Ember’s drunken rant, or Erin’s generous customer service, the documentary would be just another confessional from an ex-con. I see nothing refreshing, relatable or memorable in that.
As I edited the documentary, I had one overarching objective, and that was to create a story that encouraged viewers to ask themselves, “who the hell was I sitting next to the last time I travelled on a bus?”
Q: There’s a moment in the film where you talk about the camera you are using – and the reasons why you are using it. This got me thinking more broadly about your selfie-shot style of filmmaking. Would you ever be open to working with a crew or would this detract from your first-person style?
A: This might surprise you, but actually, I have no preference either way. I actually care very little about the mechanics of my projects, instead, I obsess over their emotional impact. My most celebrated projects were produced spontaneously, as a result of an unfolding incident, and in those moments, all I have with me is my phone, so it’s a no-brainer for me to document using that. Waiting With a Killer is testament to that. Remember, this documentary exists not because I set-out to make a documentary about a killer then phoned the relevant people to arrange an interview, it exists because I was standing at a bus stop, eating meatballs, applying sun cream.
I would work with a crew in a heartbeat, and in fact, many of the formats I’ve written for TV would require it. First, I have to find a way to pitch to Netflix, though [laughs].
Q: I don’t wish to spoil anything, but the doc ends with a slightly bizarre and fateful encounter. How exciting are those strangely poetic moments to you as a documentary filmmaker?
A: This question pleases me enormously, I mean, you even use the word ‘poetic’ for Christ sake. Yes, you’re right, it absolutely was poetry. Call it coincidence, fate or poetry, but as a filmmaker, you can only lie in bed at night and hope your lifetime of being a decent human who isn’t mean, nasty or a dick results in magical stuff like that landing in your lap [laughs].
Q: The film opens with the reaction to ‘61 Hugs’ and the attention it garnered. What are your hopes for ‘Waiting With A Killer’ and the impact it will have?
A: My ambition for Waiting With a Killer is a simple one, and reflects today’s dwindling attention spans. If everyone hits ‘PLAY’ on the doc and gets to the end without checking Tinder, CK wins! Watch it, enjoy it, reflect on it for maybe twenty-one seconds, then get on with your life. All I ask, is that this month, everyone strikes-up one conversation with that random stranger who looks interesting. Then, find me on social media and tell me how it panned out.
Q: Do you have any other plans or ambitions for 2020 to share with us?
A: Of course. I release another stand-alone one-off project in March. Working title Streets of San Diego, written, produced and edited by me, it was filmed by a great filmmaker I met while in SD who I approached to film me doing something shamelessly brazen. I hope people cringe a bit, otherwise, shame on me.
And this Summer, I will be filming The Train – a project set on the London Underground. It will show humanity at its best, and leave people with a sense of awe as they digest the unfolding human spirit, I promise.
Oh, PS… I will be filming series two of The Bench, too. Jesus, I remain stunned how willing people are to watch me sitting on bench and doing very little else [laughs].