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FEBRUARY 2020: 61 HUGS

Updated: Mar 4

Written by CK Goldiing

Directed by CK Goldiing

Produced by CK Goldiing


This month, we're bringing something a little different to the table, with a documentary taking centre stage in the ShortSpace arena for the first time. Now, we couldn't pick a documentary without going to our good friend, CK Goldiing, and his work here on the brilliant 61 HUGS is innovative, impacting, and endearing. The premise of this film is surprisingly simple, as we follow CK on his journey to hug as many strangers as possible, and do what he does best - connect with people.


Sometimes, the simplest things can bring the biggest rewards, and that was certainly the case with this effort, which found success on the festival circuit - most notably its selection as part of the renowned Doc/Fest here in Sheffield. We had a mini chat with CK to discuss his stylistic choices, and this festival success.


JB: You made the interesting decision to shoot this documentary in black and white; was there any particular reasoning behind this choice?

CK: Honest answer? To hide the hideous beige curtains violating my kitchen. I should also add, though, that the technicalities of filmmaking – colour correcting, for example – are not necessarily my strengths. The second I shot the final scene of 61 HUGS and reflected on the footage, I knew I had something special – but because it was shot on my phone, I felt the colour jarred with the emotion. I can’t explain why I knew that, I just did. 


In the edit, as I played around with the colours, I tried converting everything to black and white, and immediately, it made sense, perfect sense. Black and white equalised everyone in the film - and gave my entire journey a single tone, which, of course, matched my single objective. Black and white also gave audiences more opportunity to focus. With colour, it’s easy to get distracted by someone’s beautiful red dress, or dazzled by someone’s garish yellow t-shirt, but black and white eliminates this noise – enabling only the most critical elements to shine though, elements like optimism, warmth, vulnerability, acceptance, humanity, love.


JB: After enjoying success at festivals with this film, I know that with your latest film you have gone for the wider online release. With this in mind, which do you find more gratifying - festival selection, or reaching an audience more instantly online?

CK: This is an exquisite question, and interestingly, one I haven’t yet been asked. My first instinct was to say online visibility is more valuable to me than festivals, simply because of the viral opportunity the internet affords a filmmaker. But then, as I reflected further, I realised just how much credibility being screened at Doc/Fest gave me, not to mention my US premiere at The International Mobile Film Festival, San Diego. 


Both of these placements significantly elevated the fanfare surrounding 61 HUGS – which, from a PR point of view, was invaluable. Equally, however, had the film not been an immediate success online, it’s questionable whether I would have had the belief and motivation to zealously promote it like I did. 


Within hours of its online release, the view numbers, shares and comments exceeded anything I had ever produced. I remember working in London a few days after its release, and my phone going nuts – notification alerts rolling in constantly throughout the day: likes, comments, shares, it was surreal. Without question, the instant feedback an online audience affords a filmmaker is powerful, and enables him or her to quickly gauge a film’s potential on the festival circuit, but of course, some festival prohibit film’s from being available online. Catch twenty-two, right?


I’m not doing a great job at answering your question here, because in truth, I see enormous value in both an online and a festival audience. In my heart, however, at this stage of my writer/filmmaker journey, I will lean towards favouring an online audience over festivals. Why? Well, right now, my objective is to release innovative, distinctive projects frequently. Managing a festival campaign is arduous, time consuming and limits your ability to release projects online quickly – hence why Waiting With a Killer has forgone the festival route, I wanted it to be seen now, right now.


Follow CK Goldiing on Twitter here.

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