Embracing Life: CK Goldiing on 61 Hugs documentary

In an effort to overcome his chronic overthinking, Sheffield-born filmmaker and creative CK Goldiing put ingrained fears of rejection to the test with his latest project, 61 Hugs. Nick Burke spoke to man himself about the inspirations behind the experiment and his deep fascination with strangers.

CK Goldiing isn’t afraid to take risks. The relentless creator juggles developing content for bands and startups with exciting side-projects, most recently the acclaimed 61 HUGS.

“100 Musicians, which was in 2015, was when it first developed. I was living in Sheffield, feeling claustrophobic… I wanted to see something else, go on a mini adventure,” he explains. “I was always fascinated by what I now call ‘hero stories’ – you know how the founders of things always have that defining moment? I didn’t have that, and I thought it would be really cool to have the ‘Mark Zuckerberg moment’, tinkering in his room and creating Facebook. I wanted something that people will look back on in 20-years time and go: ‘You know, that was when it fucking started!’”

This drive to explore and find his moment took CK to London, armed only with a bag of clothes, £100 and his camera. “I left everything else at home,” he says. “I wanted to find 100 emerging unsigned musicians that needed me for what I do for musicians, but the hook was they contacted me on social media, commissioned me for a shoot and then paid me whatever they wanted. “I was at the mercy of human’s goodwill!” And while the plan was to be there for two months at most, things never quite go to plan. “Six months later there I was! It was 95% living in hostels, but for the most part I was out shooting, travelling, walking.”

Though 100 Musicians was successful, the experience of working with strangers would change the focus of CK’s future work. That feeling of relying on others, making new connections, and exploring a new side to humanity clearly left an impact on the creator. His plight seemed to bring out the best in others, too. “There’s something seductive about having warmth from people you don’t know. Strangers helped me during 100 Musicians who didn’t even need a photoshoot; they just discovered me online, this crazy guy doing this mad challenge! When you experience that kind of altruism and humanity… I never thought humans were dicks, but it amplified that goodwill was out there.”

All of this leads to 61 HUGS, CK’s most intimate video to date. It begins in his flat, wrestling with overthinking and anxiety, before leaving the house with one goal: to hug 61 strangers. As the journey through Sheffield continues it becomes increasingly apparent that this encapsulates the humanity seen in 100 Musicians. Despite this, the intensity of the reaction came as a surprise. “That’s the greatest irony; I expected a positive reaction, but I didn’t expect the degree of positivity. I was still shitting myself!” By the end of the video, the anxiety disappears, replaced with clear euphoria. “It was essentially an hour-long hit of dopamine,” he describes eloquently. “It’s content for other humans and content for my heart and soul.”

“There’s something seductive about having warmth from people you don’t know.”

Following a positive reception at IndieFlix Film Festival, more stranger-focused content seems assured. But why does 61 HUGS resonate with so many people? It’s a question that CK himself is fascinated by. “There are three components that will make one of my videos hit,” he says. “Firstly, am I vulnerable; vulnerable to the universe, financial resources. Sadistically, people love watching vulnerability! The second one is parameters. I have to get from A to B. 61 HUGS: zero to 61, the focus is on what happens in-between. The third one would be unpredictability – i.e. unscripted. I don’t design [my content] around that, they just happen to be the components that are in my DNA… and I’m fascinated by unscripted content.”

The IndieFlix appearance was an incredible experience for the filmmaker. “It was daunting and beautiful! [The audience] just found it charming and hugely amusing at points. That’s the first time I’ve watched one of my films in a room with people, it was extraordinary. I don’t remember much of it, but my friend told me I could not have wished for a better evening. Huge thanks to Indieflix for inviting me.”

Where to next? By his own admission, CK’s mind is always racing with ideas. “It can get boring – just give me a day off!” he laughs. With more innovative projects in the works, we can’t wait for the the next hit.

Visit www.61hugs.co.uk to watch the film in full and access bonus content

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