Debut Short Film 2018
UK, 23 min
Crippled by a lifetime of overthinking, CK is a typical artist - forever worried about rejection, people’s perceptions and how things look. One day, he is challenged to leave his house, walk the busy streets, and ask sixty-one strangers for a hug.
Although terrified by the inevitable rejections ahead, CK accepts, clinging to his long-standing belief that ‘overthinking is the enemy of remarkable’. Filmed in one take using actual footage from the challenge, ’61 Hugs’ demonstrates the remarkable power of optimism, heart, goodwill, the human spirit, spontaneity and the universe.
Filmmaking is about being inspired by the wonder and mystery that a filmmaker creates. We need to be immersed in a world that seems pure, honest and filled with good people who don't think twice about giving a stranger a hug. 61 Hugs is a reaffirmation of the goodness that is in people and the beauty that we can make of this shared space we inhabit.
Visit the film’s official website 61hugs.com - to get free downloads, special surprise videos and exclusive interviews.
Hey CK, great to finally get to talk to you, how is everything going?
You too, hey. Three hours ago, I received an invite to screen 61 HUGS at a popular monthly short film gathering, and then, ten minutes ago, I ate loads of food. So, to summarise, I'm wonderful, thank you. Wonderful, and full of coleslaw.
Have been able to find some 'you time' since you released your debut short film 61 Hugs?
A month before I released 61 HUGS, I had a stern conversation with myself - demanding I do all I can to share it with as many people as possible. I also made a commitment to engaging properly with anyone who watches it and reaches out to me, as opposed to the all-too-common "thanks" or "cheers" I see many creators replying to their supporters with. 61 HUGS has touched people in ways I never anticipated, and often, when people reach out to me after watching it, they're remarkably detailed in telling me how it affected them. Given this generosity on their part, I feel it's my obligation, as a non-dick, to engage properly with them, chat with them, find out about them. This kind of online interaction takes time, lots of time, but the time I do not begrudge one bit. How glorious it is to have people across the world expressing sincere feelings about something I produced for under £5. Delicious.
The reaction to the film has been incredible, did you ever imagine you would get this type of response to your film?
The first time I watched the footage, I had an emotional response I've never experienced with my previous projects. In fact, the penultimate scene, with the three friends, really moved me, and at the risk of sounding overly self-consumed, it had me on the brink of wet eyes. I've since discovered that wet eyes are a common 'side effect' of watching the film.
Thank god, I thought I was being a wimp.
Of all the comments and tweets that have been sent have there been any that have really taken you back?
Last night, I woman in Seattle sent me a direct message on Facebook. She had been having a really rough day, and a friend of hers, who had already watched 61 HUGS, sent her the link to watch it, hoping it would lift her friend's mood. Immediately after watching, she got in touch, saying it really brightened her day and left her feeling hopeful and positive. I beamed. A few days later, an undergraduate tweeted me, telling me the film left her feeling so much more at peace about her move to Sheffield, where she is studying her university degree. That tweet will forever sit in my TOP 3 favourites. Also in my TOP 3, is someone called Laura, from London, who said, and I quote, "after watching 61 HUGS, I felt so much more connected to the people around me... even if it was just a smile or holding a door for someone. I didn't ask anyone to hug me, but I did talk to an older man who looked lonely on the underground."
Ladies and gentlemen... my favourite response so far. Someone hug Laura, please.
What has it meant for you to be able to share your debut short with the world?
Isn't it nuts how someone (me) who lives in Sheffield, UK, can emotionally affect someone thousands of miles away without either party spending a penny or even leaving their home? I mean, you've got to love the Internet. I guess, given the underlying messages of 61 HUGS, it's fitting that it's connecting with people across the world.
Can you tell me a little bit about 61 Hugs, where did the idea for this film come from?
Via a six-month challenge I undertook in 2015, I developed an appetite for producing unscripted online stories, but more specifically, unscripted stories underpinned by my interactions with strangers. Following that challenge, I began documenting spontaneous collisions I had with people I didn't know. I titled the series 'Something About Strangers'. If I'm totally honest, 61 HUGS was initially intended to be another chapter in that series, but as soon as I made it, I realised it had its own message, it had its own universe, it deserved its own identity - so it became a stand-alone film.
As for where the idea for the film came from, surely you're not asking me to reveal spoilers. Shame on you. ha ha.
Did you have any apprehensions about doing a film like this?
I had profound concerns, I mean, hugging someone is an intimate act, so imagine the stakes involved asking a total stranger in the street for a hug. Despite the anxieties I had, in my heart, I knew I was on the brink of a beautiful thing.
I'm a huge fan of pattern recognition - i.e. understanding how future events can be predicted based on previous experiences. Every single time I've had an overwhelming sense of dread ahead of one of my challenges, the outcome has been sublime. I saw no reason 61 HUGS would be any different, frankly.
What was the first hug like?
God, I love Doug!! Imagine if he ignored me or declined my approach - that would have put a huge dent in my optimism and positivity. However, because Doug was so open and warm, it set the tone and reinforced my expectations for the entire challenge.
How would you compare the first hug with your last?
They were both exhilarating, but for different reasons. The first hug, from Doug, made me wonder how much more warmth I would encounter, whereas, after the last hug, my only question was, "Did that really just happen? Will anyone believe this story?"
See, my overthinking never shuts up.
How important was this experience for you as a person and as a filmmaker?
61 HUGS is invaluable to me on a human level, more so than on a professional one. As a self-confessed overthinker, it showed me, as I knew it would, that the negative voice we all hear occasionally is a voice we should listen to with extreme caution because it's usually full of crap.
Funnily enough, before 61 HUGS, I was never referred to as a 'filmmaker', and I never saw myself as one either. I see myself as a 'Creator' rather than a filmmaker - which gives me the greater creative flexibility to explore writing, producing, filming & creative direction for brand campaigns, which I love to do, too.
As a creator, 61 HUGS serves as a beautiful showpiece for when it comes to engaging partners and sponsors for the three fully-formed projects I have ready to go. They're ambitious as hell, so only ambitious brands need to apply.
What would you say you have learnt about yourself and people after making this film?
It sounds hideously conceited, but for me, 61 HUGS was more of a refresher course than a full-on education. My most emotionally and physically demanding project so far was '100 Musicians' in 2015, and that was the origin of my fascination with unscripted storytelling underpinned by strangers. It was via '100 Musicians' that I first experienced the human capacity for warmth, goodwill and heart. My ongoing series 'Something About Strangers'explores this further, so by the time '61 HUGS' was born, I approached it more as an opportunity to prove my theory that humans are awesome, rather than a way to find out if humans are awesome.
"Start. Whatever you have, start with that. Wherever you are, start there."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
'Filmmaking' is a frighteningly broad term. My definition of filmmaking will definitely differ to Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino's definition of filmmaking, but here's the thing, I want our definitions to differ. I don't harbour any real ambition to make traditional fictional blockbusters, I'm fascinated more by the spectacle of real life, and showing that in a stunning, relatable way. I do, however, want my projects to attract blockbuster-sized audiences, I can not lie. haha.
Now that your debut is in the can what's next?
I will film the pilot for my first unscripted series titled 'The Train'. Set in London, the series challenges one of the biggest accepted truths in Britain today. The manner in which I will destroy that accepted truth excites me.
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow creators?
I hate cliches, but often, they are annoyingly accurate. All I will say is, "Start. Whatever you have, start with that. Wherever you are, start there.'
Can I please remind everyone that 61 HUGS was filmed entirely on a three-year-old mobile phone? A Samsung S6, to be exact. The day I ever prioritise equipment over emotion will be a dark, dark day.
And finally, What do you hope people will take away from 61 Hugs??
I'd like everyone to revisit the fourth question you asked me. Read my answer. Let's all be more like Laura, please.