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61 Hugs: The rehabilitation of an overthinker Q&A

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How would you respond if a stranger asked you for a hug?

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 decides to leave his house, walk the busy streets of Sheffield and ask 61 strangers for a hug. Although terrified by the inevitable rejections ahead, CK clings 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.

Inspired by CK’s short film, WTF contributor Mark Carnochan met with the 61 Hugs director to ask a few pressing questions:

Q: 61 Hugs is shot in black and white – why was this decision made?

A: On a personal ‘life’ level, I was at a pretty low point when I made 61 Hugs. So much so, the footage sat on my hard drive for weeks before I could find the motivation to actually edit it.

When the time came to cut the film, my motivation was still only around 15%, so I just wanted to complete the process quickly and move on. With this in mind, I figured black and white would save me valuable colour-grading hours. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the truth!

Conveniently, however, the second I watched scenes in black and white, I realised monochrome served a greater purpose than merely speeding-up the editing process. To my joy, I realised black and white added an emotional focus to the film. With colour, it’s easy to get distracted by the yellow of a dress, the red of a shirt or the green of a tree, but when all that was stripped away, it unified everyone and everything. I realised immediately that simplifying the visual honoured the simplicity of the story.

The greatest irony of 61 Hugs is that despite the remarkable warmth captured onscreen and the stunning way it’s connected with audiences, it was born during one of the shittest periods of my life – proving that ‘shitty’ never lasts.

Q: Throughout the film, it’s clear you become more positive and optimistic. Do you think this positivity is still with you today, months after the film was shot?

A: Positivity has never been my problem per se, it’s overthinking I’m plagued by.

I don’t know if the tendency to overthink is something you ever overcome, I believe it’s something you get better at managing. Since releasing 61 Hugs, I’m better at catching myself slipping into thinking mode and although I won’t always necessarily snap out of it straight away, I challenge corrosive self-talk much quicker now.

Q: In the same way the hugs encouraged you to feel more positive, do you think your hugs made others positive that day?

A: Before releasing the film, I showed it to some of my closest friends. One friend said he would’ve preferred it if I had asked some of the people I hugged why they were so receptive.

Now, I can’t lie, this idea repulsed me.

Personally, I think there’s greater magic in not knowing – allowing me and audiences to craft our own storylines regarding each person’s backstory. Maybe someone was having a shit day and welcomed a moment of brightness, maybe they were lonely and hadn’t spoken to anyone in days, maybe they liked my shirt… I don’t know.

But what I do know is that as someone who spends 95% of his life in his imagination, I love not knowing.

Q: Have any of the 61 ‘huggers’ ever bumped into you and remembered who you were?

A: Surprisingly not. I say this because Sheffield isn’t exactly a sprawling metropolis, so how I haven’t bumped into one of those 61 gems in four months is beyond me.

That said, immediately after some of the encounters I had while filming, some of the ‘huggers’ followed me on social media, so I do chat with them online, which delights me.

Q: And finally, do you have a message for the readers of What the Flick?

A: Shitty never lasts, you have beautiful things awaiting you.

If you want to watch 61 Hugs, you can – right here or at the 61 Hugs website.

Watch it, give it a review and let CK know what you think. And keep your eyes peeled in April – CK’s taking 61 Hugs all the way from Sheffield to the International Mobile Film Festival in San Diego!

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