“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 2 x award-winning filmmaker CK Goldiing, ‘Waiting With a Killer’ is a true life documentary that immerses you in moments of darkness like never before. “
Born and raised in Sheffield, CK Goldiing’s documentary work and charismatic energy have brought him viral fame and festival success all around the globe. With this success, a recent trip to the USA would not only allow him to visit a festival and speak about his work but would also, rather unexpectedly, lead to CK stumbling upon a most fascinating subject matter. His new documentary, Waiting With A Killer (see above), is bold, adventurous documentary-making with a most intriguing twist. Here, Jakob Lewis Barnes chats to the man behind it all and explores his motives, his methods and his ambitions.
Your work so far has been grounded in the documentary arena, is there a reason you favour this type of storytelling over a narrative piece?
The lane I find myself in – creating unscripted factual stories – was never a deliberate decision, but it has become a progressive coincidence. I don’t actively shun scripted projects, it’s simply that my Eureka moments never present themselves with a scripted attached. If I woke-up tomorrow with an incredibly narrative-based story, you better believe I’d answer the call.
As with your previous project The Bench, this new documentary is literally just you and a camera. Tell us about some of the benefits of this solo approach? And what are the pitfalls of not having a team around you?
So far, my most embraced projects involve me interacting spontaneously with strangers I encounter in the moment. Audience feedback often cites the ‘chance’ element of my stories as their greatest strength. It’s almost impossible to deliver that sense of ‘chance’ when the audience can sense the sound, cameras, lights and script working in the background.
That said, I love working with a crew when the project requires it. I was recently commissioned to write and produce an ad campaign. The client gave me total freedom – telling me the only condition was that the ad had to capture the essence of my personal projects. If I wanted to produce a one-man production, the client would have been in complete support, but immediately, I knew how a crew would heighten the experience without undermining the ‘chance’ dynamic. I adore that campaign as much as my one-man projects. Seriously, I love that campaign deeply! [laughs]
You found viral fame with your documentary 61 Hugs, which has opened up lots of opportunities for yourself going forward, and even led to the circumstances for this new documentary. Are there any particular steps for success when trying to get your film out there that you’d recommend to other filmmakers?
First, and most critical of all, 2-3 months before its release, I had a stern talk to myself – demanding that I don’t fall into my usual habit of what I call ‘artistic self-harming’. 96% of the artists I know have an ingrained reluctance to self-promote, publicise or just plain shout about their art. The shame of “tweeting too much”, “posting too much”, “emailing too much” is very real, and I was prone to this anxiety myself. Luckily, and by total fluke, I stumbled across a film starring Michael Keaton, and in it. one scene changed everything. Watching the scene, my jaw dropped. The film is called ‘The Founder’, and tells the remarkable true story of how an unsuccessful milkshake salesman created the global behemoth we now know as McDonald’s.
In the scene [05:27 minutes into the film], Keaton is listening to a self-help recoding. The gruff narrator asserts, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent won’t – nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t – unrewarded genius is practically a cliché.” At that moment, my ‘artistic self-harming’ started to recede, and I realised that the success of ’61 HUGS’ would have little to do with the film itself, but more likely, would depend on my willingness to get out of my own way and commit to zealously promoting it, which in simple terms meant endless emails, tweets, Facebook posts, video diaries, more emails, more tweets and ignoring the little voice in my head telling me I was looking incredibly unsavoury and self-serving. This all sounds incredibly trite, but I swear on my life, all I did to develop traction for ’61 HUGS’ was GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Can you tell us anything about projects you may have in the pipeline?
Historically, I’ve been woeful at planning. Well, I say ‘historically’, but I still am. If I’m alive and healthy in five years, then CK wins! Beyond that, one of the three series formats I have written been picked-up by a leading streaming service like Netflix would be a joy.
I’m now writing formats that not only have the potential to span series but also feature universally recognised themes that translate seamlessly across international markets. Of all my formats. ‘The Train’ most achieves these objectives. I film a pilot for ‘The Train’ this Summer.
First, however, I have a glorious one-off project coming out in March [working title ‘Streets of San Diego’] and series two of The Bench later this year.
When you set out to San Diego, did you have any real intention or ideas that you would make a documentary out there, or did that literally fall into place as events unfolded?
‘Waiting With a Killer’ came out of leftfield – and was entirely unplanned. But, as I said in my previous answer, I release another unscripted project in March which I filmed while in San Diego. This project was planned like a military exercise and I’m stunned how beautifully the story unfolds.
The titular “killer” in your documentary is a man with a deeply troubled past, but where do you stand on the nature vs nurture debate? Do you believe matthew was a product of his upbringing and circumstances, or rather that trouble may have found him one way or another regardless?
I believe nature and conditioning contribute hugely to who we become. That said, I don’t think these elements are the only factors that shape us. If everything Matthew revealed about his background is true, I would argue that in most cases, similar behaviours to the ones he experienced would be acted out by Mathew himself, especially if he had no positive influences to counteract them.
The older I get, the more aware I am of how prone humans are to behavioural osmosis – as in, we tend to act and think in accordance with the prevailing actions and thoughts of our surroundings.
Thank you for listening to my baseless hypothesis void of any research or data, by the way.
The stories and some of the comments Matthew makes are so astounding that at times they are inconceivable. Was there ever a point that you questioned his credibility?
There’s nothing Matthew told me that I haven’t repeatedly considered, questioned and reflected on. When you’ve lived a largely linear existence like me, i.e. born, burped, ate, grew, nursery, school, college, university, work blah blah blah, it’s easy to encounter someone with a vastly more chaotic story and dismiss it as improbable. With Matthew, I have to keep reminding myself that as difficult as it is to comprehend murder, people are murdered every day. Furthermore, as implausible as it might seem that I met a killer during a 7-day trip to San Diego, chances are that in my lifetime, I have met and spoke to many people who have committed crimes of the most hideous nature. Rapists, murderers and molesters are walking among us every day, and once you digest that fact, suddenly, Mathew’s story seems less fanciful.
What do you hope audiences will learn from Matthew’s story, and the documentary in general?
I don’t anticipate the documentary will teach anyone anything per se, which is convenient, because I didn’t produce it as an educational piece. But, I absolutely welcome people to watch it and say “hi” to a random stranger the next time their instinct begs them to do so, because that “hi” will almost certainly take you somewhere unpredictable.
You have to admit… my objective for this documentary are deliciously mundane.