“A Professional Cuddler must reevaluate her profession when a new client challenges her preconceived notions about the job and the people who take comfort in seeing her.” That is Cuddle, a short film that is currently making the festival rounds and one that packs an emotional hit. Produced by Without A Flock and directed by Neil Huber it stars Linzee Barclay and Emily Piggford. We caught up with Barclay to discuss the film and the healing components of touch.
You play one of the leads named Nikki, whoʼs very distraught after the loss of her best friend. Where did you draw your inspiration from for her?
I have, like many others, lost someone very close to me. From my own experience and supporting friends who have gone through something similar, I have learned there is no right way to process loss or right way to feel. The best you can do is be kind to yourself through it. Which is hard because its not something we are taught to do, we are told to do. So itʼs a steep and very individual learning curve when these inevitable hits happen in life. I just tried to appreciate the complexities and range of emotions Nikki could be experiencing, and also her judgment towards those emotions.
Cuddle is a very powerful short film — I was surprised to learn you shot the entire film in one day. I can imagine that shooting it was pretty heavy at times. What were some ways you got into character for such an emotional role under such time constraint?
It surprised me what a relaxed shooting experience it actually was even with the pressure of its logistical challenge. That was largely due to the energy our director Neil Huber created on set and maintained. This whole team was amazing to work with. Grief to me is that murky transition of trying to find your footing again in life when it feels like the ground has been ripped out from underneath you. The World around you is carrying on like nothing significant has happened, but you are frozen in this spot realizing everything you have known has forever changed. How do I survive in a World where they no longer exist? How do I feel safe again?...these were questions that I played with when working on this story.
Did you have any prior knowledge pertaining to professional cuddling before making the film?
I had loosely heard about it. But it was one of the producers from the Without A Flock team who came across how popular a service it has become to the general public on his travels in Asia. Itʼs interesting that there has become such an overwhelming need in our society for connection that this is a profession now.
Physical touch, I think, is one of those things that people donʼt recognize the importance of until itʼs lacking in their life. It can be so incredibly healing across a variety of situations, which is what I took away from the film. Can you speak a little bit more to this?
I completely agree. Itʼs a huge way that we communicate with one another but mainly its about connection. So when there is a lack of safe physical connection in oneʼs life there is going to be a lack of connection to the whole and to yourself over time. It can be isolating. But we do these involuntary touches like touching the small of someoneʼs back to assist them through a crowd, or on their arm to let them know in conversation that we feel them, hear them. Playing with their hair when you are sitting in silence. Or we gently blow air on childrenʼs cuts to calm them down when they have hurt themselves. Touch/physical sensation gets you in to your body and out of your head which I think is so important. The body is smarter than the mind, in my opinion, in what it needs to feel safe and to thrive, so more time in it and less in the head is always a good thing. Especially today where communication is so often done via technology and not in person, so we are getting out of practice of how to communicate vulnerably in person or support one another. So in those moments when you canʼt find the words “touch” can simplify and say so much more to whomever you are sharing that moment with. Itʼs almost a clearer, instant connection of communication from heart to heart. Iʼm here with you.
Whatʼs next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I am currently in the feature film Stockholm out in theatres now that stars Ethan Hawke and Naomi Rapace. As for whatʼs next, we shall see!
*Cuddle is currently playing this month on the National Screen Instituteʼs Online Short Film Festival.