A late night dishwasher observes his eclectic group of co-workers and contemplates the nightmarish prospect of making a life in the kitchen.

Creative team

Director/writer/producer: Joel Salaysay

Filmmaker’s statement

The first thing I must do is to thank my entire cast and crew for their tireless commitment to this crazy project.

My bread and butter as a filmmaker has been dialogue-based scenes between two characters, and Lifers is exactly not that. It required a large ensemble for a short film, the extensive use of voiceover, a large crew and massive amounts of coverage in a short three-day period.

We shot this film over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and all work was on a volunteer basis. I relied on the trust, commitment, generosity and talents of fellow students, friends, family, teachers and collaborators who all contributed their time for the love of the craft, and I thank them all.

The list is too long and to exclude anyone would be all too un-Canadian so, please, I urge you to take a look at their names here.

Lifers will always have a weird symbology in my life.

As anyone pursuing a career in filmmaking will attest, the prospect of finding secure and steady employment within the industry is an obscure and elusive one at best. Weighing heavily on my mind during my student career were two questions: “What were my parents thinking letting me study film?” and “What am I going to do after I graduate?”

As I looked at my resume I realized that, aside from filmmaking, the only other thing I was qualified to do was work in kitchens and that was the impetus for making Lifers.

It’s not that working in a kitchen didn’t have its rewards or that there wasn’t fun to be had (though it may not seem so in the film) but it wasn’t ‘the dream.’

Twenty-three days after wrapping principle photography, The Woodland Smokehouse and Commissary (the filming location) was destroyed in a fire. No one was hurt but the community took a hit because it was the antithesis of the kind of kitchen portrayed in this film. The owners were generous, and accommodating, and the short is dedicated to them.

In June 2015, Lifers won the Leo Award for best student short film. It came four months after I secured a long-term job as an editor for an animation company, and one week after the restaurant the film was based on got shut down for failing to pay its rent or its employees.

These events, along with several others in my personal life, felt like a page had been explicitly turned. However, now that the film is done, and has had success, another fear-inducing question weighs heavily on my mind in all my quietest moments: how do I prove it wasn’t a fluke?

About Joel Salaysay

Joel Salaysay

Joel Salaysay is a Vancouver-based filmmaker and graduate of Simon Fraser University’s film program.

He is the writer/director of numerous short films, many of which have screened in festivals across North America. Ranging from absurd comedies to more somber fair, Joel is best known for his films Lifers (2014), BF Nowhere (2013) and Stranger Things (2012). All three films have been programmed in the NSI Online Short Film Festival.

His grad film, Lifers, has garnered him several awards including the TIFF top ten award for best live action film, best fiction at the Montreal World Film Festival and the 2015 Leo Award for best student short. Other festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival, Hollyshorts Film Festival and more.

In addition to his writing and directing credits, he currently works at Nerdcorps/DHX Media as an editor of children’s animation. He is currently developing his first feature film, and continues to write and direct sketch comedies.


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