The Dishwasher

A dishwasher’s dream of becoming a professional chef takes a step closer to reality when an unlikely alliance is forged with a local streetwalker who trades her culinary expertise for the regular meals he provides.

Creative team

Writer/director: Matt David Johnson
Producer: Alexz Johnson

Filmmaker’s statement

The inspiration for the The Dishwasher came from late nights driving through East Vancouver. Every night I would pass young women standing by the roadside, cold and resolute, and it was a rare occasion I saw the same girl twice.

Initially frustrated, as the days wore on I grew increasingly empathetic towards why someone would choose prostitution as a solution, realizing the answer was obvious. For many, they felt they didn’t have any choice. The question then became for me, “What could change their minds?”

Co-funding for this project was provided though a grant from the TELUS STORYHIVE Digital Shorts initiative, awarded through public voting and a jury process.

Casting was held in Vancouver, and this project was shot over three days in the century-old Gospel Mission in East Van, the culinary kitchens of The Art Institute of Vancouver, and the wonderfully grimy landmark restaurant Helen’s Diner on Main Street. It’s my pleasure that our film was also chosen as the winner of the BC chapter.

From a filmmaking perspective, I enjoyed experimenting with juxtaposition, flow and movement, and working with vignettes in approach to framing. Cinematography was crafted by the wildly talented Cole Graham, with Clairmont Cameras generously accommodating our use of the ARRI Alexa.

Musically, with so much emotion needing to be expressed through sound, I was thrilled to work with independent singer-songwriter Alexz Johnson who developed two original songs for the film. To point out that I shamelessly exploited the fact that she is also my younger sister is, frankly, neither here nor there. (Drifting and There’s a War are both now available on iTunes.)

Our score composition, which merges a mix of clinking and clattering utensils with classical elements, was designed by Marko Koumoulos and Matthew Chung in a sound experience I’ve fondly labelled our ‘cutlery orchestra.’ And credit must also be given to re-recording artist Gregor Phillips for bringing all those sound elements together with such grace.

Though shot in Vancouver, my goal was to create a story that could represent any city anywhere, since the underlying issues of prostitution, sex trafficking, familial disconnection – and perhaps even being an under-appreciated newcomer in unfamiliar places – are prevalent across the world.

And if this little story can serve as a subtle reminder there is a war going on, and every life lost to the streets is worth saving, then so much the better.

About Matt David Johnson

Matt David Johnson

Matt David Johnson is an independent Canadian filmmaker, general business contractor and entrepreneur.

Drawn to performance at a young age, he attended the Gastown Actors Studio before appearing in several national commercials and television shows (Disney’s So Weird, Stargate SG-1, Psych) and becoming on-screen host and co-producer of CTV’s The Best of BC, producing over 150 segments with the network.


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