The inspiration for The Dishwasher came from many late nights driving home from my workshop in East Vancouver, Canada. Nearly every night after closing I’d drive home and pass young women standing by the roadside, freezing, defiant — and it was a rare occasion that I would see the same girl twice. Oftentimes a male figure loitered nearby, guarding their share of the profits. It angered me, but as the days wore on I soon found myself growing increasingly empathetic towards why someone would choose prostitution as a solution, realizing the answer was, of course, obvious — they felt they didn’t have a choice. Understanding this helped me care for the character of these women on a deeper level, and not just as some bystander driving by.
So the question became then for me; what could change their minds?
Over the course of a few weeks as the story emerged, it evolved into something more akin to moving poetry, with a storybook-like feel I felt drawn to bring forward as much as possible. Since it quickly became clear music should be the driving force (and having been searching for a project to collaborate with my sister on for many years), I pitched the idea to my sister Alexz, who agreed to not only create the original soundscape for the film—one of the film’s most defining elements— but also come on board as producer.
Funding for this project was graciously provided by a grant from the Telus Storyhive Digital Shorts Initiative, awarded both through public voting and a select jury process. Casting sessions were held in Vancouver, with our lead roles filled by newcomers Grace Fournier and Samuel Cuevas (and with the role of ‘The Waitress’ portrayed by the exquisite Bonnie Hay). We shot our film over 3 days in four locations: The Art Institute of Vancouver, the century-old Gospel Mission in East Van, the wonderfully-grimy landmark restaurant ’Helen’s Diner’ on Main Street, and the night streets of Port Moody railtown.
Cinematography, beautiful by my opinion, was created by Cole Graham, with Clairmont Cameras generously providing us with the use of the ARRI Alexa.
Creatively, I greatly enjoyed experimenting with the use of composition, movement and juxtaposition. In early storyboards, emphasis was placed on creating ‘vignettes,’ and I feel much of that early work is present in the final product. The choice of little-to-no dialogue was also made early on. Credit should be attributed to our wonderful mentors provided to us through NSI (in an arrangement with Telus Storyhive) for suggesting the character of ‘The Girl’ to be the only one to speak, which helped lend her story more resonance.
While shot in Canada, my goal was to create a story that could represent any city, anywhere, as the underlying issues of The Dishwasher; namely prostitution and sex trafficking, family disconnection, and perhaps even being an under-appreciated newcomer in unfamiliar territory, are prevalent all across the world.
Matt David Johnson