by Ashley Wadhwani – Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times
posted Dec 10, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Born and raised in Maple Ridge, sibling duo Matthew and Alexz Johnson recently won a $10,000 grant towards their short film The Dishwasher, after being selected as one of 30 finalists in a competition hosted by the TELUS’ program STORYHIVE.
The first round of the competition asked filmmakers to create storyboards and pitch their film idea on camera, and then post it online.
The community could then vote on short films they felt deserved the funding.
For the siblings, their partnership on The Dishwasher has allowed them to finally work together – something they’ve wanted to do for some time.
“We’ve been wanting to work together for ages, and we just never found the right project to align on,” Matthew Johnson said.
Alexz Johnson, producer for the digital short, has always led her career by “keeping it in the family – friends included,” and from a family of 10 has worked with two of her other brothers on past projects.
“[Matthew’s] my older brother so there’s always gonna be that natural respect, and I think he respects my experiences,” Alexz said.
Alexz attended Webster’s Corner Elementary and then Garabaldi Secondary until Grade 8, when she landed the lead role on TV show Instant Star.
She has been pursuing a career in both music and acting, and recently co-produced and starred in the film The Wasting.
When Matthew sent his sister the script for The Dishwasher, their partnership was decided.
“[Producing] kind of gave me the bug to want to get projects off the ground and help with things that I believe in,” Alexz said.
“I thought it was a story that needed to be told.”
Alexz will be creating the soundtrack for the digital short, and reached out to her fans in the first round of voting that would determine the 30 films and finalists.
“I like that [The Dishwasher’s] shining a light on something that people like to turn a blind eye to because maybe they don’t know how to deal with but I think that it needs to be addressed.”
The Dishwasher’s central character, a dishwasher at a “greasy restaurant” is accepted into a prestigious cooking academy, but struggles. With the help of a new friend, a young prostitute in the area, he trades meals in exchange for her culinary advice.
“It’s a comment on love in this day and age, and the risks of prostitution and sex-trafficking and how that’s an issue that’s frequently ignored in the Vancouver area,” Matthew said.
Matthew, story writer and director for The Dishwasher, has always “harboured a dream” that one day he would be able to find a career in film writing.
While attending Thomas Haney Secondary School, Matthew was an active member in the theatre program.
The Thomas Haney graduate remained in the spotlight, working in local sketch comedies through comedy troupe YFG, and hosting CTV’s Best of B.C., for three years.
It wasn’t long before Matthew dove into his passion for creating stories with his notably “ambitious” web series Coyote Mountain, starring Property Brothers’ star Drew Scott.
Currently, he owns renovation company, Placelift Renovations, out of Burnaby.
For Matthew, The Dishwasher focusses on his interest in “socially relative issues.”
“We’re flooded with zombie stories and space adventure and all these fantasy type stories,” Matthew said.
“It’s refreshing for me and for her I think to invest ourselves in a story that’s set in a reality-or as much of a reality as we can create on film.”
Now that the siblings have received the funding, they have 70 days to create their short film for the second round of STORYHIVE’s competition.
In the new year, The Dishwasher, and other competing films, will be aired online and TELUS Optik TV on Demand where the community will be asked to vote again.
A winning project from each province will be announced in March 2016, and receive “customized career training and mentorship programs, a scholarship to the Banff World Media Festival, and distribution on select TELUS platform,” according to STORYHIVE’s website.
The fast-paced timeline for the film is something both Matthew and Alexz are ready for.
“You’re constantly dealing with hundreds of unknowns,” Matthew said.
“You learn to duck and weave and stay true to the vision you have, and somehow it works out.”
The siblings will be looking for a production crew and will be holding auditions for the character roles. More information can be found by clicking here.