Scene of the Grime: An Amazingly Interactive, Online Documentary on Ten of Our City’s Dishwashers

A bubble dancer is restaurant slang for a dishwasher: the vital figure toiling in the grunge and grit of the dish pit. Take 15 minutes to meet ten of ours.

Bubble Dancers profiles ten local dishwashers and the restaurants they work in.

You want to click this link and explore this piece of ““non-linear multi-media.” It’s an amazing way to present a local documentary:

http://bubbledancers.nfb.ca/#/bubbledancers

These ten mini-docs add up to one great, unique watch.

As their marketing materials state, “Life in a dish pit can be punishing. It’s a life of grease, grime, and grit – a life that garners little, if any, respect. But what lies beyond those dishwater-drenched days? When the steam clears, who are the people who sweat and slave in dish pits?”

A Bubble Dancer is restaurant slang for a dishwasher: the vital figure toiling in the grunge and grit of the dish pit. Mad Mummer Media’s piece introduces us to the men and women in our local food scene who report to duty daily to deal with the end products of our delicious meals.

All ten people profiled are given nicknames, based on their stories, like “The Drifter,” Pete Lofstedt, a Thoreau-minded man who’s working like a horse to amass enough money to drift somewhere else and do some drawing in his downtime.

“The Survivor” tells the story of John Hines: a pragmatic survivor of both a rough childhood and a serious injury (while working for Suncore), who now has pig bones in his ankle where his own bones used to be.

Rocket Bakery’s Ashley Dunn “The Realist” shows us the ugly Christmas sweaters her and her partner made for each other, which demonstrates how the doc is about the people, not the profession.

Anything is interesting when given a closer look and Bubble Dancers reminds us of this.

Everyone profiled seems to have a different reason for doing the work, and exposing their different ways of looking at the same job reveals the different reasons why any of us work, from a pragmatic view of “you gotta work, b’y,” to simply enjoying the work, or how it can allow one to pay their bills while they focus on their art or passion.

According to Matthew Malone, from The Duke’s dishpit, there are no pros and cons to the job. It’s just a thing he does, and likes to do, because he doesn’t have to deal with people. “[Waiting] is basically prostitution,” he jokes, about wait staff “hustle for tips” and carry out false conversation and friendliness.

As all Mad Mummer’s work strives to do, this documentary “reveals the human existence” behind the main characters of their work.  Both its producer (one of them) Brad Gover and writer Mark Hoffe worked in the restaurant industry when they were younger, and began in the kitchen as dishwashers themselves. So, mystery solved as to how they knew there was a documentary in it.

“There was a call for submissions by the NFB for ‘new screen’ projects,” Gover says, “so we pitched the idea of doing an interactive story about working in the dish pit. We thought of dishwashers because they often come from all walks of life and have very interesting stories beyond the mundane duties of their job.” And they were absolutely right.

“Restaurant chefs always get the recognition,” he adds, “and the servers always get the tips, so it was time to shine the spotlight on the dish pit.”

To select the dishpit workers they’d interview, they visited most restaurants in St. John’s, asking to speak with their dishwashers, to see if they would be interested in participating. “Most agreed and were very enthusiastic about the project.”

As mentioned, each person they interviewed was given a nickname that summed up their story, like Uptown’s “Hip Hopper,” Sean Issac Harris, who hears beats in the thrum and hum of his job around him. Mark came up with the nicknames during post production, after getting to know the people, from refugees to widowers.

“I can add that this was a very rewarding and challenging project to work on from a storytelling perspective,” Hoffe says.He felt that the interactive format, “with its eclectic mix of video, music, photos and text,” forced him to think in a non-linear fashion, allowing him to “really think about how the user will experience and explore the project as whole to get the whole story.”

While nothing is in the works, he says he looks forward to working on another interactive project down the road.

“This project also speaks to the fact that St. John’s is evolving into a multicultural city – albeit a little slower than other larger Canadian cities – and that multinational voices are here to stay and here to be represented. It’s an exciting time.”

Again, here’s the link: http://bubbledancers.nfb.ca/#/bubbledancers

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