João Holowka “Work harder than ever, and above all, respect and help as many people as you can”

FTM’s 21 for ’21: Reel Career Profile Series presents: João Holowka.

João has worked as a Gaffer, Lighting Technician, and mentor to many lighting interns. His film credits include: ATM, Goon, You Kill Me, and My Winnipeg.

When and how did you start in the film / television industry? 

I think I started in 1998 or ’99 — the same year I was first introduced to FTM. I had worked as a professional photographer for several years already, but at the time in Manitoba the jobs for stills photographers weren’t really that promising.

A very accomplished local photographer, Paul Martens, suggested that I try doing stills for movies and that’s how I found FTM.

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why? 

My original intention was to work in the camera department because of my background, but I quickly realized that by switching to the lighting department I would be more “hands on”  and it’s still the reason why I’m involved in the industry – the lighting.

What’s a substantial change in the industry since you started?

Without a doubt… the volume of work. When I started I had to do a lot of volunteer work. I had an FTM trainee position in one movie and was also an IATSE apprentice trainee in a different movie to get experience -my Union card came the year of 2000. Today, with a little common sense, a couple of online courses and 50dollars, you’re working on a movie, getting paid full rate, just like anyone who has been doing this for 20+ years. A lot more opportunities today.

If you could give your past self some advice, what would it be?

Teach people how to pronounce your real name 😂

But seriously, set high goals for yourself in the industry, work harder than ever, and above all respect and help as many people as you can because sooner rather than later you’ll need these people again, the industry is smaller than you think.

What advice would you give to someone starting off in the media production industry?

Call FTM, be approachable, teachable, and no matter how much you know, be humble. There’s always a new way to do something, not necessarily better or worse, just different. Knowing something different makes you versatile.

Why is learning and training important?

Life is about learning and training – no matter how long you’ve been doing something.

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?

I’m a Gaffer or a Lighting technician, so I spend most of my days “imitating what the almighty light does” so I observe life in a very basic way, watch the sun, and learn its properties during the day. 

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?

One of the greatest experience working in this industry is when you have the opportunity to work with those who’ve paved the way for you. They have NOTHING to prove, they’re confident, they’re comfortable with their task, and love to share their skills.  Oh yeah, there are old school dudes out there but the good ones are hard to find.

Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?

So many great people out there that it would not be fair to share names… but it’s always fun to work with someone who’s just starting. Their energy and enthusiasm is beautiful.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Doing the same thing because I absolutely love what I do.


FTM is a member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program through the Department of Economic Development and Training. FTM builds a highly skilled and adaptable film industry workforce to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community. 

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