FTM’s 21 for 2021 Reel Career Profile Series for John Clarke
John Clarke is Manitoba based film technician and current member of IATSE 856. Select credits include: Nobody (2021), Tales from the Loop (2020), A Dog’s Journey (2019), and Channel Zero (2016-2018).
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
In the early 90s, I studied Theatrical design and Production at University of Winnipeg but I was always interested in working in film, even though there was not a viable industry here in Manitoba at the time.
I took various courses at Winnipeg Film Group and Video Pool and volunteered on whatever music video and low budget film that needed help.
Then in Late 90s, production in Manitoba began to grow and FTM was created and I was literally one of the first applicants that showed up at their offices with resumé in hand. I have been working steadily ever since.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
As a Gaffer, I am in charge of the lighting department. I work with the director of photography to achieve the look and feel of the project. I’m also in charge of the organization and scheduling of my department to ensure everything runs smoothly and there are no delays when it comes time to shoot the project.
As for how I came to work as a gaffer… both my parents were painters, so I came from a visual background and was already familiar with tonal range, colours, shape and composition
My background in theatrical design made for an easy transition into the lighting department in film.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
There has been a wide range of changes since I began working in film: from shooting on digital format, to the advent of personal devices like iphones… I don’t know how we managed without constant emails and texts… it was a lot more peaceful then!
Within the lighting department, there are so many changes regarding LED lights and their various operating systems, it’s a constant challenge to keep up with the latest, greatest product.
Probably the most game-changing event in film television is the advent of streaming platforms. The film and television industry is currently seeing a major shift from in theatrical release to staring to streaming. Much of this is being sped up due to COVID-19, but the effects will be felt for years to come.
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
Take time to relax and recharge. Eat well, exercise, and spend time with friends and family. We spend so much time at work its important to find time to achieve balance.
What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Work hard, pay attention and Be On Time! Also, have a positive attitude… I would rather work with completely “green” technician with a good attitude, than a seasoned “veteran” that is completely miserable and thinks they know how everything should be done.
Why is learning and training important?
Training new technicians is absolutely vital to growing our industry. The only way we can continue to grow as a film community is to keep encouraging new people to become involved.
Also, try to keep improving your skills over time…I personally have taken several course through FTM, IATSE and other online formats to continue to learn. Always be willing to learn, expand and to try new things. Creativity dies when new ideas or opinions are ignored.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
I am a child of the 80s, so Spielberg and Lucas was a huge influence growing up. In fact, it was their movies that inspired me to get into film industry… ET, Close Encounters, Star Wars, and of course Indiana Jones.
New shows that I’ve enjoyed:
Queens Gambit, End of the F***ing World, I am Not Ok With This, Tales From the Loop (shameless plug for Winnipeg, but I’m proud of the work we did on that one).
Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?
I generally enjoy working with people that are talented, kind and gracious. They make for a very pleasant work environment and allows for everyone to contribute fully to the project.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many such individuals in front of and behind the camera.