The New Guy by Chris Collier
by Chris Collier
January 18th, 2023

Fred Zwilling’s Summer Job of 1982

Fred Zwilling was a 16-year-old high schooler who took on window tinting as a summer job in 1982. Now a 40-year veteran of the industry, Zwilling’s climb started in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Hollywood Heights

Fred Zwilling heat shrinks a backlite on the cover of Window Film magazine January/February 2000.

“I’m originally from Los Angeles, and it was right off the beach,” Zwilling says of the business. “I thought to myself, ‘I can go surfing in the morning and work in the afternoon.’ I didn’t think it would be something more than a summer job. I started by sweeping the shop, being a light tech and prepping and cleaning the windows.”

Zwilling, Global Window Films’ business development manager, immediately fell in love with the art of tinting. Projects involving Los Angeles Lakers’ legends Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson didn’t hurt that front.

“You could see your accomplishment that same day,” he explains. “It’s like if you’re painting a house or doing construction. You’re building something, and you see results. The way the window tint would enhance the car always thrilled me.”

May I Take Your Order?

Zwilling joined the U.S. Army at 18, serving at bases in Germany and Missouri for three years. He was thousands of miles from home at points, but the distance didn’t fade his love for film.

Fred Zwilling (center) trained applicators all over the world when at Johnson Window Films.

“I first tinted my car, and everybody got all excited and asked me to tint their cars,” says Zwilling, who had rolls of film shipped to his barracks. “On the weekend in the motor pool, I would have three to four cars lined up.”

He returned to California in 1987 and opened his first window film business without hesitation. By 27, his company Exotic Window Tinting had grown to three locations.

“It’s a word-of-mouth business,” he says. “It’s like getting your hair cut. Once you feel comfortable with someone, you stick with them for life. I tell stories where I used to tint parents’ cars, and their kids would get their cars tinted years later.”

40 Years of Service

Zwilling pivoted to a supplier role in 1997, selling all three Exotic Window Tinting locations and joining Johnson Window Films. International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ attendees have come to know and love the Volkswagen Beetle backlite in the Johnson booth each year. The installation challenge originated with Zwilling, who says, “I wanted the guys to show their tricks of the trade.”

Today, Zwilling finds himself playing various roles. The industry expert is integral to Global’s development and also owns Solar Spectrum Window Tinting in Keller, Texas. After four decades of industry service, conversations with customers top all.

“You talk to people from different parts of the world with different backgrounds,” he says. “You’re always learning something new. I could have a teacher, janitor, doctor, astronaut or a movie star come in. You never know.”

This blog is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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6 comments
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  1. Great story, great guy. Good to see one of our industry’s consummate professionals getting recognition. Well done Window Film Magazine and well done Fred.

  2. Amazing story about an amazing person. Fred is a likeable person with integrity and is very customer centric. Kudos to WFM for sharing life stories to inspite upcoming Tinters.
    Best wishes Fred !

  3. Magnificent job WFM for sharing the story of who a lot of people love and admire. This man is overflowing with tint wisdom, from making it from scratch to the best tricks of installation. Anyone have the pleasure of meeting him, pick his brain. Fred is truly an amazing man!

  4. Fred is a legend. I was lucky of meeting few professionals with more than 30 years in the business, but Fred is different. He is a great person, those people you feel comfortable while hearing him and wants to hear more of his wisdom. I am sure he changed live of many people everywhere he went. I hope many tinters get inspired by his beautiful story in the window film industry.

  5. Congratulations Freddy!! This story just scratches the surface of Freddy’s many achievements, and contributions to the window film industry. Probably the most popular technique that he needs to be credited for is the “button technique”, which is a method that allows the installer to cut film on a surface, without actually touching the blade to the glass.
    Yep….. This guy right here Freddy!!!!
    Globally known bad ass, and still always takes and returns my calls
    Peace,
    RL
    #inthefilmbusiness #smoketheseeveryday #rlvillalon

  6. Congrats to a long career.

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