Meet the Crew: Scott Robertson – 1st Assistant Director

Posted by Greg on September 3, 2015 at 8:42 am
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Aloha 1st AD Scott Robertson surveys the scene from a unique vantage point. Picture courtesy of Andy Fischer. © 2015 The Uncool.

Scott Robertson has been working in the film industry for more than 25 years. He’s worked on a great mix of comedies (Superbad, I Love You Man, Eastbound & Down) and dramas (Moneyball, Foxcatcher, Zero Dark Thirty). In addition to Aloha, Scott’s work will also be seen in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant starring Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

You’ve had a long film career dating back to 1991. Tell us how you broke into the business?

I was working in a record/video store called Music Plus in Hollywood. This was 1989 and I was 20 years old. Back then directors/producers and assistants would come in and rent movies so that they could reference other films while shooting or editing their own movies. Well before YouTube. Anyway, one of my usual customers came in and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. Asked me if I would be willing to work long hours with no pay. I jumped at the chance. I was given an 8:00am call time the next day at 20th Century Fox. The job was a movie called The Abyss and I was hired to be a film runner. Eventually I found myself working as Jim Cameron’s second assistant. That’s a whole other story.

How do you see the role of a 1st AD on the film set?

To support the director and the film. Every director and movie is different. I find myself taking on whatever role best fits both.

Who was the most important mentor or inspiring role model for you as you’ve continued to grow in your field?

The late director Alan Pakula (All the Presidents Men, Presumed Innocent) was an early mentor. I did three movies with him and we were great friends.

How did you end up working as the 1st assistant director on Elizabethtown?

Don Lee produced Elizabethtown and got me an interview with Cameron. Even though I had only been a First AD on one movie I was able to talk my way into getting the job. Thanks to both Don and Cameron for believing in me.

Last year you worked on Foxcatcher and Transcendence. In addition to your 1st Assistant Director role, you were also co-producer on those films too. Is that your ultimate goal to continue to produce?

My ultimate goal is to develop and produce films and television. I have been lucky enough to help produce two films so far. Foxcatcher is an amazing true story directed by Bennett Miller. Bennett, like Cameron is the master of getting amazing performances out of an actor. Very fun to be a part of.

I also just wrapped Transcendence directed by Wally Pfister. That was a wild ride. Wally is a force on a movie set. There isn’t anything he doesn’t know about filmmaking. So fun to work and learn from him.


Cameron Crowe and Scott Robertson on the set of Aloha. Picture courtesy of Neal Preston.

What brings you back to Cameron’s latest film, Aloha?

I picked up the phone one day when I was prepping Transcendence in New Mexico and the amazing producer Ilona Herzberg was on the other end of the line. She said Cameron was going to be doing a movie soon and wanted to know what I was up to. I jumped at the chance to work with him again.

Walk us through the working relationship between yourself and Cameron while working on the film. 

Very simple really. He trusts my judgement on putting together a shooting schedule that is both creatively friendly and one that he feels comfortable making every day. So during prep that’s what I’m doing.

On set I attempt to create a quiet and calm atmosphere so that he and his actors can have the space they need to create a scene. With Cameron, the on set vibe is key. He likes to keep it light, friendly and stress-free. We play a lot of music on set to help with that. Ultimately it makes for a creative friendly atmosphere to work in. And if I’ve done my job in prep and scheduled the day properly I don’t need to stress about making the day.

What was the biggest challenge working on Aloha?

The biggest challenge is always actor dates. Trying to shoot the movie in an order that works and work around the puzzle of actor availability dates is always crazy. We have seemed to make it work somehow. Always worth the hard work to get an A list cast.


One of the hazards of shooting a scene over a few days is the prop food can get a little ripe. Scott on the set of Aloha. Picture courtesy of Neal Preston.

You’ve worked with Danny McBride before. Share your experiences working with him on the first season of HBO’s Eastbound & Down.

Danny is the best. I met Danny and the other two creators (Ben Best and Jody Hill) of Eastbound on the set of Superbad. They all had small parts in the movie. They liked the way I run a set and asked me if I would work with them on a TV show that they were putting together. I have to admit that I hesitated and initially turned it down. Then they sent me the scripts for the entire first season and I fell in love. Those guys are the funniest dudes ever. I couldn’t stop laughing.

That experience was probably one of the most fun I have ever had on a job. We laughed constantly and made an amazing show. I’m really proud of Eastbound & Down.

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