Lamar Nathaniel “Nate” Brubaker, a filmmaker who brought advanced technology to the Baltimore and Washington D.C., area and put the region on the industry’s map for its ability to make high-quality films, died Aug. 11 in a car crash. He was 27.
Mr. Brubaker and his friend Martin Whittier, also a prominent filmmaker, were driving back from a networking event in Philadelphia that night when they were hit and killed on I-95 in Delaware. The pair was in Philadelphia promoting Mr. Brubaker’s company Rock Shore Media and his new studio, which hosts a sophisticated LED virtual wall, a high-tech piece of equipment primarily used in Hollywood productions.
Mr. Brubaker, who lived in Arbutus, planned to marry his fiancee Shannon Harney in Cecil County in October. He and Mr. Whittier met when they shared office space for their respective film companies and grew to be close friends, and cherished peer advisors as their businesses flourished. Mr. Whittier was going to be the best man at Mr. Brubaker’s wedding.
“(Nate) was super motivated and ambitious, always talking about his dreams and what he was going to do next,” Ms. Harney said. “He was also really funny, too. He had almost a dad joke sense of humor. He was really inspiring to a lot of people.”
He was born Jan. 1, 1995, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and grew up on his family’s farm in Strasburg. He is the son of Donald Brubaker, a farmer, and the late Luann Brubaker, a baker. Mr. Brubaker started his video production company when he was a 17-year-old high school student and primarily filmed weddings. He moved to Maryland in 2012 and studied film at Stevenson University in Baltimore County.
Rock Shore Media took off during his college years as he pivoted from filming weddings and live streaming sporting events to shooting commercials for large corporations such as McCormick and Live! Casinos. By 2022, Mr. Brubaker had four full-time employees; his own office; a second company, RemoteVV, which specializes in live streaming; and a new studio that filmmakers could rent out to use its LED virtual wall for their own productions.
He was dedicated to supporting local filmmakers. Matt Burgess, who first started working for Brubaker as a production assistant, credits Mr. Brubaker for valuing his camera skills and giving him opportunities to take on larger jobs for Rock Shore’s corporate clients.
“Nate believed in me when I didn’t even believe myself. He put a camera in my hands and sent me on jobs that I didn’t think I could do at that time as a freelancer early on in my career,” said Mr. Burgess, who planned to officiate Mr. Brubaker and Ms. Harney’s wedding.
“That was what was so special about him,” Mr. Burgess added. “Because it wasn’t that he would just tell you that he thought that you could do it. And it wasn’t that he just taught you the skills and gave you the confidence to do it. But it was that he also genuinely valued you and demonstrated it through those actions,” such as paying freelancers a high rate for their work.
Mr. Brubaker had an innovative mind, a keen business sense and a remarkable work ethic. When the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult to have people physically on film sets, he started a live streaming business that allowed clients to see behind the scenes and give stage directions virtually.
When he saw that Hollywood productions, such as Disney Plus’s Star Wars show “The Mandalorian” were using an LED video wall, he took a risk and invested in bringing state-of-the-art technology to the Baltimore area. His studio opened in November and is one of few locations where the technology is available; it creates computer-generated graphics in 4K resolution that can look like any set or environment. It’s the only studio of its kind in Maryland, Ms. Harney said.
“He realized that nobody was going to invest the time and energy into making that a reality. So he did. He said, ‘I’m going to build a studio.’ And everyone’s like, ‘What the heck do you know about a studio?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, but I’m going to figure it out, and we’re going to make it happen. The community deserves it. Our clients deserve it,’” Mr. Burgess said.
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Rock Shore Studios has already seen success, Ms. Harney said, and has contributed to a thriving film community in Baltimore and Washington D.C.
“When big clients are looking at spaces to do these big productions, they’re hiring a lot of the local talent. So freelancers in the area are getting jobs. The industry is thriving itself. And we’re getting advances as far as our technology here,” Ms. Harney said.
Mr. Brubaker made the most of his limited free time to enjoy his hobbies. He maintained a lush garden from which he would make meals or can fruits and vegetables. He and his fiancee often went on hikes at Patapsco State Park with their two dogs, Ollie and Lola. Brubaker enjoyed learning more about construction while he built his studio and had plans to remodel his basement himself.
He was also an adoring partner, Ms. Harney said. When she came home from her bachelorette party the weekend before his death, she arrived to find a clean house, groomed dogs and a planned dinner outing to celebrate her return.
“I remember grabbing him, and I just started bawling. I was crying because I was so happy, and I just couldn’t wait to marry him,” Ms. Harney said. She worked up the courage a week after his sudden death to go through the contents of his phone. When she opened a conversation between herself and Mr. Brubaker from his phone, an unsent message was typed out.
“He had typed out ‘I love you,’ but he never pressed send,” she said. “Those were his last words to me. I’ll hold on to them forever.”
In addition to Ms. Harney and his father, Mr. Brubaker is survived by his brothers: Quentin Brubaker and Halden Brubaker, both of Pennsylvania, and Devon Brubaker of Wyoming. Mr. Brubaker is also survived by his in-laws and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents and friends. His viewing was at Ambrose Funeral Home in Arbutus, followed by a celebration of life at his family’s farm in Strasburg.