Five Questions with Filmmaker Scott Fitzloff ’06

The California-based filmmaker has worked on everything from television commercials to feature-length documentaries.
Posted on December 10th, 2020 by

Scott Fitzloff '06

by Moriah Jensen ’23

Gustavus Adolphus College alumnus Scott Fitzloff ‘06 took some time to talk with us about his time at Gustavus, studying art and film through the liberal arts, and his most recent project, Robin’s Wish.

After graduating from Gustavus with a bachelor’s degree in religion, Fitzloff pursued a career in filmmaking and videography inspired by video and art classes that he had taken. Though Gustavus did not have a dedicated film and media studies track when he was a student, Fitzloff still took advantage of the available opportunities before graduating. Since then, Fitzloff has worked as a videographer, cinematographer, and video editor based in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Fitzloff has worked on numerous projects, including the 2016 feature film The United States of Detroit, commercials, and most recently, the 2020 documentary Robin’s Wish. The documentary takes an intimate look at the true story of the final days of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Fitzloff continues to develop documentaries and narrative films, as well as managing both full-time and freelance team members.

Gustavus:  What sparked your interest in cinematography and editing, and how did Gustavus help you to cultivate that interest?

SF: I had a transformative experience when I helped a friend, Ryan Taylor ’05, with a video he was making. It completely opened my eyes; you can just make a movie! Ryan pointed me to the video art course with professor Priscilla Briggs, which I enrolled in the very next semester. I spent many late nights and weekends shooting and editing for that class, and looked for more opportunities to explore the craft of shooting and editing video. 

Gustavus:  Was there a professor or mentor at Gustavus that really inspired or helped you?

SF: Professor Priscilla Briggs was definitely a standout professor in my development and education. Her courses were engaging and challenging in the best way. She provided historical context and technical guidance, and then encouraged self-exploration to flourish. I found myself throwing my time and energy into the assignments, always reaching for something just outside of my current ability. I went on to TA for Professor Briggs, created an independent study course to create a short film, and even created a documentary for a professor in the geology department with funding from the National Science Foundation. Professor Briggs played a pivotal role in my Gustavus experience by offering encouragement and providing avenues for me to deepen my exploration in the video/film work.

Gustavus:  What did you learn at Gustavus that helped you get to where you are today, and how did your liberal arts experience help to prepare you for your career?

SF:  At Gustavus I developed a deep love for learning. The small class sizes and broad variety of subjects taught at Gustavus really encouraged me to show initiative, and push myself to find areas I could invest my energy in. To this day, one of my great passions is learning. At Gustavus, I learned about the meaning and impact of art and also how to think critically. My studio art and art history courses fueled not only my knowledge or art, but inspired me to pursue meaningful concepts in my own work. As a religion major, I focused mainly on historical study, which awakened a passion for thinking critically and objectively. The past 10 years of my career in filmmaking have involved a lot of documentary work, and these twin lessons involving art and critical thinking have been central to my work. 

Gustavus:  How did you come to work on the project Robin’s Wish? What was that process like?

SF:  It was such an honor to work on Robin’s Wish. I learned a lot about Robin Williams and what a brilliant and amazing person he was. I was approached to edit Robin’s Wish by the director, Tylor Norwood, because I had edited his previous documentary film, The United States of Detroit. When editing a documentary, communication and an organized process are key because countless different films could be made from that same source footage. It’s important to explore different storytelling avenues and get on the same page before getting too far downstream with editing. Our process involved many outlines, rough cuts, and long discussions about the best way to tell this important story. I am really happy with where we ended up. 

Gustavus:  What advice or encouragement would you give to current Gustavus film students?

SF:  Today’s media landscape can feel crowded. It can be intimidating. I think focusing on process is what helps us move forward—create, learn, connect. Create: continue to work on projects you are passionate about and cultivate your own unique flavor of telling stories or making art. Learn: there are more opportunities for learning than ever before. Watch things that you love, study them, go online and find out how it was made. Also, creators often must learn to be entrepreneurs. Learn about how to run a small business, or look for a full-time job that can teach you the business side of creative work. Connect: networking and having conversations with potential mentors, clients, or fellow filmmakers can be crucial. Try to make these a part of a daily or weekly process. I’m still very much working on all of these. I think it’s a lifetime journey. You have to love learning.


One Comment

  1. Kim Raval says:

    Go Gustie Alum….you are amazing