James Brubaker began his career in entertainment working for the Teamsters union and driving trucks to various film sets and studios throughout Los Angeles. This job segued into working in the transportation department at Raleigh Studios, firstly for the series Highway Patrolman. His next job was as the personal driver to Elvis Presley during the filming of the star’s movies in Las Vegas. Brubaker also drove for another American icon, John Wayne, during the production of such films as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), The Green Berets (1968) and Big Jake (1971). Brubaker also served as a driver on the films Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Harold and Maude (1971), as well as the transportation coordinator on Walking Tall (1973), The Godfather: Part II (1974), and Nickelodeon (1976).
After his experience on The Godfather, Part II, Brubaker decided he wanted to work as a Unit Production Manager, due to his enjoyment of scheduling and planning for large film sets. In 1977 he joined the Directors Guild as a UPM and worked on his first film, Comes a Horseman, in 1978. His credits as a UPM include such feature films as Raging Bull (1980), True Confessions (1981), Rocky III (1982), Staying Alive (1983), The Right Stuff (1983), K-9 (1989), Mr. Baseball (1992), D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Liar Liar (1997), Gia (1998), Life (1999), and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000). Brubaker has also led an extensive career as a producer, on films he both worked on and did not work on as a UPM.
In 1999 Brubaker was on Michael Cristofer’s directorial team when he won the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television for Gia. He was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the film as a producer.