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Wilcots, Joseph M. (1939–)

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WILCOTS, JOSEPH M. (1939–). Cinematographer, producer, director. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and became a freelance still photographer at an early age. After shooting many films on his 8mm movie camera, he trained as a motion-picture newsman at WHO-TV and worked as a cameraman for the Iowa State Department of Health. In 1959, he moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in motion pictures, only to meet with considerable resistance due to racism in the industry. Wilcots joined the U.S. Navy and was sent to the Naval School of Photography in Pensacola, Florida, where he was trained as a photonavigator. He left the Navy in 1963 and returned to Hollywood. This time, he weathered the resistance and became the first African American to join Hollywood’s camera operators’ union in 1966. Wilcots worked as a camera operator on films like The Long Goodbye , 1973; Thomasine & Bushrod , 1974; and Cornbread, Earl & Me , 1975. He was later hired as director of photography on the television miniseries Roots , 1977, and Roots: The Next Generation , 1979. He was associate producer on the live comedy-performance film Bill Cosby: Himself , 1983; he produced Michael Jackson ’s “Dangerous Tour;” and directed the TV movie Trials of Life , 1997.

Filmography: Roots , 1977; Roots: The Next Generation , 1979; Palmerstown, U. S. A. , 1980; Grambling’s White Tiger , 1981; Bill Cosby: Himself , 1983; Mountaintop Motel Massacre , 1986; The Aurora Encounter , 1986; Where the Red Fern Grows: Part 2 , 1992; Simple Justice , 1993.

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