Spring 2016

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40 CINEMONTAGE / Q2 2016 by Laura Almo T he idea to reboot the legendary, award-winning miniseries Roots nearly 40 years later was executive producer Mark Wolper's, and it did not come easily. The president of the Wolper Organization, a media production company that has produced over 500 projects, he is the son of film pioneer and television producer David L. Wolper, whose varied credits range from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), the original Roots (1977) and The Thorn Birds miniseries (1983) to the Los Angeles 1984: Games of the XXIII Olympiad series, Imagine: John Lennon (1988) and L.A. Confidential (1997). CineMontage caught up with Wolper to discuss the motivation to finally retell Roots, how this version was crafted to appeal to a new generation, and his thoughts on walking in his father's footsteps. CineMontage: What was the impetus to make a new version of Roots? Mark Wolper: It was a family legacy that I controlled the rights to. I was very resistant to approach it again, partially because it's too much of a burden to try to recreate the most successful [entertainment] television show of all time. Plus knowing that my father did the original one was just a bit too overwhelming for me. And it had done so well the first time that I figured, why do it again? Until I sat down with my then 16-year-old son and two other kids to watch the original Roots... They couldn't watch it. I had to literally hold them down and force them to watch all of Roots. When it was over my son said, "You know what, Dad? It's kind of like your music; I understand why you like it, but it doesn't speak to me." And it was that moment I realized that's the reason I've got to do Roots again; it's part of our history and the old Roots needs to be translated to the language of the new America. CM: How did you go about making this version appeal to younger generations? MW: One of the most important things in mounting Roots again was how to make it contemporary. It is part of our heritage. It talks about how this country was built, and you've got to tell the story over and over again. Looking back, the old Roots really doesn't hold up production-wise — specifically, the styles of editing and directing don't hold up today. You could never get a 17- or 25- or 30-year-old to sit down and watch the editorial style that was popular in the 1970s. [Updating] the editorial style is one of the most significant ways to actually bring it into this generation. CM: How would you describe the editorial style of the '70s? MW: It's a combination of the directorial and editorial styles. In the 1970s, somebody would deliver a line, and you'd watch him deliver the entire line and stay with him for a significant look after he delivered that entire line. Then you'd cut to the person to whom he was speaking, and you would hang on him for the reaction to what was just said. Then that person would start speaking and you'd stay on him until he finished the whole line. You'd just cut back and forth that way, and let every moment play out to its maximum — even if it wasn't a moment requiring that. CM: How has the editorial style changed? MW: Now we have a much faster pace. In the '70s, the general audience didn't know about filmmaking. Now everybody knows how films are made. Everybody has an iPhone, an iPad or a little digital camera. Everybody is involved in the filmmaking process. The audience is much quicker and so, as filmmakers, we have to stay ahead of the audience. As a result, we don't have to finish a scene anymore, yet the audience still knows where we're going. We don't have to stay on subjects for the whole dialogue. We could be outside and they could be saying the dialogue inside, and we don't even have to see their faces. Rebooting 'Roots' for the Next Generation

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