Viral video turns spotlight on filmmaker

“Frozen Philadelphia” highlighted different spots around the city covered in snow. The video has been watched more than 82,000 times. | COURTESY Cory Popp
“Frozen Philadelphia” highlighted different spots around the city covered in snow. The video has been watched more than 82,000 times. | COURTESY Cory Popp

Filmmaker Cory Popp recently made a film of Philadelphia in the midst of snowstorms that shows the city in a new light.

The video, “Frozen Philadelphia,” has been viewed more than 82,000 times on YouTube in the last month. In the video, Popp shows eclectic scenes of his neighborhood and various local points of interest, as snow covers rooftops, streets and people, in Philadelphia.

“Most of my work is local,” Popp said. “When you look on YouTube and you see a video with millions of views, it doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal but when they’re specifically local, I think it’s a lot more valuable.”

Popp, a 2013 Temple graduate, studied journalism during his time as an undergraduate. Popp said he carries a keen sense of location and storytelling from the world in which he finds himself.

He ventured into the snowstorms eight times for his footage. He said he knew he should release the video in February at the latest – before spring set in and the warm weather took a hold of the city’s focus.

“Snow days are kind of weird,” Popp said. “People are in a different mood, at least in the beginning when it’s still falling and they might have off from work, and so people can be a lot more talkative when it snows and it makes it much more fun to be around the city.”

Filmed over the course of two months, Popp took advantage of every snowfall at his disposal. He shot footage in South Philly, the Race Street Pier, Center City, the South Street Bridge and West Philly, synthesizing it all into just slightly more than two minutes.

Popp said he likes to showcase spots and individuals across town that resonate with his neighbors and those who used to live in the city. There’s something in the Philly mindset that makes community pride and location a selling point, he said.

Popp has also produced a series of videos titled “Philly Makers” that focuses on those around him who are shaping Philly both entrepreneurially and creatively.

Anna Hitchens’ business was showcased in a short video by Popp last year, the first in his serious of “Philly Makers” spotlights. Hitchens is the owner of Koliyan, a vegan plant-based Cambodian kitchen in South Philadelphia.

Hitchens was approached by Popp and shown one of his early videos, “A Very Philly Christmas,” before getting on board with the shoot. She said she was moved at the quality and his ability to bring out the emotion and deeper meaning in his subject.

“I think he does a really great job of finding stories that people don’t really know about, and the way he documents them is really touching,” Hitchens said.

Hitchens said after living everywhere from New England to California to South Carolina, she has felt the entrepreneurial spirit of collaboration and generosity much stronger here.

“Everyone seems to be really generous with sharing connections, sharing advice,” she said. “I’ve had a few entrepreneurs contact me because they saw the video Cory did.”

Popp’s comprehensive approach to capturing the city’s life, both people and sites, along with the inevitable viral traction from striking videos like “Frozen Philadelphia,” has given him plenty of attention.

As a Montgomery County native, Popp said he has made South Philadelphia his adoptive home. He produces hyperlocal films of his favorite spots and people doing interesting things that may go unnoticed.

“People are really proud of Philadelphia,” Popp said. “These are the places they walk by; these are the places they run by. And they’re really proud when it gets shown in a really positive, beautiful light.”

Colton Shaw can be reached at colton.shaw@temple.edu.

Editor’s note: Cory Popp is a former reporter for The Temple News. He played no role in the writing or editing of this story.

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