When searching for stories for the next video, Cory Popp takes extra care to notice people and interesting moments while wandering Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. His recent viral video “Philly in Bloom” is a gorgeous depiction of the city in the springtime as cherry blossom petals flurry, urban farmers sow their crops, and a father teaches his daughter how to ride a bike.
While some of the video involved planned visits to urban farms, the majority of the video is filmed spontaneously. He found the father-daughter duo while biking and later returned with a camera to film the scene. “Everyone has a thousand stories that they can tell,” said Cory. “It’s just being aware of what would make a great story and where these opportunities are.”
The South Philly local is known for his three video series, including “Uncover Philadelphia” that follows fascinating people and places in his hometown. His most popular videos include the exploration of the city’s abandoned tunnel and the beautiful portrait of Philadelphia in the winter which has reached over 80,000 views on YouTube. He also interviews a photographer that takes nude self-portraits in abandoned buildings. It’s hard to believe that he only started producing videos only two years ago.
Cory maneuvers the camera like a photographer, mostly focusing on still subjects and shooting handheld. He prefers to travel light and packs his equipment all in one backpack for easy travel by foot and bike. Confident in his handheld skills, this videographer hardly ever uses tripods or any stabilizing equipment. If shots are shaky, they are stabilized in post-production. He’s even used an iPhone when he doesn’t have his camera at hand. The results are smooth and stunning.
After studying journalism at Temple University, Cory started shooting videos for real estate companies and soon started experimenting with storytelling for the company blog. In early 2014, he started producing his own videos which included “A Philly Christmas,” his first Philly seasonal video that reached immense popularity. Business owners who’ve watched his videos contacted him to make videos for them. Currently Cory is a freelancer, but hopes to make the switch to developing videos for his web series’ full-time.
Some critics point out that Cory romanticizes Philadelphia and fails to show the city’s dicey areas and poverty. Cory confesses that he does show good parts of Philly, but argues that these stories are rarely covered in television news that tends to highlight the city’s crime. As his audience grows, he hopes to cover more stories outside the popular Philadelphia seasonal videos that normally would have mass appeal.
His advice for aspiring videographers is not to wait for a video gig or equipment to come along. “I think a lot of people wait to be chosen to do something. They want to do videos, so they’re waiting for someone to say, ‘Hey make videos for us.’” Although it’s discouraging to see videos getting few views, he recommends making video consistently on a schedule and getting feedback. Cory also does a lot of PR by contacting editors at websites to license his videos while building his reputation.