I first visited Philadelphia a few years ago for a two day trip of exploration. I used to go on a lot of these kinds of trips and plan on resuming the practice. They’re great for getting to know places you’re not intimately familiar with. Through these brief visits I’ve been introduced to a lot of fascinating places, including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Montauk and everywhere in between. Philadelphia stands out the most, as it is clearly one of the most underutilized locations when it comes to film.
In 2012 I decided to set a portion of a short film I was working on in Philadelphia, or at least, on a fictional island located in the Delaware River, reachable from Philadelphia. “The Island” was created by using two different locations in New York. I ventured to Philly for a second trip so that I could shoot b-roll and other establishing elements for the movie so that I could visually connect the city with the story’s fictional island. The footage has brought up the production value of the project immensely. You can tell this is Philly… not Boston and not New York. It’s Philadelphia. You can watch the short experimental film on Film Skilllet. I am now writing a feature which I plan on setting in Philadelphia. This one is a cop movie/courtroom drama and I’m very excited about it.
What might interest you about Philly? It’s hard to say, but here are some facts to start out with:
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the second largest city on the East Coast of the United States and the fifth-most-populous city in the country. Philadelphia is located in the Northeast at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, and it is the only consolidated city-county in Pennsylvania.
Within the Delaware Valley, the Philadelphia metropolitan area consists of five Pennsylvania counties. Philadelphia is nicknamed Philly and The City of Brotherly Love, the latter of which comes from the literal meaning of the city’s name in Greek.
Philadelphia has an enormous history and both historic and modern locations to boot (although some of the more notable locations are operated by the National Park service which isn’t film friendly in the least). I couldn’t even begin to describe the variety of locales available to your average independent filmmaker. Because of its role as the center of economic activity in the commonwealth, the city has spawned a diverse culture on par with New York. Similar to NYC, the city cannot be defined by the sum of all its parts and it’s really up to every individual filmmaker to find their own reason for bringing their project here.
At the visual level, Philly is diverse. The city has a remarkable architectural history that dates back to Colonial times and includes a wide range of styles. The city also features more than ten thousand acres of parkland, adding another feature that gives the Philly a hand up.
Across the Delaware River is Camden, New Jersey, which has a variety of other location options, including the Battleship, New Jersey and an aquarium.
The most notable productions shot on location in Philadelphia, for me at least, is PHILADELPHIA (1993), MANNEQUIN (1987) and ROCKY (1976). There are others too: 12 Monkeys, Trading Places, Unbreakable, National Treasure… and one day maybe your film will be on this impressive list.
*Have you filmed in Philadelphia as an independent producer? What are the pros and cons? Tell me about your experience in the comments section.
Sources: Wikipedia | Greater Philadelphia Film Office