Three-time mayoral candidate and current film producer Sam Katz has reached his goal of raising more than $50,000 to continue his documentary on Philadelphia and turn it into a 90-minute feature.
Four episodes of “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” have already aired and the money raised will go toward post-production for the next set of episodes, webisodes and a longer movie put together with footage already shot.
The idea for the historical documentation of Philadelphia started about a decade ago when Katz watched the film “Gangs of New York.” That parlayed into reading books and watching films about New York and Chicago history. In 2006, Katz knew he wanted to turn it into a documentary.
“I had this idea at the time—it seemed as preposterous as running for mayor,” he said. “I spent two years reading and meeting with historians. I was worried about when I started this, there was no single author who had made the span of Philly history the focus on their writing.”
But Katz and his crew embraced that dilemma, instead interviewing dozens of historians about the City of Brotherly Love.
“There were so many different people writing about so many different things,” Katz said. “We were able to incorporate many voices.”
After the pilot was produced, it took more than 100 screenings before 6ABC decided to air it. Four of the 12 episodes have been broadcasted—and were very successful.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Katz has been a political fixture in the city for two decades.
“I have a long history of my own in Philadelphia,” he said. “I played basketball here, been involved in civic life here, ran for office, I’ve watched the city change.”
It’s been his famous face that has helped fund this project, which has become very close to his heart. But that always wasn’t the case.
“History has become a real passion for me, but it wasn’t before,” Kate said. “I’m sorry that it wasn’t. I have learned in the last five or six years in many cases things I should have known.”
The next episode of “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” will air some time this fall. The 90-minute feature will focus on Philadelphia from 1944-1994. The series spans the city’s 350-year history.
Three of Katz's most interesting historic Philadelphia finds
- Women — "I didn't know the incredibly important role women have played in history," Katz said. "They had been largely written out."
- Engineers — "The role of railroads is not only significant but what drove industrial leadership in Philadelphia was engineers," Katz said.
- Yellow fever — "Philadelphia was a city plagued by yellow fever," he said.