The Great Deli Debate


Today, a friend of mine posted a video on my Facebook wall of a trailer for an upcoming documentary called Deli Man. Seeing it suddenly re-awakened my tastebuds and also my feelings about Jewish Delis. I happily share the sentiments provided in these interviews about how Deli makes you feel.

A little backstory about myself and delis… In 1994, I attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. I was a film student. While I cherish my time at NYU more than anything, the truth is this: I really went to the school of “New York City.”

What an amazing time it was to be living in NYC in the mid-to-late 90’s. Coming from Jacksonville, Florida, it was like going from a world that was one color to a universe of infinite variations. The city was filled with so much noise, people, potholes, personality and, most importantly, the most amazing food I had ever eaten up until that point in my life. And by the best food, I mean deli food. Jewish deli.

I come from a conservative Jewish family. I went to a conservative Jewish synagogue. But, I’m from Northern Florida and there’s a slightly different flavor between Northern Florida Jewery and that of the Northeast US and, to the far south, Miami.

While there was one major deli in my home town that had been around since my grandparents’ time, it wasn’t a place my family ever went to that often. In fact, I can’t remember a time that we went there as a family. We just agreed that it wasn’t very good.

Over the years, there was a flashier “New York-style” deli that opened up in Jacksonville. It was plastered with lots of mid-to-late-1980s Broadway glitz and glam. It had the obligatory A Chorus Line and Cats posters, the shiny black tiled walls and some gold lettering. It even had the signed headshots, too. It was more I Heart NY than I heart Pastrami. My father loved that place until the food and the service started to suffer. Once that happened, it failed. Now, a Mexican restaurant stands in its place, serving gooey helpings of cheesy burritos with gobs of spanish rice. It’s been there at least 3 times as long as the original deli.

Once in college, it took me over a year to feel really comfortable with setting out into the city. And it wasn’t until my sophomore year that I finally went to the 2nd Ave Deli. This changed everything. It was like I finally found the place I had always been looking for.

Let me put it this way – if you were a Jewish kid from a faraway place, who grew up hearing Broadway musicals from the 40’s and 50’s and watched PBS documentaries on the great Jewish comedians of early television… if you were a Jewish kid who dreamed of being in a world of really interesting people who were loud, obnoxious, brilliant, and hilarious… if you were a Jewish kid who heard tales of the amazing food that your parents and grandparents ate growing up but those places no longer existed because of a lack of interest and also because of the low-fat diet craze… if you were a Jewish kid just looking for a place to fit in and feel Jewish in the real world rather than in an insular community of your peers… well, this was Jewish Mecca. I guess that would technically be Jerusalem. But you get the point.

I loved that place. I ate there as regularly as I could afford the food. And I made a short video piece about it after it’s owner, Abe Lebewohl, was tragically murdered.

When I graduated from film school, I was looking for a project. One potential was a documentary about Jewish deli. It would be called “The Great Deli Debate” and it would focus on the rivalry between east coast and west coast delis. But at that time, it was too expensive to shoot it on film and video just didn’t have the cinematic quality that I wanted for the piece.

I moved on, got settled in LA. Found Langers pastrami. Got interviewed by my client, Huell Howser, on an episode of his series which happened to focus on tongue sandwiches. And then, I was happy. I felt that I had done my duty to deli.

If Judaism had a flavor and a scent, I think most east coast Jews would agree that it tastes and smells like the food you get at a good Jewish Deli. I hope the filmmaker gets lots of funding with this appetizing trailer and makes a great documentary that can help the institution of Jewish deli survive. No debate there!


Hello, my name is…

…Michael Garber. I’m a video editor and a sometimes shooter.  This blog is a way for me to discuss all of the exciting things I see, do, and learn about relating to my work in the world of production and post.

I got interested in computers and filmmaking at a young age which lead to me getting a film degree and pursuing a career in production and post.  My first camera was a Sony CCD-F35 8mm video camera and I edited the videos that I shot with my friends on VHS decks. Old school was not necessarily the most fun school! At night, I dreamt of serial-controlled tape to tape edit systems with timecode.

In film school, we shot with CP-16s and Arri 16mm shells, as well as 3-chip studio cameras. We edited on Steenbecks, Sony RME-450s, Video Toasters (yes, I proudly used the Kiki effect), CMX editors and very early Avids. With so many editing systems at our disposal, I sometimes found myself trying to hit cmd-Z on the Steenbeck! I had multiple editing personalities.

When I got out into the real world, the first nonlinear editing app that I used professionally was Final Cut Pro v1. I eventually started my own post production company out of my very tiny bedroom in my very tiny studio apartment in aptly-named Studio City.

The amount of innovation that’s happened for cameras and editing tools in just the last few years is pretty phenomenal… it’s dramatically changed the way we do things.  And things are continuing to change at a rapid pace with the increasing rate of new gear getting released.

What convinced me to start writing a blog is that this past year has been a particularly crazy one in our field.

Specifically for me, in June of 2012, Apple announced the next revolution in nonlinear editing… Final Cut Pro X.  Apple promoted the launch as one of the best in the history of Apple. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for professional editors at the time of launch. That’s changed a little bit since last year – but that’s for another blog entry.

Since the release of X and the beginning of the end for Final Cut Pro legacy, I’ve been experiencing the greatest sea-change in terms of my work and my business since I moved to LA in 1998. In that time, I’ve gone from a full- offline/color correction/online house to, well, not that! I’ve been on a quest to figure out “what’s next” for me and for my company (whatever form that may be). I’ve been test driving X, Premiere, and will inevitably need to check out Avid’s offerings.

I know that there are many other shell-shocked FCP editors out there, and I hope to help them and the filmmaking community in general by way of sharing my discoveries and test findings. I’ll start with highlights about what I’ve learned over the past year and, once I catch up, I’ll keep you all up on what I’m currently researching, learning, and doing.

Don’t expect this blog to be entirely post-production related though.  I like to tinker with other related technologies.  I’ve been shooting with the famed hacked GH2… I’ve built a beast of a Hackintosh… And I am really happy with my switch from iPhone to Android (I’m a bit of a Gmail freak)…

So with that, I’m looking forward to the next entry and beyond.