My mini-doc, “A Cemetery Remembered” is now online!

I’m pleased to present my latest short-form documentary, “A Cemetery Remembered.” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this was a passion project of mine that I started last summer in 2013. I read an article in the L.A. Times which recounted the story of Mt. Zion Cemetery. It is located in East Los Angeles and had fallen into disrepair. Because of the story in the Times, a grassroots campaign was started by a local rabbi to restore it.

I pitched the story around to a couple of people, but realized that this was a project that I needed to pursue on my own. Well, sort of on my own. I enlisted the help of my amazing fiancé/producer (prodancé? fian-ducer?), Tina Nguyen, to help me out on the shoot and the edit.

We shot over the course of one day with the following equipment:

  • Panasonic GH2
  • Sanken COS-11D
  • Rode VideoMic Pro
  • Roland R-26 Field Recorder
  • LED 900 light
  • Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler
  • GoPro (footage was not used in the final piece)
  • Gripper 3025 suction cup car mount. Used with the GH2.
  • My home-made shoulder rig (AKA, The Spider)

I edited the piece in FCP X so that I could use it as a test bed for a larger documentary or other non-narrative piece. I’m happy to say that FCP passed the test.

X is great for this kind of project. And this project had it all: synced dailies from non-jam synced second source audio, multiclips, footage from different codecs, DSLR video, proxies, extreme color correction with lots of power windows and tracking, camera stabilization. I was even working off of a portable bus-powered $120 Buffalo Thunderbolt HD and moved between two systems.

I started the project late last year in 10.0.8 and then upgraded to 10.1 in December. The new Library-based system works extremely well. I finally feel that my hard drives, and consequently my own brain cells, are organized.

Backing up is simple and effective. I employed the use of Timeline Snapshots as daily backups of my sequences in addition to FCP’s built-in system of backing up (which, thankfully, I never had to use). The camera footage was backed up on a larger RAID.

Because of working on projects like this over the past year, I now feel 110% comfortable in the magnetic timeline. I can work as fast, if not faster, than 7. The key here is to create the dialogue audio bed first (the radio cut), then add music and b-roll. The radio cut generally drives the story and the music and b-roll support it.

Once everything is generally worked out in the timeline, the fine detail work begins. It’s then very easy to move sections and soundbites around without causing music which resides later in the timeline to go out of sync.

On this project, I would change the clip connection point of music generally to the second shot, since the first shot would have been an outgoing shot of the previous scene. When you get used to the magnetic timeline you start to think about relationships between clips. In doing so, you begin to think about story as opposed to what clip goes on what track.

Cemetery Remembered Timeline

X still has its issues and there are most certainly some major areas waiting for improvement. My two biggest request are as follows. I hope that Apple comes up with a way to organize audio clips based on roles. I’d also like to see a way to move the active clip indicator (that little white dot on top of clips) up and down so that you can edit with the keyboard more effectively in secondary storylines. There are also general responsiveness and playback issues that need to be fixed.

The good news is that, with the 10.1 update, I can clearly see Apple’s direction here and it’s all good. There is very little I cannot do with the app. Where there are problem areas in the software, I now have solid workarounds. We have clearly moved well beyond the days where I couldn’t work due to bugs. I’m now experiencing the opposite. I have so much control over the footage that I didn’t know where to stop!

All-in-all this was a great experience and I look forward to using the knowledge I gained on this short-form piece on longer projects.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Uncommon Library, who donated all the music tracks heard in this video. Their music can be licensed at Please check them out and license some music from them!

More info on the restoration can be found at

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!