About Us

In 1988, Halpern formed I.T.A.P. Pictures. ITAP produced Halpern’s first documentary about the artist Joseph Beuys. It has two other films on artists in the works. Halpern's recent involvement in the documentary about architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown was mentioned in the New York Times. (To view the article, please click here.)

MDS FILMS, created in 2002, is the distribution outlet for films produced and directed by John Halpern. MDS PRODUCTIONS, LLC was initially conceived and incorporated for the REFUGE film production, a film shot worldwide. MDS also produces, directs and post-produces programs of varying lengths for fellow artists and filmmakers, internationally. MDS PRODUCTIONS and MDS FILMS work in conjunction with the NEW CONSUME Project, originally started in Europe in 1991.

MDS is based in Manahttan. Its offices overlook Union Square, one of the most vital nerve centers of culture and commerce in New York City.


John Halpern is a documentary filmmaker living and working in New York City. He has collaborated with and filmed renowned artists and filmmakers like Joseph Beuys, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Les Levine. He's won awards from the Swiss government and grants from the New York Council on the Arts, the Migros Culture Percentage, the Merian Foundation, Harlekin Arts Foundation and the Cultural Departments of Bern and Basel, in Europe, and is sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) in Manhattan.

At age 16, Halpern began making 8 and 16mm films, launching his filmmaking career. His first experimental short films earned him entry to the cutting-edge Visual Arts Program at SUNY Purchase, where film directors Willard Van Dyke and John Cohen mentored him. He completed his BFA at SUNY Purchase in 1977.

Halpern has always been a pioneer in the media industry. He directed Bridging, the mass media event that won Best News of the Year 1977. Bridging's objective was to divert media attention from and to displace terrorism in the press. Due to the spectacular nature of the event, the media was forced to film it and broadcast it on US TV. The event established a new concept for news content.

Halpern's film, Joseph Beuys/Transformer (1988), starring the German iconic sculptor Joseph Beuys, was described by German Television as "Television Sculpture". The film explores the use of documentary as a portrait medium and creates an evocative story about Beuys' controversial art and theories of sculpture, politics and ecology. Joseph Beuys/Transformer becomes a journey of transformation, as its main character, once a Nazi, emerges as a world-class leader for change and human freedom.

Halpern further explores this theme of individual and cultural transformation with the films REFUGE (2005) and TALKING WITH THE DALAI LAMA (2006). Featuring Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Bernando Bertolucci and others, along with the Dalai Lama and other established spiritual leaders, these films transport the audience into the dynamic world of interactions between East and West, and the theme of self-discovery.

Halpern's exploration of the inner journey and cultural evolution has brought him to the greater questions of peace and freedom in his new feature-length film KASHMIR. KASHMIR is the tale of a legendary paradise – a place of spiritual sanctuary and art – shattered by archaic feuds, politics, and greed. Can the mind be transformed from an instrument of self-destruction and annihilation into an implement for peace?

Halpern's films have been broadcast on Dutch, Swiss, German, and Austrian TV, and Italian RAI, and exhibited at the National Film Theater of London; the Tate Gallery, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Guggenheims in Venice, Berlin and Bilbao; and at Zurich's Kunsthalle. They have also been shown at Film Festivals in Locarno, Montreal, San Francisco, Chicago, Breckenridge, Century City, etc., and have premiered in New York's Quad Cinema, Toronto's Bloor, and Berlin's Babylon cinemas. The films are collected by modern art museums worldwide such as Getty, Frankfurt Modern, the Guggenheims in New York and Bilbao, and the Watari in Tokyo. He has been the subject of numerous articles and programs in news print, cultural magazines, major TV broadcast in America and abroad, and in-flight entertainment films since 1977. He has worked as an editor at NY-1 TV, Manhattan, and as director/producer for Swiss, Austrian and German TV.

Halpern's fiscal sponsor is New York Foundation for the Arts, in Manhattan. He has owned and operated MDS Productions in Union Square, New York since 2002, and ITAP Pictures in Switzerland and New York, since 1988. MDS Productions produces, directs and post-produces programs for fellow international artists and filmmakers.