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Cheryl Halpern

"Tolerance Woman of the Year"

Director-Producer-Documentarian, Cheryl Halpern, is a co-founder and partner of HQ Creative LLC, an Emmy Award winning production company and branding agency serving clients around the world.

She was nominated to serve on the boards of America's national and international broadcasting organizations by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 1990, she was confirmed as a member of the Board for International Broadcasting and as a director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).



The Film Reporter interviewed  Cheryl Halpern regarding her film "WishMakers"

Q: Tell us how Wishmakers evolved.

WishMakers began from a visit to a liquor store in Jerusalem in order to buy a bottle of wine to bring as a gift to a friend. The owner of the store suggested that I purchase the Black Tulip wine..which I did. After enjoying the wine with my friends I returned to the store to buy several more bottles to share with others. The owner of the store then told me that there was a unique history to the Tulip winery which he continued to share. I was intrigued and asked if he could connect me with the founder of the winery? Then and there he called Ro'i with whom I spoke and made a date to visit the winery on the following day. The rest is in the documentary

Q: Did you have any unusual difficulties during filming?
There were some unique challenges during the filming. Not all of the residents of KfarTikvah, the special needs community, were comfortable with proximity to a camera. It was important to be sensitive with regard to their emotions and to be respectful when addressing their concerns. I needed to be ever mindful of the individual limitations of these wonderful people who were allowing themselvesto participate in the storytelling.

In addition, it was challenging to work with the Make A Wish Foundation-Israel to find a child whose wish was granted by the winery and whose parents would allow their child to appear on camera. It took an incredible amount of courage for a child, in this case Neta, to expose herself to the camera and discuss her very personal fight for life.

Q: Will winning awards help promote the film? How so?
My goal as a documentary filmmaker is to share stories that are educational and inspiring with as broad an audience as possible. One never knows how a viewer will respond and what actions might be forthcoming on that individual's life's journey.

Screening WishMakers at international film festivals provides the opportunity to introduce a global audience to people who celebrate their diversity with respect and compassion, regardless of personal handicaps and challenges. Presenting awards that have been won in the festivals to these wonderful people who appear in this documentary lets them know how much they are appreciated!

Q: How much money did it cost?
WishMakers was not a costly endeavor. Every member of the team, from the videographers to the editors, wanted to give of themselves and their skills in order to tell this story. We were all humbled by Ro'i and the Tulip winery family as well as by Neta and the Make A Wish Foundation-Israel connection.

Q: Where were the locations?
The documentary was filmed entirely in Israel at the Tulip winery and KfarTikvah.

Q: Any bites yet from distributors?
WishMakers will be represented and screened in February at the European Film Market/Berlinale by New World Cinemas.

Q: What was it like working with the special needs people as your sources?
I was humbled to be in the presence of these amazing people who embraced me without hesitation. Nothing was scripted. Everything that they said and every action that was forthcoming came from the heart!

Q: What has the feedback been so far?
WishMakers has been acknowledged as a story that knows no limitations as it celebrates doing good for one another. It has been described as a "feel good" message that needs to be shared.

Q: Tell us about your own background. Where you were born? Where did you study film? What was your first movie? What was your previous job? Are you a full-time filmmaker?
I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, a small college town. My father was a Congregational Rabbi and our home was open to people from all walks of life. Both of my parents were on call 24 hours 7 days a week to answer the needs of others. I was raised in a home where I was constantly exposed to the stories of others who required sensitivity, discretion and compassion. It was in this home environment that I learned the art of "storytelling."
My parents taught me through their actions that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to make a difference; regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or religion.
I have been guided by these values and the sense that every day is an opportunity to listen, learn and make a difference. This awareness has taken me, the girl who grew up in a small town, to visit places and meet people whose stories have gone beyond the borders of my imagination. As such, I have felt a compelling need to share the experiences of these remarkable individuals with others.
When I went to Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City I joined WKCR-FM and had a weekly radio program. I also engaged in on- campus freelance photography. Both the radio and the photography were storytelling platforms. Years later, President George H.W. Bush appointed me to serve as a director of the Board for International Broadcasting. Afterwards, President Clinton appointed me to serve as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. During the administration of George W. Bush I was appointed to serve on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that I was subsequently elected to chair. Now I am a partner at HQ Creative LLC. , a multifaceted digital production company.

Q: What was the best part of the project?
Bonding with the residents of KfarTikvah and the Tulip winery family is the most precious part for me of the WishMaker experience. Every time that I return to the winery I am hugged and then told how much I have been missed. They have all become a part of my extended family!

Q: Are you pleased with the overall outcome?


The Film Reporter 2013-2017