Global Screen and Elsani & Neary Media are developing an 8-part fictional series about escaping through a tunnel beneath the Berlin Wall

September 19, 2023

Global Screen, the global distributor of Telepool and Elsani & Neary Media are jointly launching the development of an 8-part TV series about the moving and true story of the people who dug the famous escape tunnel Tunnel 29 beneath the Berlin Wall. The story begins immediately after the construction of the wall and will focus on the selfless designers of the tunnel, who helped 29 people to freedom and showed the highest willingness to take risks and creativity: when the money for the 135 meter long tunnel ran out , they contacted NBC and sold the exclusive film rights. The images of the live filmed escape through Tunnel 29 touched a global audience worth millions in 1962.The creative team for the development of the series already includes the multiple award-winning Grimme Prize winner Marcus Vetter (“ Heart of Jenin ”, “ Killing for Love ”), who was recently able to interview the most important contemporary witnesses for his current documentary “Tunnel of Freedom”. and award-winning and Oscar-nominated writer and director Paul Unwin (“ Casualty ,” “ Miss Marple ”).

The scripts for the series are currently being created based on the true life stories, the very personal and very touching fates of contemporary witnesses, and on the basis of original documents from the Stasi archive. About the content: August 13, 1961. The GDR closes the borders to West Berlin. The city is divided overnight and escaping to Germany becomes more dangerous every day. Under life-threatening conditions, lovers and families risk fleeing.The focus of the series is one of the boldest escapes in human history, through Tunnel 29. A group of 29 people manage to spectacularly escape from the GDR through this 135 meter long tunnel to the West. A group of students and a civil engineer think up and plan the tunnel construction from West Berlin. Some of them had only recently fled East Berlin. Together they defy water intrusion and surveillance by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Producer Anita Elsani from Elsani & Neary Media (“Eleanor & Colette ”, “ The Last Man” ) says, “We think we know the history of the Berlin Wall. We remember how it was raised in August 1961 and torn down in 1989.

Our series will awaken and deeply move audiences. Our series shows how digging beneath a city can become both the key to freedom and ultimately a deadly trap. A thriller about the most important human need - freedom. It's about the German people. It's about his extraordinary struggle with history, about the profound dangers of nationalism and an intolerant ideology. In that sense it is a story about the past, but one that speaks to the present."Marcus Vetter says, “JF Kennedy's quote 'I am a Berliner' is burned into our collective memory, but there is another sentence that Kennedy shouted to Berliners in his speech during his visit to Berlin on June 16, 1963: 'A life of freedom is not easy, and democracy is not always perfect, but at least we never had to build a wall to stop people from fleeing.' When I saw this scene unabridged during my research for the documentary 'Tunnel of Freedom' and the millions of people who cheered him from the roofs, windows and streets of Berlin, I realized once again how timely the story of the tunnel builders was, who interrupted their studies, risked their lives, and stood up for the freedom of Berlin with youthful daring.

In their own way, they became a symbol of the Cold War. However, in the research for the documentary, many human stories were left behind that never made it into the film. I am therefore happy to give these stories a narrative home through my collaboration on the series.”“Anita Elsani and Marcus Vetter are absolute experts on this topic, and with Paul Unwin we have the ideal author on board to tell this unique German-German story for the international market,” says Julia Weber, Head of Acquisitions & Sales at Global Screen. She adds, “This project exemplifies our new company strategy: early co-development and co-production in close coordination with our producers to bring together outstanding local material and a global audience.” Dana Hoefinger, VP Acquisitions & Co-Productions at Global Screen adds, “ The Berlin Wall is the most famous symbol of the Cold War and the division of nations. A British podcast about Tunnel 29 was extremely successful in 2019 and shows us how popular the topic is internationally.