Still from the movie "Unbroken," based on the life of Louis Zamperini

Still from the movie “Unbroken,” based on the life of Louis Zamperini

WASHINGTON – How long does it take to get a movie made? It depends on the story, often the budget. It also requires patience. For a big budget biographical film about heroic figures, it can sometimes take decades. The most recent example is the film “Unbroken” about the life of World War II hero, Louie Zamperini. Universal Pictures bought the book rights in January 2011 to augment the film rights to Zamperini’s life story, which it had already acquired at the end of the 1950s.

WND Films is looking to fast-track this process as it undertakes to make the movie version of “TRAPPED,” based on the book “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell” by Anita Dittman and Jan Markell. “TRAPPED” is the true story of teen-ager Anita Dittman’s harrowing journey of survival during the Holocaust. Anita escaped twice from Nazi prison camps as she fought to reunite with her mother who was sent to a death camp hundreds of miles away.

The book by Dittman and Markell was written and originally published in 1985. It was republished again in 2005. Then WND Books acquired the book and film rights in 2014, republishing the book that year and starting the development process of making it into a narrative feature film through WND Films. As a proof-of-concept, WND Films also made a documentary version of the book, releasing both book and documentary in May 2014.

Anita Dittman as a child growing up in Germany, the daughter of a Jewish mother and German father. Her father abandoned the family as the Nazis came to power.

Anita Dittman as a child growing up in Germany, the daughter of a Jewish mother and German father. Her father abandoned the family as the Nazis came to power.

The Dove Foundation gave the documentary its highest praise: “This is a powerful tool to use for sharing the history of the Holocaust and also to share God’s faithfulness to many who trusted Him. This one gets five Doves, our best rating.”

Since 2014, George Escobar, vice president of WND Films has written five drafts of the “TRAPPED” screenplay, making significant improvements each time. The last draft was co-written with award-winning producer Ken Carpenter. That’s the draft that is now getting serious attention in Hollywood and in Nashville.

Last month, MovieGuide awarded the TRAPPED screenplay 1st Runner Up for its Kairos Pro Award. The Kairos Award is the most prestigious screenplay contest for faith and family films in the industry. Consequently, the top three Kairos scripts are submitted to studios eager to evaluate them for potential production. Past Kairos Award winners have had their movies produced and released by Sony and Pureflix. Several other scripts are in development by various well-known production companies.

With “TRAPPED” well advanced in its successful script development phase, the project has secured the support of Julian Reid, producer of an upcoming new movie, “Distinction” and co-executive producer of “Sweet Sweet Summertime.” He joins Escobar, director of “Distinction” and “Alone Yet Not Alone,” Joseph Farah, founder, editor, and chief executive officer of WND, and Ken Carpenter, producer of the upcoming sports film “Run The Race” and director of “Sweet, Sweet Summertime,” as the executive production team behind “TRAPPED.” This team is now working with Bill Reeves, WTA Group chief executive officer, who is advising the team for its film funding phase.

WTA Group is well known in the film financing and marketing business. It was instrumental in the marketing success of recent faith films, including “War Room,” “Heaven is for Real,” “Miracles from Heaven” and “God’s Not Dead.”

The executive team is drawing up an investor film package and is planning a film funding roadshow. The team believes “TRAPPED” is one of those rare true-story films that can shed new light on World War II and God’s faithfulness in the midst of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Most recently the team of Reid, Escobar and Carpenter completed the principal photography of a new film, “Distinction” starring Rose Reid and Caleb Castille, star of “Woodlawn.” Reid is the team’s top pick to play the role of Anita Dittman as a teenager. The last big budget film of this kind was in 1975 when Billy Graham’s Worldwide Pictures produced and released the classic film, “The Hiding Place.” Meanwhile, Farah has launched a GoFundMe campaign for the movie.

Naturally, the biggest supporters of this project are none other than Anita Dittman and Jan Markell. The co-authors of the book have been more than patient as they’ve sought to bring Anita’s story to the big screen. They have not only provided moral support and prayers but have brought early funding for the movie, helping to finance its script development.

But time is getting short. Anita Ditmann turns 91 this year.

To augment the next phase of the project, a GoFundMe campaign for “TRAPPED” has raised just over $16,000 out of the $120,000 required for film funding expenses that will be used to raise the millions it will cost to make the movie. The team is endeavoring to make “TRAPPED” as an independent film as much as possible. The main reason for this is to preserve the critical faith elements of Anita’s story.

The movie “Unbroken” was mentioned as an example of big budget biographical film. That movie was financed and released by Universal Pictures in 2014. If you saw the movie, you would remember that it revolved around Zamperini’s life as an Olympian representing the U.S. at the Berlin Olympics. It also centered on Zamperini as an army officer who survived a crash landing of his bomber, along with a handful of others. They drifted in a raft for 47 days before a Japanese vessel picked them up only to send to a series of prison camps. The rest of the movie is how Zamperini endured the deprivations and extreme physical torture meted out personally against him by a sadistic camp commander.

What you didn’t see was Zamperini’s fight against alcoholism and PTSD, and most significantly his conversion to Christ after attending Billy Graham evangelistic crusade.

The team behind “TRAPPED” does not want God’s work in Anita’s life ignored or set aside as was done for “Unbroken.” That’s why it wants “TRAPPED” to remain an “independently” financed film. That’s why it is seeking donors and investors to support the movie financially.

Why is this movie important? Why now?

“Simply this,” says Escobar, “if we forget our history, ignore our mistakes, we will suffer greatly by repeating them. All the critical issues Anita faced in the 1930s and 40s are coming back,” he adds:

1. Fake news being perpetrated like Nazi propaganda, undermining our freedoms.
2. Persecution, not just of the Jews, but now of Christians as well.
3. Security. People are trading away their liberty for a false sense of security, as Germans did, giving rise to Hitler.
4. Faith in God is being tossed aside as irrelevant or used as a weapon to silence us.

After over two years of story development to craft the best script possible, the next phase demands a powerful package for investors and to attract A-list actors, top distributors, marketing executives, and technicians. This film investor package will cost about $120,000. Donations will pay for legal expenses, business operations, marketing plans and material (promo reels, websites, poster, and press kits) as well as pre-production budgeting, scheduling and location scouting.

Investors want to ensure that the “TRAPPED” project team is committed to quality, that the necessary “homework” is complete before they will invest the millions it will take to make the movie.

“The recognition for this amazing true story is starting to create a buzz,” said Escobar. “Industry attachments are being made. And donors are starting to come on board. But there’s much more to do.”

He adds: “I’m challenging every reader of WND to help us reclaim our culture. Help us provide wholesome, edifying, and uplifting entertainment that will speak to countless people and generations to come. Join us for this film project and not only shed light on history, but help us make a difference for history.”


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