“It start­ed out as a rock’n’roll rewrite…”: Ser­i­al Eyes Inter­view with Alum­ni Jana Bur­bach and Niko­laus Schulz-Dorn­burg

The new ARD prime­time show DIE HEILAND — WIR SIND ANWALT about a blind lawyer and her assis­tant is cur­rent­ly air­ing on Tues­days at 8:15 pm. The Ser­i­al Eyes par­tic­i­pants of 2018/​19 inter­viewed the head writer Jana Bur­bach and staff writer Niko Schulz-Dorn­burg (SE 2014/​15) about the mak­ing of the show.

Q: How did DIE HEILAND come about?

Jana: Die Hei­land is based on the auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal book by a Berlin-based and born-blind lawyer, Pamela Pab­st. The book was pub­lished about 6 years ago. Vio­la Jäger from Olgafilm optioned the film rights to that book and then start­ed to devel­op it. [The adap­ta­tion] was orig­i­nal­ly meant to be a TV-movie; then the RBB, the Berlin-Bran­den­burg broad­cast­er, decid­ed to turn it into a long-run­ning series. I took over from exist­ing mate­r­i­al by Silke Zertz. By the time Vio­la approached me, three scripts and three expos­es were ready, but they didn’t get through to the final approval by the ARD com­mis­sion­ing board. That was when I took over with Niko and the author Christoph Cal­len­berg. It was the sum­mer of 2016, I think.

Q: You said that it was based on a book by a real lawyer. She also had an assis­tant in real life? Were they both part of the cre­ative process?

Jana: Yes, we all met Pamela Pab­st. I actu­al­ly end­ed up spend­ing a lot of time with her, because for me [this project] rep­re­sent­ed a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge. As a see­ing per­son, I think it is impos­si­ble to real­ly get [what it means to be blind], but I could start to empathize and could put that into the sto­ry and try to under­stand what it might mean for her assis­tant as well. We actu­al­ly went togeth­er on a jour­ney to Bochum, where she had a court case. I accom­pa­nied her all day – on the train, in the hotel, the next morn­ing, while eat­ing… it was through all these that I got first-hand expe­ri­ence.

Niko: You became her assis­tant!

Jana: Yes, and then the blind­ness start­ed com­ing to life in the scripts. Of course, I also con­sult­ed her for legal stuff and I end­ed up read­ing to her all the scripts. She was like “Jana, it’s real­ly not nec­es­sary, the com­put­er can read me the script.” I thought this would have been nicer, so I con­tin­ued. At the end, she asked me to keep on com­ing. I thought, “What have I got myself into?” [laughs], but actu­al­ly we became friends.

Read the whole inter­view with Jana Bur­bach