The Water of Life, a documentary about Scotland’s whisky industry, has been picked up by PBS.
The public broadcaster will launch the feature doc, which is exec produced by The Magicians star Brittany Curran, in June.
The doc was shot in six countries on three continents over three years and tells the story of the creative revolution that saved Scotland’s once flagging whisky industry and turned it into the global titan it is today.
It features a half-dozen distillers and distilleries but focuses much of its time on the resurrection of the tiny Bruichladdich Distillery on the remote Scottish island of Islay. Led by Mark Reynier and whisky legend Jim McEwan, the distillery went from being a mothballed memory to a world-beating innovator in a matter of years, helping to save the struggling economy of the island often called Whisky Island.
It also includes whisky writer Charles Maclean, master distiller Billy Walker, master blenders Dr. Rachel Barrie and David Stewart as well as the next generation of whisky folk including Adam Hannett, Kelsey McKechnie, Liam Hughes, Iain Croucher, and Eddie Brook.
The film was initially crowdfunded, and the release strategy included a heavy presence at both film and whisky festivals. But then Covid happened so the team pivoted to virtual screenings, paired with whisky tastings.
The 90-minute film, which was picked up by PBS+, will air on PBS starting on June 1 with many outlets airing on Father’s Day, June 19.
The film was produced by Blacksmith & Jones, the production company that Greg Swartz co-owns with Trevor Jones. It was co-produced by Special Order and Aurora Films.
“We are excited to include the delightfully charming film The Water of Life in the summer 2022 PBS+ schedule,” said Sarah Bilodeau, program director of PBS+.
Curran added, “We knew that we wanted to make a film that would appeal just as much to people who don’t drink whisky as it would to those who are experts. We shot, scored, and paced the film purposely to bring the audience on a sensory journey as they watch the story unfold. And we think that that’s pretty unique. We’re excited about it as filmmakers and as whisky geeks.”
“We were accepted into our first film festival on a Monday and it was canceled on a Tuesday. Pretty quickly, we realized that we had a problem on our hands,” said director Greg Swartz. “So, we got creative and we began to do online events that were paired with whisky tasting kits, live Q&A with the distillers, and even limited edition bottlings.”
“We are very excited to be on PBS because it’s really the gold standard of documentary film in America,” Jones said. “We think it’s a perfect fit because the film is as much a love letter to Scotland as it is to whisky itself and we really tried to create a cinematic portrayal of the beautiful Scottish countryside.”
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.