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How to re-establish a vodka empire

Independent web and mobile video content platform Babelgum has launched “How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire”, the latest of a series of projects which break the boundaries of traditional film distribution. The 24-part series charts the fascinating and often surreal odyssey of a young filmmaker, Dan Edelstyn, who heads to Ukraine to explore his ancestry. Finding out his great-grandfather once owned the town’s now nearly bankrupt vodka distillery, the filmmaker decides to use his wits and wherewithal to not only revive the business by launching a new vodka brand named after his ancestors, but the fortunes of the small, financially put-upon town from which his family grew.

Babelgum is taking a unique stake in the project by providing early financing and premiering the series on its edge-pushing broadband and mobile network, before the effort culminates as a feature documentary set for theatrical release and worldwide television (More4 in the UK) in early 2011.
For filmmaker Edelstyn, a self-proclaimed fantasist time traveller, the plot was simple. He would film the exploration of his past and the search for his great-grandfather’s vodka distillery, which was seized in the chaos of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.  However, his dream to recover the lost family fortune twists into a fight to rescue a forgotten village. Edelstyn’s initial approach of documenting his ancestral story of refuge is quickly cast aside when he becomes a source of inspiration and hope, breathing new life, wealth and dignity into an impoverished town and its people. Instead the film takes a turn and follows Dan’s daunting and often hilarious attempt to launch his new brand, named Zorokovich 1917 Vodka, into the high-competitive and potentially lucrative international vodka market. Along the way we meet world-renowned ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi, top-end trendsetting London department stores Selfridges and plenty of cunning investors and liquor distributors, which provide a unique insight into the closed-up worlds of filmmaking, advertising and entrepreneurship.
“The vision of re-establishing the family business was born to be a social enterprise,” explains Edelstyn. “It’s about connecting a forgotten village in Northeastern Ukraine to a potential international vodka market to hopefully produce more jobs, schools, healthcare and housing.”
“In essence, I inherited a love of a place I never knew but which lived in my bloodline, and a desire to make a positive contribution to the people who are living there in hard times,” continues Edelstyn. “Due to Ukrainian laws, I could not inherit the property seized from my ancestors, but I could help build a business that would honor their past and help provide for the town’s future.”
“We reaffirm our pioneering mission to premiere feature films on line and via mobile ahead of their TV and theatrical release,” adds Laurence Billiet, publisher of Babelgum Metropolis. “Daniel’s story has it all – revolution, romance, entrepreneurship and redemption, set against the glorious history of pre-Revolution Russia and the glitzy world of international spirits’ marketing.  We’re glad that we can play a central role in not only bringing this great project to life, but capitalizing on the immediacy of the internet to share it with our viewers in almost real-time as it unfolds.”
“How to Re-establish a Vodka Empire is a perfect example of the innovative way in which documentaries can be financed today,” comments Christopher Hird, Dartmouth Films. “Part of the money comes from a pre-sale to a broadcaster, part of the money comes from private backers, part from a "crowd funding" model and part from online and mobile. Babelgum is not only putting up money, which helps pay for the film, but also the "story of the film" episodes will help build a social network of supporters for the film ahead of its release.“
With short re-enactments and a humorous voiceover, Dan Edelstyn’s journey is fascinating, as he attempts to import, brand, and then distribute the vodka worldwide. Already in talks with heavyweight distributors Zorokovich 1917 Vodka is destined to become a brand recognised on both sides of the Atlantic.

“How to Re-Establish A Vodka Empire” is a co-production between Optimistic Productions and Dartmouth Films.

To watch the series click here

About Optimistic ProductionsOptimistic Productions is a partnership between Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell. They draw on respective backgrounds in photojournalism and storytelling and visual arts/theatre to produce inventive films in a variety of milieu. Documentary broadcast credits sit alongside BFI acquired films such as ‘The Games’ and commissioned public projects fusing participatory event, urban film document and animation. From set design/installation to multimedia production, music and guerrilla choreography they continually push the boundaries/potential of their creative collaborations further – seen in this current feature in production in which documentary and dramatic interludes combine and an event-driven model drives funding and distribution.

About Dartmouth Films
Started in 2008 by Christopher Hird, who has more than 20 years experience as a producer in television and documentary, to concentrate on making independent documentaries. Dartmouth’s major 2009 credit has been The End of the Line, the feature documentary about the threat to the world’s oceans as a result of over fishing. With a successful cinema release in the UK, a major online campaign and a partnership with Google Ocean, in which people reclaim their share of the oceans, the film has already made an impact on public attitudes and on the policies of companies and government.

About Babelgum
Babelgum is an integrated web and mobile video content platform free for users and supported by advertising available on-demand to a global audience. Babelgum Mobile is an original application currently available in the United States, UK, Italy, Germany, France and Spain which brings regionally tailored programming to smart phones – at present iPhone 3G, iPod Touch, Google Android G-Phones 1 and 2, Nokia (N96, N95 and 6210) – via 3G and WiFi ( Positioned between user generated video hubs and network TV-oriented destinations, Babelgum focuses on the third part of the ecosystem: innovative, editorially curated and professionally produced content on very specific passions – music, comedy, film, urban culture, nature and the environment –. Babelgum’s programming is comprised of exclusive original productions as well as independent and mainstream titles. Babelgum’s content partners include, among others, EMI, Sony Music, the New York Times, PBS, BBC, VBS, Lonely Planet, Coolhunting, National Geographic, Off the Fence, Funny or Die, T5M, Shine Limited, Cinetic Rights Management, Content Republic, Gong Anime, WorkBook Project, Cinelan, Reverse Shot, Shooting People, Film Independent, Power to the Pixel, and the Spirit Awards as well as the Encounters, Los Angeles, and Hamptons film festivals.
The company has also set up a series of online contests to nurture independent film, music and art talent: the Babelgum Online Film Festival, the Babelgum Music Video Awards and the Babelgum Metropolis Art Prize chaired respectively by Spike Lee (BOFF1 & 2), Michel Gondry and Isabella Rossellini. Babelgum is an independent and privately held company with offices in the UK, United States and Italy.


1 August 2010 - Felicity Murray