Originally known as Hagar, Promise was a runner up in The Pitch 2015, but judge Neville Pierce  loved the story. So he set about raising extra funds and directing the film, as well as producing it with Luke Walton of Reel Issues Films.

Below you can watch the finished film, hear more about Hannah Lee’s experiences with The Pitch and see her original entry.

What is Promise about?

A Syrian refugee (Lara Sawalha) can only stay in Britain if she becomes a surrogate mother for a desperate couple (Rebecca Callard and Nabil Elouahabi), but their illicit pact has dark consequences.

What is it based on?

The story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar as told in Genesis chapter 16.

Where can I watch it?

Promise is available on vimeo and embedded below.

Screenwriter Hannah Lee reflects on making Promise

Q&A with screenwriter Hannah Lee


Hannah Lee

How would you define yourself now?

Actor / Writer

What stage of your career were you at when you applied to The Pitch?

I'd been a professional actor for 7 years and had started to do some freelance writing – but I hadn't written a screenplay before.

How would you say The Pitch team helped you with production of ‘Promise’?

It wouldn't have happened without them! They put together the cast and crew, helped to finance the project and gave me a lot of support and guidance along the way.

How much development was involved from what you pitched in the boardroom to what we see as the final short film? E.g. how many drafts did you produce?

The final script was completed over a year after pitching at Pinewood, so it went through an awful lot of development. I think there were 6 major drafts but lots of other rewrites and edits along the way.

How important is the title of a short film? E.g. yours started out as Hagar landed up as ‘Promise’. Can you explain?

You need to capture the essence of your film in the title. We moved away from 'Hagar' when we realised that it was just as much Sarah's story. 'Promise' worked thematically and it's still short and punchy so it's easy to remember.

I believe ‘Promise’ has already entered into festivals – was it Foyle Film Festival? How did that go?

It played at Vancouver International Film Festival and Foyle Film Festival. I saw it at the latter, which was a great experience: I met other filmmakers from around the world and was thrilled to see Promise screen alongside some really strong shorts (including this year's Oscar winner).

You weren’t the winner of The Pitch, the year you entered so did people wonder how you had managed to get the film made?

Yes, people are often interested to know how that worked. I had some starter funding from The Pitch for coming Runner Up and the producers worked hard to find the rest!

I understand that you were performing in ‘The Mousetrap’ in the West End whilst you were producing ‘Promise’. How on earth did you fit it all in?

I was writing rather than producing, so I didn't have responsibilities beyond getting the script right. However, I did try to watch as much of the filming as possible (and be an extra pair of hands on set), but that was challenging with a 9 show week!

Naturally you are an actor so would you like to direct as well in the future?

Yes, I'd really like to direct at some point. I'm working on honing my writing skills first and then I hope to direct one of my scripts.

How has being involved in The Pitch developed you as a filmmaker/person?

The Pitch has been a fantastic learning curve. The support and guidance I've had along the way has given me the confidence and experience to kick start my screenwriting. As a result of The Pitch, I've been mentored by David Baboulene and Lucy Scher who have transformed the way I look at film and storytelling. I'm using their advice every time I sit down to write.

Finally… What would be your over riding tip for anyone considering applying this year?

Find a story to tell with characters that really interest you. They're the heart of the film and you'll be living with them for a long time over the course of the competition (and hopefully beyond). You have to be just as excited about telling their story at the finals in January as you were when you picked them months beforehand.

Here is the original video pitch for Promise:

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