PROMISE, a timely and celebrated short film starring Rebecca Callard (The Detectorists) is making its online premiere today! Written by first time screenwriter and actor Hannah Lee. Promise originated as one of the top three film ideas in our annual competition in 2015.
The film – inspired by Genesis chapter 16 in the Bible – is about a Syrian refugee (Lara Sawalha) who 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.
Her pitch was a finalist entry and though it didn’t win, the story grabbed the attention of judge Neville Pierce – a contributing editor to Empire magazine, and an award-winning director in his own right.
Pierce, competition judge since its inception in 2008 explains, “The Pitch provides a production budget of £30,000 for the winner each year, but this particular year there was a small cash prize for the runners up, too. We used that as a starting point for more funding. I thought the story felt timely and inventive and Hannah was a natural storyteller, so I offered to direct it.”
Lee, a Cambridge English graduate who trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, wrote Promise while appearing on stage in the Mousetrap in the West End. She was able to travel in support of Promise and relished this new experience. “I met other filmmakers from around the world and was thrilled to see Promise screen at Foyle alongside some really strong shorts including this year’s Oscar winner!”
Promise was hailed by Never Let Me Go director Mark Romanek as “superbly done” and played worldwide, including the Vancouver International Film Festival and the BAFTA-qualifying Foyle Film Festival.
Luke Walton, founder of The Pitch and producer at Reel Issues Films, reflects on how Promise went from pitching hopeful to accomplished film: “There was something about Hannah’s simple hand-drawn storyboard that made the complex emotions of her story stand out. We are looking for ‘simple stories with complex emotions’ and I could see that this adaptation had nailed that approach. Hannah is not only an accomplished actor but clearly a real talent in screenwriting. We will see more from her on the big screen.”