Working-class sisters Annie and Lizzie are in the surplus of 400,000 unmarried women in 1800 England. Living on an impoverished small-holding in the Yorkshire Dales with their feckless father, the farm labour lands firmly on their shoulders but it’s impossible to make ends meet. In a world where women are owned and wives sold, Lizzie sees marriage as the way out while Annie views it as the hangman’s noose, but both sisters desperately want a better life. All is set to change when Annie receives a proposal letter that seems to answer all the family’s problems, except her own.
A creative and visionary writer/director from Yorkshire, Sarah Clift’s background is in writing award-winning advertisement campaigns in London agencies, including for brands such as Adidas and McDonald’s as well as directing government commercials. Sarah made a bold move to directing film with her debut short, LA MADRE BUENA, which arose to immediate acclaim, screening at Academy and BAFTA recognised film festivals and receiving 50 wins and nominations, including a BFI NETWORK Postroom Pick, BIFA long list, Shots New Director of the Year, Free the Bid New Director and New Filmmakers LA Best Screenplay. Sarah’s work has been screened at venues including the Motion Picture Academy and the House of Commons, London. Sarah is currently working on several projects focusing on unique stories led by strong female characters, including the short films THE BIRTH OF… VALERIE VENUS (with producers Serena Armitage and Pietro Greppi, co-funded by BFI NETWORK, currently in post-production) and LITTLE THINGS (with producers Philippa Tsang and Vicki Brown, in development). Sarah was selected from over 500 applicants as one of the BFI CONNECT@ London Film Festival 2018 alumni for filmmakers breaking boundaries for their upcoming debut feature films.
Pietro and Serena are working on several projects together, including Sarah Clift’s BFI NETWORK-supported short THE BIRTH OF… VALERIE VENUS, currently in post-production, and the feature film adaptation of Laura Kaye’s novel ENGLISH ANIMALS with director Claire Oakley and writer Emily Marcuson, in development with the BFI.
Serena set up her York-based company, Red Breast Productions in 2016 following a twelve-year career in television. Over the past three years, she has been building a development slate supported by the BFI Vision Awards. Serena won an Academy Award® in 2016 for producing Benjamin Cleary’s short film STUTTERER and is currently in post-production on the debut feature film LOOK THE OTHER WAY AND RUN. In 2018, she was one of ten UK producers chosen for the BFI / Screen Ireland Irish co-production partnership at Galway Fleadh and in 2016 was selected to speak as part of the global “ITV Big Think” alongside Simon Cowell and Grayson Perry. Having graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in English Literature, Serena started her career editing television trailers, before being selected for the ITV Fast Track Scheme. From here, she went on to produce and direct BAFTA nominated and NTA winning programmes for Channel 4 and ITV.
Pietro is a London-based British-Italian producer. His credits include Andrew Steggall’s writing/directing debut feature, DEPARTURE, starring Juliet Stevenson and Alex Lawther, a UK/France production co-financed by the BFI; and Giacomo Cimini’s award-winning short THE NOSTALGIST, starring Lambert Wilson, which screened at festivals worldwide and is distributed on platforms including WIRED and iTunes. Pietro has developed features with partners including Creative England, Ingenious and The Wellcome Trust. He began his career in New York with a development internship at Christine Vachon’s Killer Films and working in distribution at Magnolia Pictures. He later worked across sales and financing at Goldcrest in London, on films such as Andrea Arnold’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS and THE IRON LADY. He holds a BFA in Film & Television from NYU’s Tisch and studied business at Milan’s Bocconi University.