Dive into Between Lines
By Alixandra Rutnik on Feb 09, 2023
YG20 Winner Sarah Beth Morgan directs beautiful short film Between Lines
Bullying is a very universal experience. I’m sure most adults can recall a memory where they had to cope with mean kids at school growing up. Some scenarios can be extremely detrimental and cause a lot of trauma for people later in life.
Between Lines is an animated short film about the heartache of dealing with mean girls at school. It was written and directed by Young Guns 20 Winner and Animator Sarah Beth Morgan, and made by an entirley female crew. Sarah Beth explores her personal and painful emotions from past trauma through her beautiful imagery and script. She immerses us into an underwater world where we feel the healing process begin.
We talked to Sarah Beth about her debut film, and if you’re curious to learn more about her as an artist, you can read her Young Guns winning interview here.
As the writer, director, and designer/animator for this short film about “mean girls,” where did you pull your inspiration from?
Between Lines undoubtedly originated from a personal experience I had with bullying. Around 2005, I was in middle school and experienced gossip, isolation and exclusion from a group of close friends. It really impacted me and plagued me with continuing trust issues. It exaggerated my perfectionism and people-pleasing qualities. And from there, I continued to make toxic friendships long into adulthood. Over time, I realized that anyone can be subject to this type of bullying, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, class or worldly location. Through the creation of my film, I want others out there to know they are not alone and to see their story validated through concrete visuals.
"Through the creation of my film, I want others out there to know they are not alone and to see their story validated through concrete visuals."
What came first in the process of making Between Lines?
The actual idea for creating this film came to me during therapy. My therapist suggested I use my creativity as a way to release some past tension and heal my wounds. I felt extremely called to turn this into a larger project, as it’s something that has always been on my mind. So in 2019, I began by creating a short Google Slides presentation with a moodboard and storyboard outlining my idea. Slowly, I brought on more help by showing friends my presentation. It began with my writer friend, Nirrimi Firebrace, who offered to help turn the script into something more poetic. I felt it was necessary to have the story locked down before coming up with the illustrations, so that I had more context for what to create. The title “Between Lines” was actually her idea, and I thought it worked beautifully with the overall narrative.
My favorite moment in Between Lines is when the little fish dive into the toothpaste. What scene do you love?
Thank you so much! Those are honestly some of my favorite moments as well. I think my favorite storytelling moment comes at the end of the film, when the protagonist recognizes that someone else has been experiencing something similar to her - that she is not alone in her trauma. I love that the two connect momentarily, and then metaphorically swim off into a school of broken fish together. My hope is that someone who is currently enduring something similar might find hope and healing in this moment.
The underwater theme of the film evokes strong feelings of sadness. What about this traumatic memory made you want to express your art in this way?
I really strived to portray the pain that this experience causes without being too literal. At first I had thought the bully could present as a “monster” type creature, but that’s not really how the situation played out in real life. Even “bullies” have their own monsters and are probably going through something traumatic of their own. I wanted to focus more on the protagonist’s emotions than the offending party’s actions. That’s why I focused on this underwater “anxiety” world. It’s meant to hint at that sinking, nauseating feeling you get when someone hurts you. That “gut punch” you feel when you’re thrust into the unknown.
"That’s why I focused on this underwater “anxiety” world. It’s meant to hint at that sinking, nauseating feeling you get when someone hurts you. That “gut punch” you feel when you’re thrust into the unknown."
I love that the creative team for this piece is all women! Have you worked on a team with all women before? What was your overall experience working with everyone on Between Lines?
I have not! It was a huge goal of mine, mostly due to the subject matter, to create an all-women team. And since this project had no particular deadline, we could really focus on resourcing and finding folks who the story resonated with. In this industry, we tend to stick to our own communities / “bubbles” and work with the same people over and over. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wanted to expand my network to find more talented women! It took a lot of reaching out, researching and social media hunting to find everyone, but we ended up working with a TON of folks we had never spoken to before. It was really magical.
"It took a lot of reaching out, researching and social media hunting to find everyone, but we ended up working with a TON of folks we had never spoken to before. It was really magical."
We tried to make the process fun and low-pressure, letting everyone work on however many shots they felt comfortable with (and sometimes only small portions of shots). We also had fun Zoom hangouts every now and then to just connect with everyone on a personal level. We created a super fun community that I’m extremely proud of, and I can’t wait to continue to work with everyone in the future.
You are about to become a first time mommy! Congrats- that is very exciting. What are you looking forward to most about motherhood?
Yes! A motion mommy! Thank you so much. My husband, Tyler, and I are very excited to welcome our little one into the world. It’s extremely hard to know what to expect since it’s SUCH a new journey we’re preparing for, but I’m mostly excited to see him grow and become his own person. To support his dreams and not push my own onto him.
You’ve had a lot of major accomplishments in the last nine months! Winning a YG20 Cube, releasing Between Lines, and becoming a mom, anything else on the radar?
That all sounds crazy when you lay it out there like that! These past few years have been wild. I’m super proud of how far I’ve come. Currently, my plan after maternity leave is to continue working as a freelance animation director represented by Hornet. I also have a lot of online classes I’m working on - especially my Skillshare classes! But most of all I’ve been enjoying my little side-hobby of clay creations (I’ve been posting a lot about this on my Instagram). It’s been really refreshing to have something creative to focus on that’s not work-oriented.
Thank you so much for having me! We are super honored for Between Lines to be featured.
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