Between Two Lines is a story that investigates identity and what true mateship really means
Behind Two Lines tells the fictional story of a Wiradjuri man joining the World War I war effort to "be respected as an Australian soldier, not just seen as a black fella". Ahead of its screening at Flickerfest we spoke with director, Jack Steele.
How does it feel to have Between Two Lines selected for Flickerfest 2020?
It’s such an honour to be selected by Flickerfest. I’m excited to attend and see some of the amazing films as part of this year’s selection. My directing tutor, Sam Ribillet, was an avid supporter of the festival, and I know she would be proud to see one of her students selected in the program.
The idea for Between Two Lines came about while you were developing another war story, the feature film The Colored Digger. Can you tell us how you developed the story from your initial idea and what attracts you to war themes?
This is my first drama credit and I know no one would back me for the feature film if I didn’t first prove I could direct something of a similar calibre. I sat down one day and thought about a short story I’d like to explore set in the backdrop of the first world war. War is always such an interesting topic to me because it’s such an evil thing, yet often its where some of the most beautiful stories of mateship, kindness, courage, and love are found.
What kind of research did you do to ensure the authenticity of the story and what did you do to help you create the world?
The Australian war memorial has been a fantastic help, especially their dedicated Indigenous department. I have been researching The Colored Digger for almost five years now and as part of that process I have a stack of books at home that have given me a lot of insight into the First World War.
Warwick Thornton is the DOP on Between Two Lines. How did you get such a prolific filmmaker on this project?
It was purely chance. We were having trouble locking down a DOP at the time, for many reasons. One day my producer Mitch calls me and says, “Warwick Thornton is here and has read your script and wants to shoot it.”
I thought Mitch was playing a trick on me! Anyway, I obviously said yes, and it turned out to be a great decision. Warwick is a great collaborator, and now a good friend.
What kinds of conversations did you have with Warwick around the style and look of the film while you were developing it?
Warwick and I were on the same page from day one. I spent nearly seven years in the camera department before switching to directing and felt comfortable communicating with Warwick about the visual style I’d love to see the film take on. Warwick and I both agreed shooting with some old Panavision anamorphic lenses would be a great start. Originally, I wanted to have a lot more moving camera work to make the most use out of the battlefield, but Warwick encouraged me to save the moving shots for special moments, hence the opening and closing shots are virtually the only big moves in the film. Most of the film is locked off to allow the sense of loneliness to take hold.
As a filmmaker, why is it important for you to tell stories around the lived experiences of Indigenous people?
It’s important to me because they are stories I feel need to be told, especially something like Aboriginal Soldiers in times of war. It has only been in the last five years that there has been a bigger focus and recognition to their stories. The platform for native voices all over the world is getting bigger and more people can share their stories. I feel honoured to be sharing that platform with them.
Best of Australian 4 – 2020 stream
Sunday 12 January 2020, 8.45pm | Runtime: 105mins
1: Between Two Lines, Clarence Ryan, Julian Felix and director Jack Steele on set. Photo by John Paille.
2: Director Jack Steele. Photo by John Paille.