How the ladies of ‘DIBS’ crowdfunded their webseries

Thanks to the success of Broad City, television is seeing a return to a golden age of great lady duos. Who will be the next Ilana and Abbi? With the advent of the webseries, and the ease of modern crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it could be anyone and their bestie.

Recently, that notion received a cheeky critique from Daily Show producer Jena Friedman, musician Reggie Watts, and other comedians in the video for the world’s first “non-funding” platform, WorkHarder. The video makes the point that creative success takes a lot more work than just sitting back and watching your funds roll in.

Certainly artists need some amount of money to see their projects to completion. So does all crowdfunding equal slacking?

Not if you ask Jessie Jolles and Tracy Soren, creators of the webseries DIBS. The series centers around a tightly-knit friendship, and that energy reverberates in a real-life conversation with the two. They speak in tandem, filling in details and finishing each other’s thoughts, pausing to give each other smiles, laughs, and accolades. They’ve got each other’s backs. But just beneath the surface of any conversation with Jolles and Soren is their tough-as-nails work ethic.

Eager to make meaningful content and show their production team due respect through proper pay and good meals, the duo launched a crowdfunding campaign, but not without serious thought. Before turning to crowdfunding, the team funded season one of DIBS out of pocket and split all expenses.

“It was 50-50,” Jolles said. “We didn’t know what it was going to cost but we knew we were going to split it.” They also wanted to show people what they were capable of doing before they asked for support.

“I think it’s important to have work out there so that you can ask for something that you’re proving,” she said. “We’ve done this, we’d now love your support.”

Season one was their first time running a production, but the results were successful and they quickly decided to do a second season. “We didn’t want to lose momentum,” Soren explained. “We’re workhorses, sometimes to a fault, but it’s also probably our greatest strength, and we just want to go go go go go.”

That energy was tempered with a practical and realistic mindset. “People take advantage of crowdfunding,” Jolles said, and the pair had no interest in jumping on that bandwagon. So they turned to Seed & Spark, a smaller, more selective crowdfunding platform, dedicated solely to independent filmmakers. They especially liked the transparency of the platform. Supporters could donate dollar amounts, purchase meals or equipment, or even offer to help by loaning necessities. The campaign was a terrific success, and they were shooting season two within four months of releasing their first season.

The second season was lauded for its humorous portrayal of an intimate female friendship. Jolles and Soren attribute this success in no small part to Seed & Spark’s terrific networking potential.

“We started to find people through Seed & Spark,” Soren said. The ladies also note how social media played a role—they’d tweet out their support of a campaign on Twitter and those filmmakers would tweet support for DIBS.

“Here are all these independent filmmakers and it’s a thing that we’re a part of now,” Soren explained. “It fosters such a community.”

With two seasons of the webseries under their belts, the duo focused on smaller projects but continued to produce content at a frenetic pace. “Shoot, shoot, shoot!” is their mantra, according to Jolles.

“You gotta do it,” Soren added.

Whether honing hilarious character work in Learning Together, a series featuring the twosome as homeschooled, Internet-less sisters who attend college and want to give you love, sex, and life advice, or keeping it real in a recent sketch in which two Jewish extras call out the ludicrous premise of a romantic scene that takes place in the Anne Frank House in The Fault In Our Stars, Soren and Jolles exhibit joyful chemistry.

Their latest video, a commercial parody for a call service that reminds you you’re about to get your period, was spawned by a real-life conversation. If DIBS was a big vision where they worked hard to iron out details and create a smooth production, their newer work comes from taking small ideas and blowing them up to scale with as little fuss as possible.

“Right now we get these ideas and then we just say, ‘We’re gonna shoot it this weekend,’” Soren said. From there, it’s just the twosome and a camera, and a helping hand or two if a friend is available. But if the projects sound smaller that doesn’t mean the ladies are taking them any less seriously.

“We have the equipment…we have our own budget… and we’ve gotten really good at feeding people on a very tight, tight budget,” Soren said. 

“But we feed everybody, and they’re full!”Jolles added. 

Now what was that about crowdfunders being slackers?

Screengrab via Soren & Jolles/YouTube 

Nayomi Reghay

Nayomi Reghay

Nayomi Reghay is a frequent contributor to the Daily Dot, covering body positivity, feminism, sex, relationships, and gender. She is also the author of the advice column “Swipe This!” A former New York Teaching Fellow, her writing has been featured in Reductress, Rolling Stone, Mic, Someecards, and more.