SALT LAKE CITY — For married couple Davey and Bianca Morrison Dillard, Provo residents and graduates of Brigham Young University, their "Adam & Eve" web series was a jumping-off point for talking about modern relationships.
"It's sort of a metaphor for dating and marriage," Davey Morrison Dillard said. "It feels like a fun, comic way of getting at that — and a very direct way."
The series actually began as something of a way for him to impress his future wife when they were dating. During that time, he wrote "Adam & Eve" as a 10-minute play, and a lot of the material from that script was used in the first season of the series.
By the time the couple was translating the project to film, they were married, and they realized from their new experiences that there was more story to tell.
"There was lots of new territory to explore in a relationship that is more committed and dedicated to making things work out long term," Bianca Morrison Dillard said.
Thus, the seasons seem to mimic where the two are in their relationship. The first season is more about courtship, and the subsequent seasons are more about marriage.
Only the first season is currently available on Amazon Prime. It stars Davey Morrison Dillard as Adam and Becca Ingram Morales as Eve. The story begins immediately after Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the Garden of Eden and realize they will be forced to get to know each other in an entirely different way.
Each of the four episodes are only about 5-10 minutes long, and the whole season totals about half an hour, but it took about five months to complete. The Morrison Dillards got a dozen or so friends from film and theater school together and shot the whole thing in Utah landscapes during their spare time.
They funded the first season out of their own bank accounts with their part-time jobs — she works at the Orem Library and he works as a corporate voice-over artist. They're both also involved in multiple freelance and side projects in theater and film, but it was important to them to do something that was their own.
"After graduating from film school, we spent a couple years writing scripts and pitching projects around," Davey Morrison Dillard said. "Often, there would be interest and things would progress for a little while, and then stall out, or there wouldn't be money. That's how making movies goes, which is fine, but it's also frustrating to have to wait for someone else to give you permission to do something.
"So that was the idea going in, was this was a project where … we could get a small group of friends together and go out into the mountains and shoot without having … to get someone to sign off on it. That's been really fun and really rewarding — but it's also only sustainable for so long."
Currently, their sources of funding are the little money they get from Amazon (only about a nickel each time someone watches an episode) and their ongoing fundraising campaign on Patreon, a site which Bianca Morrison Dillard describes as a Kickstarter for serialized content. Every time they produce a new episode, it charges people the amount they pledged toward their series.
"That's a really valuable tool for us," she said of Patreon. "As we build momentum with the project, we continue to see more people on Patreon every time."
In July, they entered a contest on Stareable, a website that curates web series, that had a grand prize of $2,000 for the most popular series. "Adam & Eve" led the pack for quite a while and, as they promoted the contest, the Morrison Dillards said they quadrupled their views on Amazon Prime. Then, a week before the end of the month, another series entered the competition and ended up winning.
"I think we probably had the most organic views during this contest," Bianca Morrison Dillard said. "Even though we didn't win, the visibility and the committment from the folks who have been following us has been heartening."
Without the hoped-for prize money, their goal is to build up enough of a subscription base on Patreon to make their show sustainable.
Along with posting it online, they've also taken their web series to multiple film festivals locally, out of state and even in Italy. They've been pleased that it has been well-received, even by audiences that aren't members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Christians.
"The Adam and Eve story felt like it was big enough to say something about everyone's experience," Davey Morrison Dillard said. "It's been rewarding to see that people from all different backgrounds have responded to it."