The Making of Raise the Bar


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The Making of Raise the Bar

Oliva: Hey, welcome back. This is Sapphic Stories, a podcast by Dipsea. I'm your host, Olivia, and today we have a very special episode. This is a behind the scenes of Raise the Bar. I have Faye with us, our CEO, and we're going to talk a little bit about how we made this series and why we chose to.

Faye: The first episode of the series we made in 2021... I thought it was before that.

Oliva: I thought so too, because the series feels very pre-COVID.

Faye: I know. I thought for sure it was going to be 2019, but it seems that we wrote this post-COVID. It's kind of like a fantasy of our pre-COVID lives.

Oliva: I think, yeah, well, one thing we talked about a lot at Dipsea is that, the Dipseaverse, as we call it, is a place where nothing bad ever seems to happen.

Faye: Certainly not COVID.

Oliva: Not COVID. And I think people asked us a lot, like, are you going to incorporate that into your storytelling?

Faye: Yeah.

Oliva: And the answer was no.

Faye: Absolutely not.

Oliva: If I'm trying to fantasize, I want to imagine a world… Without germs.

Faye: Without germs. No germs. Without viral exposure.

Oliva: There's no, like, microbial life.

Faye: Totally. I prefer it to be semi aspirational reality in which nothing bad happens, and this feels exactly like that. And also feels very inspired by just, like, classic legal procedural shows.

Oliva: Totally. I think that was sort of the, The Ask of the series, I remember brainstorming and being like, let's just make a classic series. Hard to set out to make something classic, but…

Faye: Let's make it iconic. Let's make it the best ever.

Oliva: Hahah

Faye: We've been dragging our feet. Enough of this bullshit.

Oliva: No more mid stories. No more brainstorming. We go in there and we're like, we want to make something Great. We want to make something like, you know, I feel like there are a couple of classic tropes. It's like professor. It's hot boss. It's… that's all I can think of. Haha. Those are some classic series. And we hadn't done a queer series with a work relationship, which people are always asking for.

Faye: I think it's like our most successful first work relationship. In fact, it inspired us to make a straight version of this series afterwards.

Oliva: Right.

Faye: Sometimes at Dipsea we have a concept that we think is really good. Like, your boss and you're at a law firm and there's this BDSM component, I mean, just good shit all around. And sometimes we'll try it first in the, quote, her + him version, then do her + her or the other way around. We did Raise the Bar and then we made a straight version called The Firm. Which never hit as well as Raise the Bar. It works better, I think, in a queer context.

Oliva: Which is really interesting. We could unpack that, but I do want to say that I re-istened to a little bit of this as we've been making the Sapphic Stories podcast, obviously. But also, I was looking back at the scripts, and I just think this series is really good.

Faye: I actually felt the same way reading it. I was like, whoa.

Oliva: And I'm always going to say that what we make is really good because I care about what we make. But I do think the series really hits, and people do really like it, so I know I'm not completely crazy.

Faye: You're not the only one.

Oliva: But I think it just sort of has all the good elements of a good story. And you were saying that it has, you're like, very efficient storytelling. It's extremely efficient. Or economical.

Faye: Economic, yes, right, economic storytelling. Like, I think in the first setup, you're like, okay, you're at the law firm, and you're talking to this third character, a friend, to get the context of where you are. So all the exposition there is like in dialogue, which feels a lot easier to listen to than, like, “it was my last day at the law firm”. Like, whatever. It's actually, like, you're hearing it in context and you immediately recognize this context. It feels like you're in, like, The Good Wife or Suits or, like, haha, some other less dated reference that feels like The Good Wife. Haha. Crazy reference by me. Where you immediately feel like you're, like, oh, he's the senior partner, like, or she's the boss. She's in charge. And I'm just like, the lowly associate, which is a classic good power dynamic. And then you quickly get into working on a case with Isa. So, like, a lot of not sex happens here. But it’s great character setup. This is the first episode and then Isa's immediately kind of dominant caring, but in a work context, which sets up beautifully the sex you have later.

Oliva: I do think she is the perfect hot boss. There's, there's this line, because the dialogue has to do so much work in this series.

Faye: This is a dialogue only series, right?

Oliva: Yeah, which I think was part of our wanting to make it feel sort of like a procedural TV thing. Like there's not, there's more VO in TV now, but generally you don't have VO in TV. And so I feel like Isa's sexiness has to come through in what she says. And I feel like she's really doing that.

Faye: Yeah. And this actor is great too.

Oliva: Yeah, she is wonderful. But there's this moment where I feel like we're planting the seeds of her being this soft dom. Very efficiently, economically. Ha! So Alex is like,

AUDIO CLIP FROM RAISE THE BAR: “So do you like it here? It's what, month six? I think we're way past small talk, Alex. Oh. Thank God.”

Two things happening there. First of all, just like saying, like calling it as it is. Totally. Very sexy.

Faye: And like setting up also quickly to the listener, like there's context here. It's not like this is a total stranger. I think when you do these, obviously breaking the rules / power dynamic stuff, it's good to set up some good contextual safety and that does a lot of work.

Oliva: Right. I think it's interesting with the series too because the contextual safety is helpful and in some ways it's like, this story in real life… We don't really want to see this story play out in real life! But we still, in the fantasy, want to make it seem okay.

Faye: Totally. Well, I think in the similar vein of, like, nothing bad happens in the Dipseaverse, we set up, like, okay, there's this hot boss you think has this kinky side and awesome, she's super into you and she does. Like, win! And like, there's no fallout from that. Where like, I do think in the TV procedural version, like in a world where you're trying to create like conflict-driven storytelling, which is like not really what we're trying to do here. You would have like, the promotion that she's up for, or actually like, Alex, or Isa's secretly married. Like, whatever.

Oliva: Life ruining affair.

Faye: Totally. But there's no like, hammer. whatever dropping here. There's no the other shoe dropping here. It's just like the pure fantasy.

Oliva: Yeah. Which I think just makes it so much easier to enjoy. You're like, I'm not worried about anything. It does feel sort of adrenaline-inducing to be like, Oh, they could get caught. This is off limits, but you're like, nobody's life is being ruined. Okay. And then moving through the story towards the first ever sex scene, I feel like there's this other great moment. It's just, like, the whole script is so tight. It's where we have the satisfying moment of Isa being vulnerable for the first time.

AUDIO CLIP FROM RAISE THE BAR: “You know, there's this whole other side to me. I have to keep it locked away. I wish I could show you that.”

It's like, Haha, I bet she does.

Faye: I wish I could… tie you to my bed later. Haha, Her vulnerable side.

Oliva: Dropping hints that I'm lightly into BDSM

Faye: Totally.

Oliva: But I think that's okay. They have this intense relationship at work… and oh no, actually she's a real person, she's being a little vulnerable. Then they're going to have a moment of conflict. Classic storytelling.

Faye: A little bit of conflict. Just the softest touch of conflict.

Oliva: They get a little, like, rude to each other in the office. Yes. The case is intense and Alex makes a mistake.

Faye: And we have our first, like, direction in the script that's like, “little bit commanding.” It's like, we're gonna amp that up soon, don't worry.

Oliva: Just a little bit.

Faye: Isa says, “Alex", little bit commanding.

Oliva: I love that. I love the direction. Those notes are so good. And then they get in this little fight, it's like, what's going to happen? We know what's going to happen. Later…

Faye: They're going to have sex!

Oliva: They're going to have sex!

Faye: Twist.

Oliva: Plot twist: They hook up! Haha. And they go, Alex goes home. She gets a call from Isa. Isa's apologizing. And it turns into phone sex. Which is kind of interesting.

Faye: I feel like this, because we also have, this is again, a dialogue-only story, so there's none of that, like, in someone's head, you don't hear Isa narrating the experience. And so phone sex is a really good first step in a story like that, because those are the rules, like, there is no other thing happening, it's just the phone call, you know, and they have to be explicit with each other about everything that they're doing, like, I'm doing this, I'm doing that, imagine me doing this. And so it really makes that dialogue feel really natural versus forced. And I think it obviously just works really well in this format of storytelling. Like, it works well in audio to have these kind of phone sex things.

Oliva: Yeah. And sort of for some light BDSM, Isa has to be telling Alex what to do. Like, otherwise they're just saying what they're both doing, which I feel is sort of a weird vibe for long, continuous phone sex. I feel like somebody has to take the lead. And Isa is like, I am lightly commanding. Of course, I will.

Faye: I do think that phone sex feels like, and this is true of like having sex I guess like on the internet or on a phone or whatever in general as it is, like not that it can't be vulnerable or intense or obviously really good, but it is a little bit like safer.

Oliva: Totally.

Faye: Like there's a thing like Alex can just hang up the phone call, like there is just a really easy way out. And so they're both opting in this way that's kind of like an escalation. But like, Alex is at home, she's not in the office. I mean, it ups the stakes really quickly in the episode, but this set's like a really safe little vibe for us that everyone's having fun and is into it.

Oliva: Except imagine when you go to the office the next day. Haha. Ugh. Terrible.

Faye: Luckily, there's no episode like that.

Oliva: We don't do that. Haha

Faye: There's no episode of like the horrible, like aftermath.

Oliva: We don't even do awkwardness in The Dipseaverse. We're like, oh, we don't want you to be uncomfortable for a single moment.

Faye: Totally. Totally. I do think it's interesting that this story works really well as a queer story, but didn't really hit as hard as a her + him story when we had him as the boss. And I think that it is because this doesn't feel quite as comfy.

Oliva: Totally. I think that with women, something I've discussed on the pod, I think this actually feels really refreshing in a queer context because there's so much queer media where characters are like, we've been friends for 1, 000 years. We've never admitted our feelings for each other and we are going to inch. So slowly. Towards hooking up.

And this is kind of like two women who are like, you're hot, I'm hot. You're really smart, I'm really smart. Hey, I really want you, you really want me. Like, yeah, let's do it. We're really into BDSM. It's so direct. And I think in the queer context, that is really nice. Like, we have a lot of Portrait of a Lady on Fire hookup energy… ~Tragique~ haha. This is sort of, just fun. Not tragic, just fun. But then in the straight world of storytelling, we have so many stories like this. So it's kind of like, ohh, another one?

Faye: Totally. Where a lot of our top, I mean, the professor one I think is pretty classic, but no, I do think that's true. And I think that it is the case that in a lot of queer media, you see more like, “we shouldn't” and like, “I don't want to be like this” and “I can't tell my parents,” or whatever. And it's like, there's none of that in this. There is no… like, they assume each other are into each other… it's like default gay. Default kinky. Until proven otherwise. I think that really feels really fun and refreshing. I agree.

Yeah. Okay, so we start with phone sex after Alex, or Isa, has, like, just sent Alex home from work after she made a mistake. Yeah. Time out. Time out. Home with you. Haha

Oliva: She goes home. They have phone sex. They hook up. It's great. It's great. Episode 2. We pick back up. Alex has not told anyone.

Faye: Back at the scene of the crime.

Oliva: The flirting crime.

Faye: Of the flirting crime.

Oliva: Not the sex crime. Not the sex crime. Back in the office. There's an office party happening. This also, again, feels extremely pre-COVID. Who has been to an office party?

Faye: I know! I'm so shocked we wrote this in 2021. We must have been, like, fully nostalgic.

Oliva: So they're back in the office, there's an office party happening, and Alex goes upstairs to Isa's private office, which nobody even has private offices. More like a cubicle.

Faye: Like a floating desk that they share with like 4 other people.

Oliva: Okay, so she goes up to her office. The door is locked. They hook up.

Faye: Also, establishing the door can lock. The door. It's so huge.

Oliva: Door locking is a huge detail in Dipsea stories. I know, we think about doors all the time. Somebody's like walking towards a desk and somebody's like, Hey, wait a second, lock the door.

Faye: Oh, it's really realistic. I do feel like, even in my own home, I'm like, close the bedroom door.

Oliva: I also feel like it clearly establishes what's about to happen.

Faye: Exactly. It is the case, too, that because we're not doing, again, because of the lack of voiceover in this, it's such an extreme version of she talks you through it. It's like they both are explicitly saying what they're doing to each other, how it feels, what they're doing to themselves.

Oliva: Totally. I think that that is kind of what happens in our sex scenes in general. Like, I joke that if somebody talked this much during sex, it would actually be extremely disturbing. Haha Like, there is such thing as too much communication. It's like, shut the fuck up. Haha. Just for one second. But it's like, oh no, I'm touching your breast. Let me let you know.

Faye: Haha, I know! I know. I think also there's a lot of like, describing each other's nipples in this.

Oliva: Haha. I feel like we want, well, because as a listener, we want to evoke what's happening, but it's like, there's no natural way. I've come across this many times. There is no natural way to describe a nipple, like the less description the better. It just feels weird.

Faye: Totally. Well, I think also, like, the sound. Like, we can't do that with sound. Like, some things we can do with sound. You can't tell what you're kissing. Sorry. Right, right. I do also love that Isa has a vibrator at the office.

Oliva: I was just about to say, I was just about to say, Isa has a vibrator, and not just at the office, in her purse. First of all, she has a purse!

Faye: She has it with her at all times. It's not just, like, in my locked office drawer. It's, like, in my handbag.

Oliva: And it's not, like, you know there where those necklace vibrators for a while, like they were like stainless steel or whatever that was a thing. This is like a full vibrator in her bag. Which is, I mean, maybe an office faux pas. Haha

Faye: Maybe a little inappropriate, upon reflection.

Oliva: A lawyer, a lawyer bringing a vibrator in her bag. Just building a case

Faye: Pull out of my briefcase, it's like a stack of papers and my vibrator.

Oliva: So good. I think it's just in there like, is it in a bag, in the bag? Or is it just like? Haha

But, you know, I think we have to balance having episodes where people are not just in their bedrooms having sex. Like, if every story was in somebody's bedroom, it would be boring. And then we want to take them to other places, but people use sex toys. So sometimes somebody has to have, for some reason, have the foresight.

Faye: Gotta suspend disbelief a little bit with us here.

Oliva: Totally. A lot of suspension.

Faye: Also, what we do in this series (this is maybe a little bit too interesting only for us than other people) is we have like a little bit of aftercare. They kind of affirm each other like that was awesome. Yes, it was. I loved that. I loved that too. You did great. You did great. A little bit of like compliment circle at the end. But then we also in the first few set up the next scene.

We do these really light little “next time, don't be so sweet with me” at the end of episode one. And then Alex, at the end of episode two, is like, “that was just the start, wasn't it?” And you have this lead into the next thing. And then for episodes three and four, it's all one scene, essentially. That we just break in half.

Oliva: Right. I actually think that's a classic. I'm always saying that's a classic

Faye: We do so many things that are so classic, haha

Oliva: So classic. That every once in a while, secret of the trade, we'll make a story and we're like, the story is way too long. What if it was two?

Faye: Totally.

Oliva: And then we'll split the stories in half.

That's the history, I'm pretty sure, of episode three and four, which introduces a game called “Mercy” between Isa and Alex.

Faye: Also, it establishes that Isa's a little bit older. We have a little hint in there.

Oliva: Because she owns a home? Haha

Faye: Yeah, no. No, when they're bringing up the game, Isa's like, you ever play the game Mercy, and Alex is like, my older sister played it. And then Isa's like, oh right, I'm a bit older than you.

Oliva: Yeah, it's crazy that we dropped that then. I guess it was sort of maybe assumed.

Faye: We have to just hit one more question, one more thought, go back in time and explain to me the title of this series.

Oliva: Okay, so I think that this actually wins the award for worst Dipsea title.

making of raise the bar blog award

Especially when you think relative to the success of the series, like some bad stories have bad titles, but this is a good story with a terrible title. Haha. The story of the title is that it's a bad pun, a weak pun, it's like the bar exam.

Faye: I know, but also it's like, why are we raising it? It's just kind of like that word is affiliated with law.

Oliva: And I think it's like, oh, raising the bar, like these are like competitive… intense women, like… I guess, but I would say I wish we could change it.

Faye: Now it's too late.

Oliva: It's way too late, but maybe it's kind of charming.

Faye: These five episodes, which are fucking gold, are obviously available on the podcast, but there are more episodes of Raise the Bar on the Dipsea app.

Oliva: And there's more, I think there's more Pillow Talks.

Faye: Yeah, so there is more of Isa talking directly to you. And then we have a couple more, I think this has a very similar energy to The Ticket series.

Oliva: Yes.

Faye: Which is really good, and also on the Dipsea app. And there's I think 10 episodes of that as well. But yeah, we're making more all the time, so if you want more where this came from, check out Dipsea.

Oliva: Yeah, there's also a written series.

Faye: That is also really fun. Yeah. Totally. So yeah, the whole Raise the Barverse…🤨 Raise the Bar Universe… 🤓 more where this came from, on Dipsea.

Listen, light yourself up.

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