Time, as we all know, is a very valuable thing. Like any commodity, it’s crucial for all of us to spend time wisely and to save it in equal measure. In today’s high tech age, and especially in the emerging world of web series, time makes a huge difference. The award-winning comedy MINUTESWORTH proves that in hilarious and convenient fashion every week, while also using a distinctive method of structuring and distributing each episode.

Co-created by Gordon Thomas (who also co-starred, edited and directed with Tom Herod, Jr.), MINUTESWORTH is quite possibly the only daily web sitcom anywhere online. Modeled after the traditional daily newspaper comic strip, and with each episode as part of a unifying theme, MINUTESWORTH brings viewers 5 episodes (no more than 1 minute each) each weekday on its official web site and Youtube pages.

1378550_1123963194410273_996580455_nAll 5 of those episodes come together as part of the show’s “Sunday Funnies” on weekends.

In total, 99 of those “minutes” have been produced, with production taking place over the course of 3 sessions: the first being in Los Angeles in the fall of 2012, and the other two held in Austin, Texas in 2013 and 2014. In addition, the show also features special supplemental social media content that further enhances the show’s experience.

While production of MINUTESWORTH is currently on hold at the moment as Thomas and his team seek to find the best source for financing their series, Thomas will speak more on daily distribution at a panel discussion on March 17th at the upcoming South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.

The show’s talented, and vast, ensemble cast brings viewers the often wacky moments that arise for a group of married couples who are different in every way possible, but who also have their own distinctive personalities and mannerisms.

Among the couples featured in the first series of episodes are Mike (played by Thomas) and Candi (Susan Rudick), who are both devoted to their family, as well as each other. Lisa (Anna Easteden) and Art (played by Herod), seek only the best in everything, while trying to maintain their lofty standing in social circles. Rounding out the Los Angeles cast are Jane Rogers as Julia and Dave Wilder as Chip.

1377497_1126497144156878_993766732_nThe Austin casts include Rodnesha Green and Kerry Ramsay (2014 LA Web Fest winner for Outstanding Actor in A Comedy for MINUTESWORTH, and again nominated this year) as Bobbie and Bob.

MINUTESWORTH’s other couples include Hilda and Ralph (played by Angie Sardiña and Al Bianchi), Melissa and Gerald (Nikki Zook, Wray Crawford), Kat and Fred (Alex Kiester, Matt Kalbfleisch), and Ken and Linda (Jeff Kahn, Terrie Dreyfus).

Aiming to create a web series that could be produced on a low budget, Thomas soon found the inspiration to create MINUTESWORTH after hearing from Herod about real life couples, and their friends, whose frequent get-togethers yielded conversations that were far more interesting than the TV shows they watched.

“My friend and now partner, Tom Herod, had told me about a group of friends who got together regularly to watch televised events, sports, award shows, and such,” Thomas recalls. “The women were long time friends, and the husbands basically only knew each other because of the wives. So our original premise was a series based on catching up with these people at the parties, but only in the kitchen.”

While most web series creators distribute their shows and attempt to build their audiences on a weekly, or in some cases, monthly basis, Thomas and Herod have greater ambitions for the success of MINUTESWORTH. As he explains, the key to its success lies in its unique distribution method.

10003112_1181555868651005_1849177521_nHaving produced enough material for 19 weeks of shows (99 “minutes”), Thomas and Herod learned how to fine tune their production process throughout the show’s production.

“We accomplished this (the production system) in 7 shooting days, spread out over 3 rounds of production,” he adds. “We now know how to do it, but have decided to hold off on the next round of production as we try to put together the financing for our larger plan.”

Along with the main episodes of the series, viewers can get even more content through MINUTESWORTH’s presence on social media. “Part of what we share on Facebook and Twitter are our ‘Mini Minutes’, a one or two line clip that may have a different meaning out of context,” says Thomas, who adds that he plans to add more supplemental content from the show on various sites.

“We are going to start breaking down dialogue and images into memes and GIFs as we make better use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” he says. “We are also going to use dialogue from the scripts for our Tumblr account. They may only be a minute in length, but there is a lot meat on these tasty, slice of life Minutes.”

While MINUTESWORTH is unique in that it distributes its content daily, Thomas hopes to make more people aware of the possibilities that such a system provides to web series creators and to online media professionals alike – regardless of whether they work in fiction or non-fiction. To that end, Thomas sought to organize a special panel discussion on the subject at the upcoming SXSW Interactive Festival.

“…I proposed a panel to SXSW Interactive and it was accepted. I was able to get a representative from GSD&M, the largest ad agency in Austin,” Thomas says. “Jonathan Hart, Director of Analytics, will be by my Co-Host for ‘Daily Web Content for Branded Websites.’ This is a Core Conversation on March 17 between 12:30 and 1:30 PM (at the Hyatt Regency Austin). I was glad to pull this together.”

10013112_1181917208614871_1065130228_nProfiting from daily online content is another reason why Thomas arranged the SXSW panel. As a result, he is also considering several options for achieving revenue for the series.

Among them: syndication through supplemental “value added” entertainment on various web sites, including those who distribute daily content, and sponsorship tags at the beginning and end of each episode.

“We have a large, ensemble cast, even though they are only seen two at time. This allows for characters to be spread out over time and not concentrate on a single storyline,” adds Thomas. “The women all know each other from their work as lawyers but have strong individual convictions (and acquittals.) The men run the range from CEO, to downsized stay at home dad.”

In order to achieve the minute-long length of each episode, and to do so on a limited budget and time schedule, Thomas and Herod developed an efficient production structure that began at the writers’ desk and continued on through to the final shoot. “Two characters per scene (3 max), one page scripts to stay under time, and each set has a minimum of 5 scenes. In Los Angeles and in Austin we were able to use a single house for multiple locations.”

Thomas’ Los Angeles cast consisted mainly of people he knew, plus other actors who were suggested to him. With that cast in place, MINUTESWORTH’s first block of shooting began.

1380013_1121319164674676_931543609_n“We shot a party week where friends interact. A week called ‘Home Office’ where different couples have parallel experiences as they go through their bills. (Each episode starts with the line, “Honey, come in here.”) The third week was ‘Waiting for Kiddot’, where fathers are stuck in the bleachers waiting for soccer practice to end.”

MINUTESWORTH’s comedic situations and characters grew as the first Austin-based shoot in 2013 approached. This time, Herod held open auditions for what would be the show’s second shooting block. Among the crew on that shoot was director of photography Lee Daniel, who also served in the same capacity on Richard Linklater’s acclaimed, Oscar-nominated drama BOYHOOD.

“We added new characters during the Austin shoot,” Thomas says. “Besides the party scenarios, weekly themes included “Bedtime Stories”, where we find different couples catching up on their day and chatting in bed, ‘Hacked’ (waking up to a nightmare), and ‘Whatsisname’, a simple story of forgetting.”

Last year’s second round of production was equally productive, and with even more hilarious situations and conversations depicted in each episode. “In 2014 we shot again in Austin, completing 60 scripts in 3 days,” Thomas remembers. “We used a slightly smaller cast that year. Storylines included prepping for a garage sale, and trying to find the real fantasy in fantasy football.”

Thomas managed to adapt each script, as well as the production process, to every situation and setting depicted in MINUTESWORTH. “The party scenes were all in the kitchen, but it was a large cast day as almost everyone came in for their party patter,” he says. “Scenes with couples allowed us to be in a room with just two actors for 5 to 10 scripts.”

1374050_1128568070616452_452859667_nFor Thomas and Herod, the goal of shooting each minute-long episode in an efficient time frame was crucial throughout the production of MINUTESWORTH.

When it came to capturing the performances of the show’s cast on camera, the task of setting up each shot would also prove to be crucial, and beneficial, as they sought to get multiple “minutes” in the can.

“We also worked on setting one shot and letting the actors carry the scene. However, each script is different, so we would shoot close ups on some of them. Using this technique we were able to shoot 15 to 20 per day in a 10-hour shooting day, 8 hours for actors,” adds Thomas. “As a side note I would like to say, when shooting on a low to no budget production, the best pay is an organized, productive, short day.”

Efficiency was also the name of the game during post-production. “Where we could, we used a single take. If needed, we could cut in close ups or add digital camera moves,” adds Thomas. “Graphically we had pre-built open and closing cards with minimal text to add. Then it was time for a little sweetening.”

That sweetening also included the final key ingredient in MINUTESWORTH’s streamlined post-production process: the show’s upbeat piano theme music (nominated for Outstanding Music Score at this year’s LA WebFest), which was as short and sweet as the show’s episodes themselves.

224397_157785164361419_264506547_n“Austin musician Chris Gage wrote our MINUTESWORTH theme, which had an open, a body, and a sting at the end (just like our scripts). He then recorded several more variations on that theme,” Thomas says.

“All we (Thomas and Herod) had to do was sync up the beginning and the end, sneak in a music edit in the middle and they were done. This process allowed us to edit a week’s worth of Minutes in just a couple of days.”

Thomas feels that MINUTESWORTH will have its biggest appeal among viewers who like more sophisticated comedy; humor that’s smart, fast paced and especially memorable. Yet, he adds, MINUTESWORTH’s comedy is much more than just rapid fire banter. “MINUTESWORTH is often more about character than a punchline. We try to have both.”

Thanks to its quick, yet highly effective pacing and trademark humor, MINUTESWORTH is a comedy that proves that like great comedy itself, timing is everything – even when you’ve only got a minute. While Thomas hopes to continue the show’s success, and to make it a profitable venture for all involved, his biggest goal for MINUTESWORTH is simple.

“Our goal is to make people laugh. We want to present a view of events that feel common, but are handled with a unique perspective. Our perfect ending is when somebody finds (himself or herself) in a similar situation, we have supplied them with a MINUTESWORTH comeback.”

Note: Regarding closed-captioning of MINUTESWORTH, Thomas says: “We initially posted two videos, the second being our own subtitled version. We now use the (closed captioning feature on YouTube.”)

For more information on Thomas’ SXSW panel, visit:

ON THE WEB: http://www.minutesworth.com/

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxmYKvdIJpzwLwjZftGEMxw

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Minutesworth

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/MNWRTH