One of Runawaybox‘s web series, Elevator promises and delivers ninety seconds of weekly comedy trapped within the confines of four aluminum walls.

"We’re the closest thing the web has to a video comic strip," said writer-director-performer Woody Tondorf via e-mail. "There’s nothing flashy about Elevator. There are very few effects, there’s even less music, and editing is a four-letter word."

Despite working directly out of a tiny corner of HBO‘s West Coast office in Santa Monica, Runawaybox only makes vague allusion to parent company Home Box Offfice. "HBO funds everything we do, we’re an ongoing experiment, informing them about what works in the digital world, whether it’s talent, content creation, programming or marketing." 

###Rather than draw from slumming (or shining) TV performers for its first internet venture, HBO West Coast President chose Tondorf and the rest of the crew from already-established Internet work. "I came to Runawaybox straight from Boston College. I had just finished writing, starring, and producing a parody of Fox’s show The OC, called The BC."

When he signed on to Runawaybox, Tondorf wanted to create a series "impossibly simple" to produce, a locked-frame, one-take show that could deliver a fresh episode every day.  "I thought that something from an elevator security camera might be a fun idea, seeing as we’re all trapped in a small box with people we don’t know for an amount of time, often dropping in on their conversations and having no idea what they’re talking about." 

Like Roadents, Ask a Ninja, and Maria Bamford, the show’s boiled down to simple, core ingredients, and the resulting location and production limitations in no way confine its creativity. 

Elevator makes the most of a revolving cast of office drones, janitors and sometimes ninjas. In Bad Dream, the universal nightmare of showing up naked at work is given a new twist. While the series is good at capturing foibles of office life, there’s nothing too groundbreaking about using an out-of-context Ninja to get a laugh (but it’s still funny). Cellphone Miser lives up to its title. 

Tondorf explained because the show is so easy to film and requires little to no editing, they’re able to film about a dozen episodes per shoot day, possibly more if they feel like improving a few. "Writing is done 98% of the time by me over the span of a couple weeks, I call up the regulars about a week in advance, and we kick out the jams."

For the moment, Runawaybox is ambitiously growing its base instead of becoming an HBO farm league. Elevator feels like a training ground for a next generation of comedy with always cute and occasionally LOL-worthy results.  But Tondorf did admit that new media can be a scary place, and gaining an audience can be just as much luck as skill.  "The future will be full of new series, new one-offs, new music videos, etc. I’ve got a new short called The Great Office Nerf War coming out in June, and my new series, a college comedy called Hooking Up, starts filming in July with some really cool people in new media."

If they’re at all as good as Elevator, we’ll be watching.

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