Titanic Minute

Hosted by three UW-Madison graduates, "Titanic Minute" launches on Dec. 4.

What’s the best way to tackle one of the biggest movies ever made?

How about one minute at a time?

The movie is “Titanic,” James Cameron’s Oscar-winning 1997 blockbuster about the doomed ocean liner. The podcast is “Titanic Minute,” created by three University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates, which will devote each episode, each running around 15 to 20 minutes long, to a different 60 seconds of the three-hours-plus movie.

The three hosts — Rob Lumley, Joe Duellman and Dan "Duff" Marfield, dubbed “the Midnight Boys” by Lumley’s wife for watching movies late at night — are longtime friends and UW-Madison graduates. The “Titanic Minute” podcast, a follow-up to their just-complete “Tombstone Minute” podcast, launches on Dec. 4, just in time for the film’s 20th anniversary.

“Since it’s 195 minutes, which means 195 episodes, we’re trying to work ahead,” Lumley said. “If it all works out, we’ll have 55 done by the time the first episode airs. Part of me is like, “Fifty-five? That’s great!’ Part of me is like, ‘That’s 140 more to do.’”

It might sound like a strange and exhaustive way to talk about a movie, but “minute movie” podcasts are an increasingly popular subgenre in the world of podcasts. “Star Wars Minute” has gone minute by minute through the first five films (including 10 episodes just on the closing credits), while there are other podcasts dedicated to “The Big Lebowski,” “Back to the Future” and “Goodfellas.”

Lumley, who works at the UW’s Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, said he wanted to do a podcast with his friends now that they’ve all moved to different cities, and became a fan of the “Star Wars Minute.”

“The minute-by-minute format gives you a hook,” he said. “There’s a lot of these minute-by-minute podcasts, and a lot of them stick to the movie a lot more than we do. We spin off in all sorts of directions.”

The trio discovered doing “Tombstone” that while they thought the film’s key moments (such as the shootout at the OK Corral) would provide the most entertaining episodes, that often wasn’t the case.

“You have these iconic moments, and we didn’t have a whole lot to say,” he said. “It’s kind of more fun to dig into those moments that are less interesting.”

Even though Duellman lives in Milwaukee and Marfield lives in Minneapolis, the trio are able to record the episodes together using software called Cast, which lets them record high-quality audio and store it on the cloud.

The “Tombstone” podcast ended up having over 22,000 downloads, which way exceeded Lumley’s expectations. He’s excited about the potential for a podcast for one of the most successful movies ever made, which remains such a quotable pop culture phenomenon even as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“I don’t have to say, ‘Have you seen ‘Titanic?’” he said. “It’s a movie that has this incredible production story. While it was being made it was thought of as a joke, and ends up being the biggest movie. I don’t think we’ll ever see a movie like ‘Titanic’ again.”

The podcast will be available for free on iTunes and Google Play. Lumley said “Tombstone” got a lot of support from friends and acquaintances, but he’s especially happy to hear from a stranger that they like the podcast.

“It’s really exciting and a charge when you get an email from a stranger,” he said. “We had one who said that his job had been so rough during the summer, and every day he looked forward to that 20 minutes of laughing at the Tombstone Minute. That makes it all worth it.”

Ultimately, though, the three Midnight Boys will tackle the epic “Titanic” because it’s fun to do together.

“A big part of doing this is, in some ways, has been about friendship,” Lumley said. “At its very core, the reason we do this podcast is that I have these two good friends from college, they live in different cities, and this gives us a chance to talk every week. We just happen to record it.”

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Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.