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Homestar Runner’s “Indie vs. Independent”

Panelists, critics, educators, please step aside, for the masterminds behind everyone’s favorite long-running animated episodic comedy website, Homestar Runner, are here to explain the real difference between “independent” and “indie” cinema.

For years, Mike and Matt Chapman (and tech guru Ryan Sterritt) have sent out a consistently sharp and funny weekly short film/email, in which the tempestuous Strong Bad responds to questions sent in by viewers. In addition to Strong Bad, the characters of the HR universe—Free Country USA—include Homestar Runner himself, Strong Mad, Strong Sad, Coach Z, The Cheat, Marzipan, Pom Pom, Bubs, The Poopsmith, and The King of Town. Before the word “webisode” had cluttered the e-waves, Homestar Runner was doing its own thing with tender irreverence. The Brothers Chaps have a special ability to satirize and poke fun at anything you could imagine—music, caffeine, video games, sleepovers, movies, computer viruses, funerals, public radio, theme parks, and even animation itself—without ever coming across as snarky or bitter. There’s an inherent sweetness to their humor that makes Homestar Runner that rarely encountered pleasurable family friendly treat.

While all of the emails are available for viewing online, that isn’t the only way to experience the fun that is Homestar Runner. If the three-disc Strong Bad Emails (1-100) DVD set seems too overwhelming for you, the recently released SBEmails’ 50 Greatest Hits is a more streamlined way to enjoy the SBEmails on an actual television screen (though at almost three hours, this one-disc release is jam-packed as well).

But back to the main reason for this post. Recently, the Brothers Chaps decided to sharpen their hilarious blades on our very own industry. That Coach Z was inspired by site co-creator Craig Zobel (Great World of Sound) is only more proof that Strong Bad is up to the challenge of breaking down this ultra-sensitive dilemma to its core.

Watch and learn: Independent (SBEmail 203)

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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