Spread out across four episodes on YouTube, Indie vs. Studio is a film-industry spoof of the Mac vs. PC Apple campaign that ultimately acts a rallying cry to encourage independent media producers to take advantage of the WGA strike to figure out new ways to work outside the system. But it takes a circuitous path towards that destination.
We know how these things work: Indie is supposed to be inherently cooler than Studio, just as Mac is supposed to be inherently cooler than PC. But the initial dynamic between the two characters in Indie vs. Studio is very different than its inspiration. Mac, as played by Justin Long, is totally unflappable, coolly confident that even if PC doesn’t come around right away, Mac is ultimately the “correct” path. But in the first two Indie vs. Studio segments, Indie gets flustered incredibly easily, eventually storming off in a huff at Studio’s cheery revelation that he’s looking to cast Dane Cook as Ricky Ricardo in a big-screen remake of I Love Lucy. Meanwhile, his own pet projects sound kind of drippy and humorless.
These first two episodes are a great satire of the pretension of a certain type of independent media maker, who holds onto his “integrity” at all costs, and ultimately looks foolish and naive for doing so. Making a movie with the help of your girlfriend and your mom is not inherently “better” than making a movie with the help of your “main man Marketing” and “a studio-friendly film critic,” and these two episodes nicely puncture the arrogance that suggests otherwise.
This perspective begins to shift with episode three, when Indie vs. Studio starts to morph into (seemingly informal) anti-AMPTP propaganda. The third episode concludes with Studio’s obligatory dig at a screenwriter, who lurks at the back of the pack of essential production personnel. The message is hammered home further in episode four, in which Indie, having received three Oscar nominations in categories like Best Picture and Best Screenplay to Studio’s eight in also-ran tech/craft categories, comes into his coolly pious own.
It’s an interesting narrative arc, and it parallels the rise in confidence of the writers, stars and comedians who throughout the course of the strike have come to shrug off initial frustrations and, emboldened by a lack of institutional restraints, have found freedom on the web.