I've been researching a book I'm working on (which will be landing very soon), looking at how indpendent filmmakers can remain absolutely independent throughout the whole process.
At the moment, crowdfunding and self-distribution are real buzz-words, and of course they cover the start and the ultimate end of the creative process. Whilst there are a couple of poster-boys for the fundraising platforms (I'm looking at you, Kickstarter), on the distribution side, the options are a little more Wild West.
You have plenty of plenty of upstarts looking to lead the way, such as Distrify and Filmbinder (diclosure: Filmbinder were one of the sponsors of the 2012 Bootleg Film Festival), and although these services all vary, they all centralise around the concept that you can retail your movies directly to your audience, at a fee you set.
However, another service that I stumbled upon recently is Gumroad, who, as well as allowing you to sell for a set fee, offer the riskier option of the 'pay what you want' model.
In an age where downloads are the norm (both legally and otherwise), the option to pick a price for your digital efforts is either salivating or galling to the artist, dependent on where you sit. For the consumer though, it's intelligent.
The way I look at it as an issue of anonymity: would you rather be broke and unknown or broke and building an audience? And you also have to trust that those that want to support you will - whether that be now, on the next project, or even the one after. Either way, we make films because we want to share them, and so why not just play a proverbial gig and offer around the tip jar?
For me, it's logical, and so I'm going to be making Vinyl available under this model soon. The film will also be streamed in HD through YouTube (with ad support), as really, I believe in getting your work out to as many people as possible is really the fundamental thing for an indie filmmaker.
And trust me, after having signed two distribution deals, the business is changing, and we need to change with it. After all, nobody else has solved the digital model really.