Among the books I picked up during a one-dollar spree at The Strand a while back is a nifty little volume entitled Off-Hollywood: The Making and Marketing of Independent Films. The emphasis is as much on the marketing as it is the making — that is, the process of finding money for the project, the logistics of creating it, the often knotty problems of getting distribution. It's a bit on the dry and scholarly side, with a lot of financial charts and tables, but I enjoyed how it talked about some of my own personal favorites: El Norte, Hollywood Shuffle, Eating Raoul, My Dinner With Andre, and so on.
I paid close attention to the book around the time I was junking Thegline.com (my old domain and my old projects) and bringing Genji Press online. There were a lot of lessons in there about how to draw attention to projects that might not otherwise get an audience at all. The most invaluable lesson was that if you build an audience directly, face-to-face, through word-of-mouth and the power of your own persona, you get more useful clout than you ever could through ad flyers or anything you bought.
This isn't MBA machine hype, but something I puzzled out on my own while trying to figure out how to make this all come together. I didn't want to make a million dollars or become a "bestseller". I just wanted to garner a palpable amount of appreciation for my work, build a fanbase that I could relate to on a personal level, and have (cue The Clash) complete control over my work. Such things don't come without continued effort — but oh, man, when they do, what a kick!
What I like best about this whole business is how I feel like I'm providing something that's as close to handmade as you get in this culture-of-the-copy world of ours. It's a vibe I got from many of the movies listed above and discussed in the book, too — that they were put together "by hand", not stapled together from other movies and audience-tested into oblivion. Irwin Chusid has a little blurb on the back of his outsider-music compilation CDs: "Get off the focus-group treadmill and hear some real sounds!" or something to that effect. I'd like to think I'm doing something in the same vein.