(this is a slightly re-worked version of a comment I left at Self-Reliant Filmmaking blog re: the topic of building a new self-distribution/screening/microcinema scene)
On 1) Indie film orgs/institutions, 2) 60's & 70's indie filmmakers as models for the late '00 self-distro scene, 3) unnecessary segregation in liberal indie media scenes, and finally 4) a good reason for being an indie filmmaker:
I need to look at joining AIVF, perhaps this month, and also need to look into IFP & any other orgs that may be of use in self-distributing my new feature Date Number One & making more low/no budget D.I.Y. features & self-distributing them.
Looking at how indie filmmakers were doing things, what they were doing in the 70's (and even 60's) could provide very useful models for me and other indie filmmakers who are engaged in self-distribution & creating a new self-distro scene at this moment. But essentially a new wheel will have to be invented, as far as I can tell. Looking for help from non-profit org backed aspects of the indie film culture/industry is cool, but those orgs alone would create (& have created) a relatively low number of opportunities for indie filmmakers - compared to a D.I.Y. indie rock type artist & audience driven culture/industry (which results from individual artists working a lot to build an audience for their projects). The combination of the two would be ideal - institutions/orgs will secure a constant base of support & a minimal audience at least, and individual films/filmmakers will build on that by pulling in (and of course sometimes driving away :) different audiences to the scene, project by project.
One of the weird developments/aspects in liberal independent media/entertainment (both in indie rock & indie film scenes) in America is the kind of soft "racial" segregation that exists there. As far as I can tell, most indie rock shows & indie films, for the moment, draw a predominantly "white" audience while at the same time relatively large non-"white" audiences such as Asian-Americans (tons of Asian American film festivals around, feels like, they certainly made The Debut & Robot Stories successes), African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have created parallel scenes/industries. There are no strong or valuable philosophical justifications for the low level of integration in the liberal independent media scenes. Fuller integration just hasn't been done yet. There are very powerful benefits to developing more integrated scenes: $s (more people, more money), new ideas (or new combinations of ideas resulting from different cultural starting points/group experience starting points), and the wider diffusion of useful & positive ideas (the relatively anti-materialist, pro-D.I.Y. & self-sufficiency, & pro-community activist stances of indie rock & indie film can perhaps be very useful to teens from all backgrounds who may not have those ideas & examples as options in their Hollywood created entertainmentscape). The independent scene in America, in both music & film, stand in relation to the more mainstream scene/industry and is defined to a certain degree by the mainstream industry (Hollywood, basically). We could do the good things that Hollywood is not doing at any given moment. Otherwise being independent may become a relatively useless & redundant thing. That's one good reason for being an independent filmmaker in America: having the ability to do positive things that Hollywood & Indiewood are not doing.