In a talk Jonathan Rosenbaum gave at St. Andrews on cinephilia (he was partly drawing from this post) he mentioned a 'viewing party,' where he got together with a group of interested people and watched Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. The event, as he described it, sounded very much like the 'film act' of Third Cinema, where a group of people would get together to watch a political film as a sort of political rally. Solanas and Getino thought that alternative methods of screening such as this would be an effective way to circumvent Hollywood (and dominant political) ideologies - I'm oversimplifying for the sake of a blog post, read here for the real stuff. Regarding the 'film act,' Solanas and Getino say: "We thus discovered a new facet of cinema: the participation of people who, until then, were considered spectators." In this situation, the audience members become actors and filmmakers, or perhaps it is more proper to say that everyone involved becomes a 'participant.'
To a certain extent, musicians already follow this model of distribution. Although it would be difficult to reconcile the goals of Third Cinema with the goals of (most) musicians, musicians do still run up against hegemonic forms of distribution similar to Hollywood in its relation to the distribution of films - that is, it is relatively impossible to sell a film or an album through common channels (Border's, etc.) without a media presence. Thus small independent bands do not tour for ticket sales, they tour for exposure in the hopes that they will build a fan base and receive positive press. Even if most bands do not become famous rockstars by touring, they do build a presence that is difficult to extinguish.
Filmmakers have yet to really tap into this method of distribution for the most part. It is true that they have their own methods of distribution, notably film festivals for aspiring filmmakers. As noted above, however, the festival market is anything but easy to tap into. Therefore, it is a great deal different than the band that is able to book a small show for 30 or so people. Certain artists have attempted to hybridize their distribution, for example, I know that my friends in The Braille Tapes often offer novels written by members of the band for sale at their shows. Writers tour as well, in a slightly different sense, offering readings and book signings (although, this is already part of the mainstream method of distribution - so it may not be tenable for relatively unknown authors).
I find it somewhat surprising that filmmakers have yet to really validate an operation such as this, because movies are a relatively easy medium to transport outside of mainstream channels of distribution. What I'm proposing here is not that filmmakers contact local theaters to arrange screenings (although this can't hurt either), but that they arrange small screenings in homes or other willing venues for a very small fee (or, by donation). At the event, the filmmakers can present their film, answer questions, and meet interested folks (who are potential small distributors themselves).
'Touring' with films in this way would go far in circumventing the problems emerging filmmakers face when trying to market their films. This is not a new phenomenon. As I mentioned briefly above, political Third Cinema filmmakers 'marketed' their films in the same way. Of course, their goal was not to sell their films, but to build a political congregates dedicated to a particular cause. But how different is the goal of the emerging filmmaker? - the goal is still to build a network of relations and support of the filmmakers' art, political or otherwise.
It is probable that the myth of Hollywood still cripples such efforts. The myth of succeeding at a film festival and being bought up by a production company, etc. There are limit cases that continue to propagate this myth, but by following it filmmakers are forgetting or leaving behind new potentials for their films. The potential to turn 'audiences' into 'participants' by bringing them an affective experience. Perhaps this is unglamorous, but all the more important for being so - a form of distribution based on hard work and real people, not a transcendental ideal.
If anyone can think of films or people that are working this way, please let me know.