The Mysteries of Production
I'd always read that the best resource for the small, independent producer for getting a film out there and seen is to submit to festivals. You raise the funds; you hold creative control on the film. Distribution deals come after unless you're a bigger name producer in which case a studio will fund or partially fund the film. I've also read or heard that presenting your film at the American Film Market (AFM) and/or the Independent Feature Film Market (IFFM) is important in getting it picked up for possible distribution in theaters and overseas.
I started reading John J. Lee, Jr.'s "The Producer's Business Handbook" and his advice is the opposite. He suggests that the independent producer should not rely (solely) on the festival circuit. Too many producers max out credit cards and borrow money from friends and family to make their films, then submit them to festivals. Only a small percentage of the films are ever accepted at the larger, more prominent festivals (like Sundance), and of those films shown at the larger festivals, maybe one or two will actually get picked up by a distributor. Mr. Lee suggests seeking funding from a distributor and getting a distribution deal before the film is completed.
I haven't gotten far enough yet to discover how he thinks the indie producer should go about doing this, or what other avenues of funding are available, but I find what he says interesting. An independent producer will rarely or never make any profit on a film that is presented this way (self-raised funds, festival circuit). True enough, it does makes sense, but if you're a beginning filmmaker, how do you get your films seen if not through the festivals? (or online like Atom Films or self-distribution/DVDs on demand?) I'm curious to see if he offers any concrete advice and examples in his book.
As a comparison, I think I'll read up on any articles posted at http://www.ifp.org/as well.