'Marwencol'

Indie Roundup in your weekly guide to what's new and upcoming in the world of independent film. Pictured above:
Marwencol.

Fest Scene. As thousands make their final preparations to attend the Cannes film festival next week, other fests are wrapping up. The venerable San Francisco International Film Festival -- covered by Jeffrey M. Anderson and Eugene Novikov -- closes tonight, while Hot Docs in Toronto -- covered by Monika Bartyzel -- continues through the weekend. The Tribeca Film Festival has concluded, but you can catch up on all of our coverage (by Eric D. Snider, Christopher Campbell, and Scott Weinberg) right here.

The Seattle International Film Festival is gearing up for its latest super-sized edition, which begins on May 20 and runs through June 13. One week later, the Los Angeles Film Festival gets underway in their new downtown digs; they've just announced their lineup. On a sad note, Erik Davis reported that indie film supporter Gen Art has closed its doors after 16 years -- and with it goes the beloved Gen Art Film Festival.

Deals. Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol has been acquired by The Cinema Guild for U.S. distribution, says indieWIRE, and will open in theaters this fall. The film won the jury award for best documentary at SXSW, as well as a special jury prize at Independent Film Festival Boston. It follows a man who was brutally beaten and struggles to recover both physically and mentally. He creates a miniature town in his back yard as a form of therapy. Lauren Lester at Gordon and the Whale says it's "a deeply moving film that deserves to be seen for its art alone."

After the jump:What's on YouTube?

YouTubeOnline / On Demand. Our own Christopher Campbell reported recently on the initiative by YouTube to allow filmmakers to charge rental fees for their videos, which sparked a lively discussion in the comments section. Christopher contrasted the program with Netflix's Watch Instantly and its monthly subscription fee. And, as he pointed out, "per-film rental prices are more of a gamble. ... I don't see a lot of unknowns gaining as much exposure with this kind of platform."

For the independent filmmaker, YouTube presents one more option in an increasingly crowded space. As online platforms proliferate, the number of films available increases exponentially. It's rather daunting to sift through Amazon VOD, iTunes, YouTube, or your cable provider's on demand selections to try and find something you might want to watch, and then decide whether you want to risk the price of a rental.

But, really, is it any different than the old days at a video rental store? During the height of my addiction, when I'd rent up to 10 films a week, I can often remember staring at the shelves, picking up one video after another, and skimming the synopsis to see if it sounded worthy of a rental.

Nowadays, I'm much more informed. I also benefit from the recommendations of friends and trusted strangers (i.e. film festivals and certain critics). It's still a crap shoot, of course, but I'd rather have too much to choose from than not enough.

Getting back to the filmmaker's perspective, however, it points to the myriad challenges of marketing and distribution. Is there a single right "answer" for every filmmaker, some magic formula: I will submit to X number of film festivals and/or distribute on Amazon VOD and YouTube but not iTunes (or vice versa)?

David Poland at The Hot Blog, writing about four recent specialty releases, observed: "No 'answer.' Just a lot of decisions and a lot of hard work. really thinking through every movie every time. I know that people want The Answer. But the money is still out there... it's just that the funnel into the pocket of the filmmaker and the distributor is not as formulaic as it has been and as makes people comfy."

I think the best advice for independent filmmakers remains simple. Make what you have to make. And keep the budget low.