This is going to be long, but this is a simple way to get your project ready for earning money. It's certainly not for everyone. But if you are on a low budget and can't really rely on distributors, consider this:
If I were you, I'd make a chart of everything you payed for in regard to the movie. That even includes gas, food, equipment, tapes, etc. Take everything into account. I am going to make up some numbers for the sake of getting my point across.
Say you use $1,000 for everything.
I think I good selling point would be a nicely put together DVD. Maybe make a trailer, get the word of mouth thing going on in your community, and then maybe do a screening and charge a couple bucks for tickets. If you offered a DVD with a nice menu, features, box etc., then people might be interested. Another place to market would be the internet (here, Youtube, Myspace, whatever you can come up with.)
Now, you need to calculate what kind of profit you want to make. You obviously want to make back what you spent, and maybe even a bit more.http://www.discmakers.com/film/products/dvdb101.asp
That site prints DVDs professionally, in many amounts. The price looks high, but hear me out.
You pay $990 for 300 DVDs with boxes, covers, stamped disk (not cheap, blue colored DVD-R), and inserts. Now what you've spent is $1,990.
If you price one DVD package at just $15 (a reasonable DVD price for an indie filmmaker), you will earn $4,200. You just earned $810. If you charged $16, you will earn back everything, and gain $2,210
. Those calculations are considering you keep 20 DVDs for yourself, family, those involved, and festivals/contests. So if you sell all 280, you will earn that much.
To get back what you spent on your film, and the DVDs, you will only need to sell 130 copies. If that seems like too much, you might want to reconsider. But even if you come up slightly short, or don't sell all of them, you have professionally printed copies of your film. It's a risk, but with the right mindset and drive, I think anyone could sell at least 130 copies to friends, neighbors, classmates, teachers, people on the internet, etc. Before you do any of this, make some calculations and see if this is even possible. If you have a no-budget project going on, this is certainly a good decision. You need to take things into consideration and predict how many people would buy it.