Film Festivals: To Pay Or Not To Pay

Distributing Your Short
One of the biggest problems for short filmmakers who do not have any credits as yet, is how to get their films seen or distributed. I would imagine that like me, for most short filmmakers, they would be happy with an audience simply seeing their work, regardless of whether it gets picked up or someone notices them and offers them a job. Of course you can put your short film online but you are immediately faced with a small issue.
Most well known festivals want exclusivity for the films that are submitted to them. This makes it hard for you, because it mean that you have to hide your work until you hear the verdict on your short. 
It is a gamble and unless you know your film is 'festival-friendly' I think you are risking a lot of your money on something that may not pan out. £5 here and there would be tolerable. £30-£50 here and there is a lot of money for the people who are usually the ones making these shorts. 
You Decide Who Sees It
I recently decided to take my short film Harlot back and own it again. After I made it I took if offline for a long time in the hope of entering it into festivals. After about a year I realised that I had spent over £100 in total and had no hope of winning anything. 
I didn't take this to mean that the film is bad or didn't do what it was supposed to. I did take it to mean that I get to decide where my film is shown. I made it to be viewed and I had wasted valuable time waiting for the higher powers of filmfests to give me the go ahead. I put it back online. 
I then spent some time looking into film festivals. I was convinced there were festivals that were free. Not only that but I was convinced there were free entry festivals who also accepted online links instead of the old-fashioned DVD screening option. What century are we in? Please!
After much googling and frowning over the results I finally found FilmFreeway:
It's like Withoutabox but cooler looking and even better...FREE! 
All you do is sign up, add your film as a project and then start browsing festivals. Granted, the festivals on there are paid submission but, again unlike Withoutabox, there is a handy search option which allows you to search for free entries. 
You can then scroll down the lists and just keep hitting submit while the slick little site happily adds them all to your cart so you can submit them all at once when you're finished. 
I have yet to find out whether my film will be submitted to any of them but it was encouraging to find this option in the first place. 
The Future
I understand that film festivals cost to put on. Venue hire, staff, preparation, jury members etc., must all add up and tickets alone aren't going to settle it. However, there has to be options out there for those filmmakers who are still learning and stretching their creative wings. 
There has to be an outlet for those who don't have the name or contacts or look to get them into the better known, sleeker festivals and frankly, I am sure that there are certain types of films that would never in a million years get picked up by a festival, not because they don't tell a story but because they are simply made for a different audience. 
The way we watch content is changing and no matter what any of the ex-BBC, stick-in-the-mud society say, it will change even more in the coming years. One day soon DVDs will be done away with for screenings and one day after that they will become what Betamax is to us now. 
Wait. Beta-what? 
Yeah, exactly.  
I think you have to find your own way to distribute your work. Be it through forums, Facebook groups, Google +, unknown festivals or filmmaking gatherings in your hometown. Don't forget it's ok to start small.