Folkestone’s International Film and Television Festival

Folkestone has its own International Film Festival.  Established in 2014, the team of 5 directors has brought hundreds of films to viewers in Folkestone.  Originally there were monthly viewings at the Lime Bar on Tontine Street.  Now, with over 90 films submitted for the next viewing, an annual event is being planned.  There’s talk of bringing the festival to the Tower Theatre.  Co-founders Gary Ingolby-Spate and Steve Davis spoke to Folkelife about the festival’s origins.

Steve: “Our festival idea started out a long time ago as a Horror Film Festival.  There was a fantastic one in London, and another in Ramsgate and I thought Folkestone would be a great destination for a Horror Film Festival.  At the time I was actually making a horror film… “

Gary: “And I had moved down to Folkestone from Grimsby to work on various films and met Steve working on this one.  It ended up being the most-watched Christmas film on Amazon Prime in Christmas 2015. “

Steve: “Yes, Christmas Slay.  That was a lot of fun to make, we filmed in Bulgaria and I can remember spending the last 5 minutes before leaving for our plane washing the fake blood off the walls!  Anyway, whilst we were working on that film together, I suggested doing a Film Festival.  Gary has experience of film festivals having been part of the team of the Meniscus Film Festival in Grimsby.”

hellfire short film festival

Gary: “So we started making plans and had our first event in 2016 in the Lime Bar in Tontine Street.  After that we’d meet once a month, and everyone would vote on a winner of that month’s short films.  At the end of the year we have a panel of judges who vote on various categories, with the audience voting on the best film.  Since we started we’ve received over 3,300 submissions for 143 countries around the world!”

Steve: “At that time we’d called it the Hellfire Short Film Festival.  That’s a nod to the name of this area between Folkestone, Hawkinge and Dover which was known as Hellfire Corner during the 2nd World War.  It got that name during the Battle Of Britain as there was so much activity in the skies from the British and German planes.  It seemed appropriate, and we want to acknowledge the history and heritage of our town in what we do.”

Christmas Slay Cast
Christmas Slay
All In A Days Work Award Winning
The Barbers Cut FIFF

folkestone grows

Gary: “Since we started Folkestone has changed.  It really has grown an international reputation for its artworks and events that happen here.  We felt that the town could really support the status of an International Film Festival that we decided to rename it.  Yes, Covid has slowed us down in how we can show films and put on events, but before the pandemic we were in talks with the Tower Theatre.  This is our local theatre that’s in a disused church in Cheriton.  What better place to show horror films than in a church!”

Steve: “We have plans with the Tower Theatre to put on various different film events, and hopefully soon the conditions will be right to do that.  We can have our horror-fest over Halloween maybe, and a larger festival of short films lasting for a few days.”

the judges

Gary: “There’s a small group of us who make up the judges.  Me and Steve, who collectively have been working in film and TV for over 25 years now.  There’s also my wife Sadie who’s our graphic designer and does all our marketing. Kate Griffiths is a friend of ours, but also a fantastic make-up artist who’s worked on many horror films in the past.  She works on films we make and is brilliant as we can pay her in chocolate bars!  Her experience is fantastic though.  She’s worked for 20th Century Fox through to West End shows for over 15 years.  Ben Barton Gibson is our Festival Director and his film ‘Stella Erratica’ was shown at Cannes Film Festival.  These guys make up our judging panel and we have a lot of fun!”

Steve: “We judge on Best Director, Actor, Sound and so on, and the audience get to judge on Best Film.  The winner gets a trophy, and yes, we’ve had winners from Folkestone.  There are a lot of people here who are involved in film.  Some are less mainstream and more art-based, but local actor Ben Shockley won for his film ‘All In A Day’s Work’ directed by Andy Coughlan.  We’re really lucky to have such talent here.  Gary and I are just about to start filming on a rather personal story to me, about my great-grandfather in World War 1.  With the connections we’ve made, and the films we’ve got planned, expect great things of the Folkestone International Film and Television Festival.”

discover more about folkestone below

Peter Blach – Filming in Folkestone
Terry Smith – Strangelove and Moving Pictures
Charlie Phillips – Documentary King Of Folkestone
Hellfire Corner – Folkestone and the Battle Of Britain

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