Caro Meets Festivals Interview

James Wren: Unrestricted View Film Festival

By | Published on Thursday 19 April 2018

As you may know, the Unrestricted View team have been running pub theatre Hen & Chickens for rather a long time now, but it was only a couple of years ago that the venue began to operate its now annual and growing film festival.

I wanted to know a bit more about the event – how it got going, and what to expect from this year’s festival – so I arranged a quick chat with  director James Wren.

CM: The festival has been happening for a couple of years now, hasn’t it? Can you tell us a bit about what motivated its creation?
JW: We’ve run the upstairs theatre at the Hen & Chickens for nearly 20 years. It’s always been a hub for new writing and emerging comedy and in 2015 we added the screening equipment so we could also help up-and-coming filmmakers. The demand was really high and in 2016 we thought we’d put a film festival together and it has gone from strength to strength ever since.

CM: Who is involved in bringing the event together?
JW: We are very lucky to have a fantastic relationship with the pub below and the manager Lizi Arnold has been a massive supporter of the festival from day one. The UV team are myself, Felicity Wren and Mark Lyminster – and former producer of the BFI London Film Festival, Emilie Arnold, will be running our opening night gala. We also have a great team working at each venue during the festival.

CM: How do you decide which films will be screened?
JW: Alongside the UV team we have our programmers (Martin Stocks, Jenn Dale, Tony Sands). Every film submitted is watched and we collaborate to come up with a final selection.

CM: The festival has got bigger this time, hasn’t it? Can you tell us about the new venues?
JW: Yes! We are very excited the new venues. Our opening night film ‘Pickups’ (starring Aidan Gillen) will be screened at the beautiful Screen on the Green which is an iconic, Art Deco, single screen cinema in Islington. It opened in 1913 and is one of the oldest continuously running cinemas in the UK. Our other venue, which will be parked in the car park of The Alwyne Castle (26th-29th April) is The Vintage Mobile Cinema which was built in 1967 when The Ministry of Technology built seven of these custom mobile cinema units to tour the country, promoting modern production techniques to British industry. In 1974 the Government sold off the mobile cinemas, and this one is the sole survivor as far as we know.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about this year’s line up – are there any particular themes?
JW: As the name suggests Unrestricted View opens the doors to all genres of film making. We have student projects and films by experienced filmmakers from all across the globe . Films with budgets of thousands and films with no budgets at all! We even have a film directed by a 14 year old.

CM: What would you say are the highlights of this year’s festival?
JW: That’s a tough one… OK, let’s go for ‘Pickups’ on opening night (23 Apr, 7pm, Screen on the Green). ‘Hippopotamus’ (26 Apr, Hen & Chickens), ‘Consolation’ (27 Apr, Hen & Chickens).

CM: What are you personally looking forward to?
JW: Our two new venues! The gorgeous Screen on the Green and the stunning Vintage Mobile Cinema. Still love the H&C though!

CM: What hopes do you have for the festival in future years?
JW: We have plans to keep growing, giving more space and access to independent film

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Unrestricted View’s other concerns/projects?
JW: We run the Hen & Chickens Theatre throughout the year, doing a varied program of theatre and comedy as well as other film festivals. We will be producing a one-woman show called ‘Stupid Cupid’ at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.


The Unrestricted View Film Festival takes place from 23-29 Apr at Hen & Chickens, Screen On The Green and The Vintage Mobile Cinema at The Alwyne Castle. See this page here for a brochure.

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