Where I Work: Sienna, a film producer pitching projects over video calls

As the coronavirus pandemic makes working from home the norm, our mini series Where I Work is taking a look at people’s home office setups – from the enviable interior design creations to the makeshift desks with their legs sawed off.

Today we’re chatting to Sienna Beckman, 30, the co-founder and creative director of Emergence Films, a film and TV development and production company based in Los Angeles and London.

Amid lockdown, Sienna is getting things done from the London home she shares with three housemates.

Hey, Sienna! How has coronavirus changed the way you work?

I used to work from home occasionally – maybe a third to half of the time – but quite a lot of my work was taking meetings to meet new investors, new potential collaborators, new filmmakers, hearing pitches, and pitching our projects. The other large chunk of it was actually being on film and TV sets, which have all completely stopped.

Luckily, those types of in-person meetings aren’t strictly necessary, so I’ve been able to pretty smoothly transition to those meetings being video calls or phone calls.

Project development is still moving forward, but because we’re unsure of when we’ll be able to operate film sets again, it’s difficult to schedule moving past the development/financing stage, because it’s all very uncertain.

Talk us through your working-from-home space

I currently live with three housemates. Luckily I have my own corner of paradise in our conservatory where I can look out the window and enjoy the sunshine while I work.

I try to keep my work area minimal. I used to have a lot of photos up and inspirational quotes, but I found it getting quite cluttered and I felt like I needed to switch it up.

We were able to rearrange a bit and find me this little corner in the garden room where I can look out the window, get plenty of sunlight, and be separated from the rest of the house so I can concentrate and have quiet for when I’m on the phone.

I work off my laptop and my phone, and I use a wireless mouse, to try to protect my wrists.

In the afternoon when I’m reading scripts, I sometimes like to change my scenery and take my iPad and read on the sofa or outside. I keep a water bottle with me, to make sure I’m staying hydrated during the day. And I have a notebook that I keep all my notes in.

In another room I keep a big white board with all of our projects and where they are at: who I’m waiting to hear back from, who I’ve sent scripts to, who is interested and needs following up with… I hope one day I can get a bigger screen to work off of, but right now, this is the perfect set up for me.

What’s a working day in lockdown like?

I like to order my day in chunks as much as possible. 7am-9am: get up, exercise, eat breakfast, shower, check social media/news, etc.

9am-noon: emails, phone calls, grant applications, business research.

Noon-1pm: lunch break and I usually watch a short film or two during lunch.

1pm-4pm: reading scripts, watching films, more emails as they come in.

4pm-6pm: personal errands, life admin, house chores.

6pm-end of day is dinner, chilling, reading for pleasure, games, catching up with friends, etc.

I have this game plan, but I also try not to be too strict with myself, so if I end up feeling a bit lack-lustre or having trouble concentrating, there’s a bit of flexibility in my schedule to allow for that. Especially because our business operates internationally, sometimes I have to get up early or stay up late for conference calls or responding to urgent emails coming from different time zones.

I make daily to-do lists and try to accomplish those tasks, but I also try to cut myself a bit of slack, because we’re all going through a very strange time!

How have you found working from home in lockdown?

The biggest challenge for me is not being able to interact with people. I used to attend many evening networking events and screenings and parties and gatherings. I truly miss that. Doing it remotely is just not quite the same.

I do also sometimes find it difficult to concentrate. With three other people who work in creative industries in the house, we all work on different schedules.

Mostly I’m pretty good at concentrating, so I can get stuff done when I need to. But as I said before, if I find my mind wandering, I try not to be too hard on myself and give myself the space to recentre as it can.

How are you doing mentally amid the pandemic?

On average, I would say I’m doing ok. It’s been such an emotional rollercoaster – some days I feel very low and need to just take time to do things that bring me comfort. Other days I feel pretty good and end up being very productive, so I try to capitalise on those days as much as possible.

The most frustrating thing is that with a lot of the projects we’re discussing and pitching, it’s all very theoretical. No one knows when things will be able to start up again, so we’re hoping for the best, but also need to plan for not the best.

I’m trying to focus my mind and my energy on what we CAN accomplish, instead of what we can’t. And I try to stay as cautiously optimistic as possible.

How are you looking after yourself?

I always make sure my daily to-do list includes at least one thing that is fun and one thing that is relaxing.

I eat as healthily as I can, but also allow myself to indulge in treats and comfort food when I’m feeling like it.

I do my best to listen to my body and my mind. If I’m having a hard time sleeping, I’ll try to do more stretching before bed or more exercise during the day.

If I’m having a hard time concentrating on emails, I’ll leave them be for a while and read or watch a TV show episode. I’m kind of lucky that I count films and TV as professional research, but I try to separate what I watch as research and what I watch for fun.

And most of all, I separate my work space from my hang out space! Physically getting up from my laptop really makes a difference in me saying ok, my work day is done.

What advice do you have for other people newly working from home?

Don’t treat it like a holiday! I’m sure we all went through that phase when the quarantine started, but it pays to build at least a basic block schedule for your day.

Get up, take a shower, eat meals at approximately correct times… that way, when it is the weekend, you feel like you can actually take the time off.

Also, healthy snacks are a must. I’m a nibbler, so I’m usually hungry in between meals, so having energising snacks that will tide me over is great. I personally love clementine oranges, peanut butter and crackers, apple slices, fruit and nut mix, and tortilla chips with salsa.

Do you have an unusual working-frpm-home setup? To get involved in Where I Work, email [email protected]

Or share pics of your working space (especially if you have a pet as your coworker) in the comments section below.

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