Hannah Siden
Hannah Siden

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Vancouver Presents continues to check in with our arts community members to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.

Today we check in with Vancouver-based filmmaker, writer, and actor Hannah Siden.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

I think constraints, like working within social distancing guidelines, can sometimes help with creativity. They force me to re-frame perceived obstacles as possible opportunities. I’ve made two little videos now with distancing very much as part of the equation – the music video Plastic Wings and the short film Breathing Easy. I’m also trying not to be too hard on myself if ideas don’t come – it’s a tough time, and we’re in a global pandemic!

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

My two cats are always available for cuddles and can be trusted to be goofy at just the opportune moments whenever I’m stressed out.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

I left my friends and a few years of life in London, UK, quite abruptly at the beginning of the pandemic to come back home to Vancouver and be close to family. I try to stay in touch over WhatsApp, Zoom, etc., but definitely miss my community there. As for friends in Vancouver, while it’s still nice out, distanced hangouts in parks! It’s a blessing to be here, too.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

That we simply can’t control everything, we might wish we could, and that can be okay. In addition to the pandemic, I’ve had a few unexpected life events happen recently. But I’m learning to roll with the punches a bit more, and I’m getting better at finding and creating silver linings.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

I am grateful to be close to family and have the necessary things to live in a relatively secure and supported way. I’m really aware right now that so many people are struggling due to circumstances created by COVID and don’t necessarily have that basic security that we should all be afforded.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

Writing much more. Spending more time with immediate family.

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?

I go through cooking phases and definitely had one in the first few months of the pandemic, but I’ve fallen off that wagon a bit. I’d like to get back into it. Also learning to edit properly on Premiere.

8. What have you missed the most?

Seeing friends in person, hugs, live music and being part of a crowd, theatre…

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

Keep up your community and connections in whatever ways you can. Lean on each other, in a distanced way… Reach out. Also, more literally, wear a mask! We’ve all got to protect and look after each other, and that’s one simple way of doing so.

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

Frustratingly, the news. I try to limit the amount of doom-scrolling I do per day and read actual newspapers rather than Twitter. But checking the news has definitely become a compulsion/ sort-of-indulgence. It’s important to understand what’s happening in the world, but unless I couple that with taking action somehow, it can feel really dispiriting.

11. What have you stockpiled?

Never got too much into the stockpiling, but at the beginning of the pandemic, while I was still in London, my mom thoughtfully sent me oats and a few other items through the mail to ensure I had enough food in the pantry. She made a mistake, though and accidentally ordered 12 large bags of oats, enough to feed an army. It was hilarious, and my boyfriend and I became oatmeal fairies for our friends for a while, donating large amounts of oats to whoever would eat them.

12. What have you been reading?

At the minute, a book called Whale in the Door about Howe Sound/ Atl’kitsem. Before that, Tegan and Sara’s High School.

13. What have you been watching?

The TV series Elementary is the current binge-watch. Also, Kim’s Convenience when I want something lighter and Canadian! Another recently watched recommendation would be the miniseries Unorthodox on Netflix.

14. What have you been listening to?

Right this minute – Hadestown, by Anais Mitchell, the folk album, but the subsequent cast album is also great.

15. What are you doing for exercise?

I’m a bit injured at the moment, so keeping it low key – pilates/ gentle yoga videos and biking mostly. But I’ve also gotten into swimming in the ocean. That’s been a great discovery.

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?

The sunshine. I’m not looking forward to Vancouver’s dreary season. Trying to be outside while it’s still gorgeous out.

17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

My sister is good at cutting my bangs (thanks, Ellie)! I have somehow become the resident hairdresser for the rest of the family, and it’s actually really fun. Maybe that’s my newfound skill.

18. Night owl or early riser?

Night owl who wishes she was an early riser.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

I’ve got an underlying health condition, so I have been more in the wait-and-see camp, but I’m starting to venture out a little more as feels safe, seeing friends in a distanced way and sitting on café patios and the like.

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

Visit family in the States and friends in the UK and Montreal.

Meet Hannah Siden

Hannah is a filmmaker, writer, and actor from Vancouver, BC.

Most recently, she wrote and directed the short film Breathing Easy over Zoom, featuring Arts Club regulars Agnes Tong and Anita Wittenberg, the script for which made it into the top 8% of a BBC writer’s room contest out of 6,800 scripts.

She also directed, produced, and co-edited a music video for singer-songwriter David Beckingham in collaboration with Ballet BC, Plastic Wings, which will be showing in November as part of the online Eastside Culture Crawl.

Additionally, Hannah co-produced a documentary mini-series about homelessness shot on iPhone, Home Stream, which was distributed by NowThis Politics and Real Stories, reaching 8+ million views online. She recently received a Creative Conscience Award for her work on this. Hannah is currently in pre-production for a short documentary focusing on Howe Sound/ Atl’kitsem.

You can find follow her on Twitter.