For their feature film debut, directing duo Noah Dixon and Ori Segev dive into the uncertain world of a young adult struggling to find identity and belonging in our contemporary world. Newcomer Sylvie Mix expertly captures the emotional complexities of those foundational years as her character Lennon becomes entwined with the musician Bobbi Kitten, one half of the very real music duo Damn the Witch Siren.
Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. Enter Bobbi Kitten, an enigmatic, striking and talented half of a popular, indie pop duo, who takes Lennon under her confident wing—unwittingly entangling herself in a dark obsession.
I spoke to Noah, Ori and Bobbi about the film’s embracing of local musicians and artists, how it navigates the complicated world of self-identity in the teenage years and much more.
Noah and Ori, your background is primarily in directing music videos. What was the point in time where you decided to transition to feature filmmaking?
Ori: I don’t know if we ever thought of it as transitioning from that to this, but I think we were always waiting for the opportunity to make our first feature and using music videos as a way to work on our craft to get to the point where we finally felt ready to do that. I think something that we were nervous about going into this movie is that with music videos, we don’t have to roll sound. We really rely on visuals and all that kind of stuff. Having these scenes with a lot of dialogue was a little bit new to us and a little bit more intimidating, because it wasn’t our bread and butter of what we’re used to doing. But we were always waiting for that moment.
Bobbi, am I mistaken in thinking this is your screen debut?
Bobbi: No, you’re correct, this is my first movie.
That’s so cool, especially that you were both able to make your big-screen debuts, just in different ways.
Noah: Yeah. I’ll say that it was pretty much everybody’s screen debut. The crew and the cast. everybody that worked on the film; this was kind of their first time working on a feature. So it was cool in that way as well.
That’s impressive, because everyone really brings a lot to it. I think one of Poser’s biggest strengths is its subtlety. It’s wickedly funny all the way through, but in a very sly way. You guys did a great job of maintaining the tension throughout while keeping it tongue-in-cheek.
A lot of the musicians in the film, including Bobbi, are real-life artists, as well as the music featured. What drove your decision to integrate this real music scene into the film?
Noah: Initially, I think it was just an idea that got us really excited, because we had met so many great and talented musicians over the years, and so many interesting people that felt like movie characters. As soon as we talked about that idea of building a story around it, we just got so excited. Beyond that, it just made a lot of logistical sense because we had access to these locations and these friends who are in great bands and their music. So it just seemed like the right idea to go with for our first film. Bobbi and Damn the Witch Siren were some of the first we reached out to, and we kind of built the story around her.
Bobbi: We had this thing where, originally, we weren’t sure if we were going to use our real band name and our real names. But there was a lot intellectual property from using our band name and being ourselves; we got to put our album art in it, and the symbolism of what we’ve built separately and how it kind of melted into this movie to add a deeper meaning for me as well as for the film. I just feel like it couldn’t have been any other way. And to have real music…I love music movies. So many times when you watch music movies, the music and the bands are real and the music’s made for the movie. It’s just not good. So I think it’s cool that this is all real music from real bands. It just gives it so much depth.
Playing a version of myself was pretty fun. I definitely love fish. [laughs]
One thing I haven’t told people enough is that I love all animals. So that’s kind of a fun little lie about myself in the movie. I keep telling people I don’t think I’m as icy in real life. If Lennon approached me in real life, I don’t think I would have been that icy.
Ori: Bobbi is always so nice. [laughs]
I can believe it!
Bobbi: But it was cool to take that on and still get to act in this, and have that little extension of myself. Loose Films does such a great job. It was so much fun, so cathartic for me to be able to express myself through a different medium and have my real band involved.
Ori: One of the coolest things was writing the movie and figuring out which of Bobbi’s songs we were going to use and at what time, and how they can fit into the story and the different vibes. They have so many songs with a variety of different tones and vibes, and it was fun to be able to thread that throughout the whole story.
Bobbi: Yeah, actually, I Come Alive in the Dark is one of the songs in the film where I’m in the vocal booth. That whole song is about posers, and it’s also about how people value stardom and seeing their name in lights. With I Come Alive in the Dark, instead of being in the light all the time, it’s about embracing that darkness and also embracing authenticity. So it was pretty cool.
As you say, the idea of a poser is obviously all throughout the film, from the title all the way down. But I appreciate that the idea of the poser isn’t an incredibly cynical one in the way it handles Lennon. What was the process in shaping Lennon into this character who desires a sense of identity and belonging but goes about it in a way that alienates her from everybody?
Noah: I think there’s something so relatable about Lennon and Bobbi’s character. We wanted to keep it relatable, because everybody’s experienced being a young adult and meeting a lot of people doing cool things and trying to find their place. I think that was the source of this. For both Bobbi’s character and Sylvie’s, they brought so much to the role. We wanted to allow them to do that, so they were helping us come up with lines and do improv with some of the scenes.
Through that, they brought so much empathy and humanity to those characters in a way we couldn’t have done if it was just us. I think that was the process that we found as we were shooting, especially with Lennon because we were originally going to have her be much darker and creepier from the beginning. But as we were shooting with Sylvie, we were seeing that this stuff was so relatable and kind of heart-breaking. We wanted to lean in on that.
Ori: Yeah, the scene in the bathroom where she’s mimicking the footage of Bobbi…in my head, I was like, “that is so creepy”. But it’s the most relatable kind of moment, when you’re watching her do it. You’re just kind of there with her, and it just came across way different just because of Sylvie’s performance. We just wanted to lean in on that, and that was pretty early on in the shooting of the movie when we did that scene.
That’s one of the things that took me by surprise with the movie; that you didn’t go for the really broad strokes with the characters. Bobbi, the dynamic between you and Lennon is really the heart and soul of the movie, and I love how these two people become fascinated with each other – only in very different ways. I’d love to know how you felt about that dynamic going in.
Bobbi: I like how my character leans into it. Instead of being weirded out by her, she wants to know a little bit more. I think that tells you a lot about my character, that she sees something creative in Lennon and wants to help embellish that and encourage her. I’m glad you didn’t see it as cynical. It wasn’t just about me saying, “oh, she’s worshipping me, I’m going to keep her around”. It wasn’t like that. I just felt like there were these really beautiful vibes.
Someone asked us earlier if I’d ever had any stalkers or weird people around. The answer is yes, I have, but even at times where it’s put me off a little bit, I’ve always been really inspired and moved by people who come to me at shows and are like, “you changed my life”, or “you helped me grow into this person”. We have a fan now, and she’s not a weird stalker – I’ll ixnay on that kind of conversation now – but her mom came up to me and was like, “will you record a video? My girl Steph is graduating high school, and she looks up to you so much and she’s found her identity through your music”. I think that’s really cool. That just gives me goosebumps.
I think my character having that with Lennon and seeing her inspired by her feeds her soul a little bit. I think it has a lot of depth, and I’m glad that you saw that.
Yeah, there are some intricate realisations the characters have about each other and themselves, and the subtleties of the humour and the character development go far. As far as Lennon’s inspiration goes, I think a lot of great artists will often say “when I got started, I was just copying ____”, or “I was just constantly listening to albums by ____”. It’s only through embracing our inspirations that we ever really figure out who we are as creative people.
Bobbi: I mean, Bowie said it: “genius steals”. You steal a line here and there – maybe not a whole song, like Lennon – but you’re always borrowing ideas from people that you admire.
There are plenty of clichés out there about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, and of course Lennon crosses the line with it, but I think you’ve done a good job of capturing that experience of being an impressionable young adult who suddenly finds themselves surrounded by exciting and inventive people and being totally overwhelmed by what to do with that.
Noah: I think that’s definitely what we wanted to do, and I think it’s great to hear that people are responding that way.
POSER is available for streaming via the Tribeca at Home platform through June 23.