POSER makes it’s Ohio premiere on Thursday night at the Gateway Film Center. For showings Thursday through Sunday, directors Ori Segev and Noah Dixon, actresses Sylvie Mix and Bobbi Kitten, and other members of the cast and crew will participate in Q&A sessions. Poserfest, a musical event happening on both the A&R Music Bar and The Basement stages, featuring artists featured in the film, takes place on Saturday, June 10.
The basic premise of POSER, the debut film from local directors Ori Segev and Noah Dixon, is that a shy and introverted music fan, Lennon (Sylvie Mix), starts a podcast as a way to work her way into the local music scene. She meets – and interviews – a series of artists along the way but becomes enthralled (obsessed?) with the mysterious, larger-than-life Bobbi Kitten who fronts Damn the Witch Siren, a band that has earned quite the following in both the film and in real life. That’s as much as I want to share about the plot though you’ll pick up some more from the trailer.
The film was shot entirely in Columbus by a local cast and crew and does a fantastic job representing the sights and sounds of the local music scene and different locations around town where related-type activity takes place. It’s certainly really cool to watch the movie and think to yourself, “Hey, I recognize where this scene was shot!,” and you’ll likely do that a lot throughout the 83-minute run time.
I had the chance to talk with Ori and Noah earlier this week about the inspiration for the film, shooting around Columbus, the trials and tribulations of making an independent movie, and how they feel about POSER finally getting an Ohio premiere after a successful film festival circuit run.
I think I became aware of POSER because I follow Bobbi Kitten on Instagram and saw some pictures she posted. Was she one of the early people you lined up to be in the film?
Noah: She was the first. The initial idea, before we knew what the story would be or what the film would be, was to create a film based on local Columbus musicians and Damn the Witch Siren, her band, was one of the first that came to mind. We had worked with her on a music video a few years before we shot POSER. She was actually acting in another music video we were working on and that’s how we met her and became friends with her. The kind of energy and brand of Damn the Witch Siren is just so cinematic and interesting, it just felt like they needed to be movie characters. We wrote this film around them.
It was a bit challenging for me, as I watched the movie, to figure out which musicians were playing themselves and which were playing characters. And, on top of that, some of the bands, like Damn the Witch Siren, are real while others are made up.
Ori: Once we were rolling with that idea – and a lot of these musicians are friends of ours, we’ve worked with them before – we told them that they were playing a more heightened movie version of themselves. Everyone was so into it. When we were making the film we were just having fun. A lot of the musicians were laughing when we were doing their interviews. I wouldn’t say it was difficult at all, we were into it because it gave the world of the film a little more authentic feel.
There are a lot of films about the trials and tribulations of being in a band, but not too many that mix in a music journalist character. Of course, Almost Famous comes to mind as one of the films that goes behind the scenes of a band. As a music journalist who has been writing for 30 years and is starting to dabble in podcasting, it was cool that one of the main characters in the film is a journalist exploring podcasting as a way to have bands tell their stories.
Noah: The film was inspired by our experience of immersing ourselves in the music scene and that’s one of the things you find here in Columbus, when you’re going to a show, you’re seeing a lot of different types of music, there’s not just one designated punk scene or one designated rap scene. A lot of times you can go to shows and there can be crossovers or collaborations. I think there’s such diversity in the music and artists and that’s something we wanted to capture. And, honestly, it was something we could capture with the people that we knew but I feel like there’s a lot of musicians and a lot of aspects to the scene that we weren’t able to fit into the film. It was basing things off of our experiences and the people that we had met, the venues and locations that we had spent a lot of time in our 20s going to and then that all culminating around Bobbi and Damn the Witch Siren.
For anybody who has ever even been remotely part of the Columbus music scene, the film really feels like a love letter to Columbus. There are so many recognizable locations in the film, it’s cool to be able to tell friends of mine who don’t live in Columbus that if they watch the film, they can see the scene that I’ve been a part of since moving to Columbus to go to Ohio State in the late ’80s.
Noah: I think that was the easiest part of it and one of the reasons why we wanted to tell this story. Beyond the story aspect of it, logistically doing it was easier because we had access to a lot of these locations and a lot of our friends are in bands. Knowing that there is so much support throughout Columbus of people that we didn’t necessarily need to get permission to use these spots, it was just people genuinely being excited and supportive. Like, Used Kids Records was just so excited for us to come in. All of the locations where we shot, they were just so excited to support us.
I suspect some of the locations you shot at, the owners are pitched with some different and unique ideas from people wanting to use their establishment for photo shoots or videos or things like that. Did you have to sell them on the idea and talk them through what you were trying to accomplish or were they like, “Sure, come on in next Saturday and do whatever you need to do”?
Ori: They were pretty cool about it. Our producers did a pretty good job at convincing anyone that this was going to be worth something being a part of. A place like Used Kids knew the bands that were going to be a part of it and it’s really easy to say, “Bobbi Kitten’s going to be part of this” and they recognize those names and were like, “This is something we’re down with.”
Noah: Luckily, by the time we shot at Used Kids we had already shot a lot of the film. All of the crew and all of the actors are from Columbus so we were able to shoot a big chunk of the film up front and then do these pick up days. That’s what we did with Used Kids. We had shot most of the film and kind of edited a lot of it and then it was one of our pick up shoot days where we needed to get a scene with Lennon in a record store. By that time, we might have even shown then some footage and shown them what we were trying to do. They were easy to work with.
I spoke with a few documentary film makers last year who were working at a similar scale as you were – no backing from a studio, no big name actors attached to the project. The takeaway from those conversations is that making a movie is a slow process. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to happen before anything is even shot, there’s a lot that has to happen after all the footage has been filmed, and then there’s a lot to getting the movie out for people to see.
Noah: Ori and I both co-edit as well so we’re on the back end going through all the footage. So much of it takes a lot of time. We spent so much time getting footage that was kind of documentary-style footage for this one that we wound up not even using. Both on the filming and the editing end of it, there’s a lot of work, a lot of things to shoot and a lot of things to edit.
Ori: We definitely had a 45-minute interview with most of the bands in the film and we only used like 30 seconds of that.
Were those interviews with the musicians in character?
Noah: Yeah, that’s how we started the whole process. We had Sylvie Mix, who plays Lennon, interview each of these bands in character. It was one of the first shoot days to help her get into character and feel things out. We just did these long interviews. We have all this footage of all those bands playing themselves in character. There’s a lot of really great footage but we didn’t get to use a lot of it because when we got to the editing room, we had to trim things down.
So, you’re definitely going to take those interviews and turn them into a podcast, right?
Ori: (laughs) Possibly. We’ve thought about it.
Another thing that impressed me about POSER is that it looks really good and I know you didn’t have an endless budget. I’m guessing maybe you maxed out some credit cards to get the film made.
Ori: Love maxing out credit cards! We pulled every favor we had for this movie. We relied on everyone we knew in Columbus, everyone that would let us shoot at their house for an afternoon. I think what we’re good at is that we’ve made a bunch of scrappy music videos over the years and we know what we’re capable of making look good with what we have.
What videos have you made?
Ori: We did one for WYD, we did a bunch of CAAMP mini-documentaries over the years, we did a music video for Public, a band out of Cincinnati.
With that type of experience, would you say you’re music fans first?
Noah: For sure.
Ori: We love music.
Noah: As co-directors, anything we work on together as a duo, music is always at the forefront, whether it’s about musicians or just with the editing and the vibe of the whole thing, anything we work on, we’ll pick out a Spotify playlist or listen to stuff and it’s totally inspired by that. That’s something that is solidified in our creative innerworkings and how we accomplish things. It certain is something we want to continue doing whether it’s making films about musicians or just using the music as an inspiration in whatever project we’re doing.
You’ve made a movie that you can be targeted to different audiences. There’s something for the music crowd, there’s something for people who are proud to call Columbus home, there’s something for people who like thrillers.
Ori: I don’t know if we were consciously thinking about all that. We were just like, “We want to make this, we think it’s cool.”
As a filmmaker, how do you know when a movie is done?
Ori: Because Noah and I edit together, at a certain point it was like these scenes have been locked for months. This is the one that we really need to sit with for a little bit longer and then call it done. But, some of those boxes are being checked off as we’re editing the film. You kind of know what’s working so it comes to a natural place where it’s like, “We’re ready to do the sound and color.”
Noah: We set deadlines for ourselves. There’s certainly the idea that we could have continued to edit this for years. There’s so many minute decisions that we’re making and that we’re going back and forth on. That was a learning experience for both us, something we were both so attached to and having to accept that we needed to end it even though we knew we could continue editing forever. We wanted to be able to move on to the next thing and be able to say that we were finished with this one. I think we did it the best that we could.
A lot of films do the festival circuit in hopes of landing a distributor or a streaming deal. It must feel good to know that you’ve signed a deal with Oscilloscope to distribute the movie. What does that mean in terms of actually getting it out for people to see?
Ori: I think we’re about to find out. Oscilloscope is an amazing company, it’s a perfect fit for us, we really vibe well together and share a lot of the same interests in how we want to release the film. I hope it ends up on streaming, I’m sure it’ll end up on-demand somewhere eventually. What we’re really excited about is that they wanted to release it in theaters first. There’s a great soundtrack and it’s fun to see it in a theater.
This is a big weekend. I’m sure it’s been exciting to travel around to places like the Tribeca Film Festival to share the movie but to have it premiere in Columbus, your home town, where it was filmed and with an all Columbus cast and crew, that must be exciting.
Ori: It’s pretty sick! Both of us really like being on set, making movies, editing them. All this other stuff is sort of extra and fun. I think we’re getting excited to start working on the next thing too.
Noah: We’re pretty excited about it, it should be a fun opening.
At this point, can you still sit through the entire film?
Noah: That’s really been difficult. We’ve been going to all the festivals over the last year. It’s kind of been a while since I’ve sat through it. We edited it together so not only have we watched it a bunch but we edited every different version. So, we’ll usually sit in for the first couple of minutes and then hop out to the bar. It’s pretty hard to watch after seeing it thousands of times.
You’ve already started working on the next thing?
Noah: We’ve been working on a script for a while. Hopefully we’ll start raising some money for it so we can get into it as soon as possible. We’re waiting to see how the release of this plays out and hopefully it’ll help us with the next one.
Is the Columbus showing the last thing you have planned or do you have other showing lined up this summer?
Ori: We’re doing a sort of mini-Midwest tour – Akron, Dayton, Cleveland, Cincinnati. We might go to Chicago, Minneapolis.
Noah: We keep expecting the cycle to be done, it should be done by this summer. We just got a notification that we’ll be going to Korea in August but I’m kind of hoping that’s the last Poser thing and then we’ll be able to move on.