This week, we got together with some of the creatives behind the excellent new Tribeca music thriller, Poser. It is a searing character study about timid Lennon (newcomer Sylvie Mix), as she starts up a podcast to “investigate and research” underground musicians. Lennon’s journey and exploration for her recordings transforms into an obsession. Lennon begins to find a voice of her own when she connects with one half of the real-life indie pop group Damn the Witch Siren, Bobbi Kitten (played by herself). Lennon’s obsession grows dangerous as she tweaks and toys with her own musical ambitions.
Actress Bobbi Kitten, and directors Noah Dixon (who also wrote the script) and Ori Segev chatted with us about the inception of the script, the origin story for Damn the Witch Siren, filmmaking inspirations, and favorite memories from set. Read on for our exclusive interview with Bobbi, Noah, and Ori!
From the inception stage, what made you want to bring Lennon’s story to the big screen, and how important was it to cast actors that could all really sing?
NOAH DIXON: I think initially before we even knew what the story would be or before the character of Lennon was even born, we just wanted to write a movie about our friends, and the bands in Columbus that we had known, and kind of build a story around that. So it really started with Bobbi.
We had worked with her on a music video a few years ago, and just really enjoyed her. We discovered her band Damn the Witch Siren that way. She is so charismatic and great to work with on camera. So then we came up with the character of Lennon as almost the antithesis of Bobbi’s character, and built the story that way. It was something that was just totally inspired by our experiences, and being in this small scene, and the locations, and the music, and the friends we had in the city.
Bobbi did you find it intimidating at all to star in your first film? I thought your chemistry with Sylvie was really fascinating to watch even when it was more complicated and tense further in the movie.
BOBBI KITTEN: Thank you! I loved working with Sylvie. It was such a fun time. I don’t know if I was ever intimidated. I think having a real band in there, it was a little stressful because you just want to make sure the integrity of something you’ve built outside of this film is intact, and your intention with symbolism.
I trusted this of course, but it’s always hard to relinquish control of things when I’m so used to doing it. We produce our own music, we do our own music videos, our lights… so everything has been very in-house for me and Z. It was also a very cool experience to do that.
That was the only intimidating part is just making sure that Bobbi Kitten and Z-Wolf did not become a parody of ourselves throughout this film. It was really cool to be involved in something that was bigger than us, but have this little slice, and it felt very natural to me. It felt really cathartic, and I wasn’t nervous at all. I just felt like I had so many real moments there, and it was so nice to be able to create that with Loose [Films].
ORI SEGEV: It was a big decision that Bobbi would play herself, and the band would actually be the real band. Originally they were kind of wrestling—should we just come up with another band and do the same thing, but it would be like the movie version? And then we came to that decision together, and it sort of spiraled from there. It just grounds it in reality, which is cool.
BOBBI: Yeah. It was cool to see our album, and album art, and some of our music videos, and making a new music video with Loose [Films] that’s loosely based off of our style. It was really cool to see it like that. I was like having an outside of my body experience with my band.
I’m assuming most of the other bands are also real bands, or were any of them fictionalized versions as well?
NOAH: Pretty much all of them are real. Some were playing more exaggerated versions of themselves. Everything was all real, real bands and musicians.
ORI: The weird couple on the couch at the beginning—they’re a real band, but that’s sorta not really their vibe, but they were acting.
Bobbi, are you and Sylvie very close after this film? Did the friendship extend outside the movie?
BOBBI: Well, I think we definitely support each other. Because of COVID and everything happening right after we got done filming. I felt estranged from my close friends. Sylvie and I still haven’t gotten a chance to really hang out and get to know each other. Last night we did, and we got to celebrate it for the first time and it was amazing. I feel like our energy, our chemistry together is… I don’t know, she’s a Gemini, I’m a Libra. It just makes sense.
NOAH: We shot the principal photography basically right before the pandemic started, which was just so lucky for us. So we picked up, and then everybody went into lockdown. Me and Ori were editing during quarantine.
Bobbi, your style in the movie is very unique and really fun. Is that the same as your personal style, or was it modified a little bit, or amped up for the movie?
BOBBI: Thank you. These are my Edie Sedgwick-inspired chandeliers. She was an it-girl during the Andy Warhol factory times. She’s one of my fashion icons, but no, all the clothes in the film were mine. I think there was one dress that was borrowed from Sarah, who did wardrobe, but she helped curate from my closet. And, uh, but no, that’s just me. That’s all me.
I feel like I have a really eclectic style, and I always try to make it into an outfit instead of my inspiration for different styles, and kind of melting it.
NOAH: I always got excited to see what Bobbi would come to set in. We never knew a lot of times–it was like, oh wow. That’s awesome.
The world of podcasting is a fickle beast. Is there a reason that you chose to portray Lennon’s fake-it-till-you-make-it mentality through the lens of the podcast, and did any real-life podcasts inspire her language or dialogue in approaching this world of music?
NOAH: I don’t think there’s any podcasts necessarily that inspired her character, but I think we definitely had a lot of fun. Originally, years ago, we had came up with an idea of a character who records things. That was the foundation for the character. The podcast grew from this idea of somebody who just records conversations and records things.
There’s even themes and symbolism in recording things and duplicating things. There’s something provocative about that idea of somebody who records something. When we talked about this character who’s trying to infiltrate the music scene, interviewing the bands seems like the fun way to have her get in with those bands. That was the genesis of that idea.
I was also surprised that the thriller element was so involved. I wasn’t really expecting that. I was wondering Bobbi, have you ever had any crazy experiences with fans, like Lennon, or if they have been more laid back experiences?
BOBBI: I actually have! This happened to me more than once, but I did have this girl one time… I met her through work, but then she found that I was in a band, and she even copied my hair. It was weird. I had this asymmetrical cut with yellow in just the front, and feathers in my hair at the time. And she did the same exact thing. So it was funny… I was still nice to her though.
I feel sorry for people [like Lennon]. I’ve been there, trying to find your own identity and stuff. I never judge people like that. If they come to our shows and they really want to try to be my friend, I just try to embrace that whenever that’s happened to me. It’s cool when people are trying to find their own identity, and they see inspiration through you. I’ve never had anything go that far actually into the darkness realm.
Lennon says the best way to discover new music is to hunt for it, hidden away at record shops. What are some artists that you’ve discovered like this completely blind of expectation?
NOAH: So there’s a band in the film called Son of Dribble, and there is the character who says, ‘like if your really weird uncle had a band.’ We actually discovered them after we shot principal photography. While I was editing the film, I discovered their music and it was such great music and such the vibe of the film.
Then we talked to them and we just really wanted to include them in the film. So we shot all of their stuff just to get them in any way we could after the fact. So much with all of us on the film is just listening to music, and listening to new sounds, and hearing new things. In regards to this film specifically, there’s the band Son of Dribble, an incredible band.
ORI: They’re just so genuinely cool. It was awesome working with them.
BOBBI: Oh man, I guess mostly older artists. The first time I ever listened to a Prince album was just picking up a bunch of his albums or Billie Holliday. I was really young, and I used to go to this record shop called Finders. I’ve always just picked up albums on a whim. Now it’s different—I feel like I listen to more music online, just from Apple Music. I don’t frequent record stores as much as I used to, but I would like to expand my record collection.
Can you tell us something about the band Damn the Witch Siren that not even Lennon would know?
BOBBI: Not even Lennon would know? I’ll tell you the story of how it originated! I kinda fell in love with Z-Wolf at first sight. I saw him on the cover of a magazine and he was in another band, and I just said to myself, ‘I’m gonna meet this guy, make him fall in love with me, and he’s going to produce my new music, and then we’re going to start a band and it’s gonna be amazing.’
When I met him, the reason for the Wolf came about. He told me his spirit animal is a Wolf. And I was like, ‘well, I feel like I’m a witch siren, you know?’ It melted into this thing. I love Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women who Run with the Wolves. It’s about letting your spirit open and wild—the wild unreserved woman. I thought Z-Wolf is like my kindred spirit to this project. I feel we ran wild with this idea that was just kismet. I don’t really tell a lot of people the origin story, so maybe that’s something special.
Do each of you have a favorite memory from set, or even a sequence in the finished film that you’re really proud of the way it came out?
NOAH: My favorite sequence is when Lennon first meets Bobbi, and Bobbi invites them up to go smoke in the room, and we do the slow-mo shot as they’re walking up the stairs with the music. Every time that scene happens, it’s one of my favorite sequences, both with the shots and the performances and how the music and everything came together.
ORI: It was definitely a blur, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had.
NOAH: We got the train tracks, and we were shooting basically a through the night shoot. So we shot until sunrise twice; it was freezing out, pretty much snowing. We were up all night, it was pretty miserable actually. These train conductors were operating the trains for us.
ORI: The fact that we were able to get a real train was also one of the coolest things. We were just trying to get a train track, and figure out how we’d do it after that. Our producer called us and he’s like, ‘I got a train track. I also got a train.’
It was like a train museum, and it was this closed track. All the conductors volunteered their time to take kids on this little train ride. They were so excited to do this for the movie. They came out at night, and we shot all the scenes. It was one of those crazy experiences where everything came together… we’re just outside in the cold, kind of miserable, but everyone just had like the biggest smile on their face the whole time, you know? Great, great experience.
BOBBI: I loved it. We can do that all night. I’m like, yes. I was so stoked. I think my favorite sequence is the montages of the friendship. You can just tell the energy is real when we shot those. It was so fun. It was just us going out, being friends, hanging out, eating pizza, doing weird shit, being ourselves with one another. The energy, every time I watch the montage scene—my heart just flutters.
ORI: Even with some of the scenes, we just gave Sylvie the camera. They were like ‘we’re just going to hang out outside.’ You guys just go have some fun and just do your own thing. Then we see the footage after.
NOAH: As far as improvisation, we picked some locations and props and stuff. We were shooting on an actual VHS camera.
ORI: It was a Sony handicam kind of thing. It’s the same camera that she uses in the movie actually. It was just really fun, and for us too, as editors, we just love getting stuff where we can see what’s working. Then we went and shot more, came up with some new places we wanted to go to, and had fun as a group, you know? That’s also really fun stuff to shoot. You don’t need a big crew. It’s just us running around, and it it’s so much fun.
Thanks again to Bobbi Kitten, Noah Dixon, and Ori Segev for chatting with us about their new film, Poser! It’s available for online viewing for the duration of 2021 Tribeca Film Festival (through June 23rd.) If you’re interested in purchasing $15 tickets, head over to the Tribeca website’s Poser page.