Columbus filmmakers bring ‘Poser’ to New York’s Tribeca Film Festival

The first full-length feature from local production house Loose Films features a plethora of local talent, including Damn the Witch Siren, wyd, Son of Dribble and more

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Sylvie Mix (left) and Bobbi Kitten in a still from "Poser"

“Poser,” the first full-length feature from Columbus-based Loose Films, was largely shot prior to the pandemic and occasionally plays like an homage to the Before Times, particularly as its main character, Lennon Gates (a would-be podcaster played by Sylvie Mix), navigates a vibrant live music scene while holding down a job in food service — two aspects of the city’s culture most devastated by COVID-19.

This makes the timing of the film's premiere fortuitous (it debuted on the big screen at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday, Thursday, June 10), arriving as vaccine rates increase and coronavirus infections decrease and making aspects of the film serve as a reminder of what we should soon be back to rather than something that’s been lost.

“We kind of joked about how it became this sort of nostalgic film while we were editing it, because we missed going to see live music so much,” said Noah Dixon, who joined fellow director Ori Segev for an interview prior to departing to New York for the premiere at Tribeca, where “Poser” was one of six films chosen from over 4,000 submissions to compete in the U.S. Narrative Competition program (the film is currently available through the film festival’s website with the purchase of a streaming pass). 

Prior to making “Poser,” Loose Films cut its teeth with documentaries (“Character”), short films (“Among Other Things”) and a series of gorgeously shot music videos for bands such as Caamp, a style that carries over into the footage of live music performances included in “Poser” from the likes of wyd, Son of Dribble and Damn the Witch Siren, whose singer, Bobbi Kitten, co-stars in the film playing an exaggerated version of herself. Kitten's bandmate, Z Wolf, also appears  throughout, passing wordlessly through the movie like a wolf-masked Silent Bob. 

Indeed, anyone with a fondness for Columbus’ various cultural scenes and characters will get a kick out of playing “Can You Spot the Reference?” as the film unfolds, both in terms of the locations at which it was shot (Comune, Used Kids, 934 Gallery, Cafe Bourbon Street, etc.) and the roster of people who appear on screen, who, in addition to the aforementioned, include the likes of Amber Falter, Joey Aich, Hakim Callwood and Mandi Caskey, among others.

“I think it was certainly inspired by moving to Columbus after we graduated school (the directors met while studying film at Denison University in Granville, Ohio) and our experiences going to basement shows and warehouse shows,” Dixon said of spaces like Mint, which serves as one of the inspirations for the experimental art gallery that appears in the film. 

While working on the screenplay, Dixon and Segev quickly centered on Kitten as a potential co-star, having previously been familiar with her both as music fans and as collaborators (Kitten appeared in a Loose Films-created video for the band Public). Damn the Witch Siren’s addition to the film impacted “Poser’s” DNA early in the process, particularly in terms of the repeated animal themes that were written into the screenplay after the band signed on.

“We were about to leave for a West Coast tour when Ori randomly hit me up, like, ‘Hey, we have this idea for a film, and it’s kind of based around your band,’” said Kitten, who had previous acting experience in college theater. “When we got back [from tour] they had this script that was already written about this electro-pop band with a pink-haired, girl musician and a wolf. … And then I basically auditioned for myself, which was kind of funny.”

Thankfully, Kitten nailed the part, and the team completed 24 days of principal photography just before the coronavirus shut down the state in March of 2020. (The crew later shot a handful of distanced scenes with fewer people on set and masking in place, Kitten said.)

“It was strange when we went back to finish the scenes we needed to finish for the movie,” Kitten said. “It was a totally different setting than before, where we had all of these musicians around and it was very collaborative. … Having that whole year between when we were trying to finish the film and now getting ready to watch it, it feels like revisiting a bygone era.”

In many ways, Kitten serves as a muse both on and offscreen, with Mix’s podcaster growing increasingly infatuated with the musician as the film starts to take some unexpected pivots, which we'll leave unspoiled here.

Dixon and Segev described the filming of “Poser” as a marathon compared with previous short-film work, as well as a learning process that has already better prepared them for the next full-length, for which they have already started to kick around some ideas.

“There were just so many things to juggle, like having dozens of extras to fill a space so that it looks like a crowd for a show,” said Dixon, who noted the filmmakers plan to host a Columbus premiere either in the late summer or fall, once the movie has finished making its way through the festival circuit.

“I mean, that’s one of my favorite things, honestly,” Segev said. “If you look in the background of a lot of scenes, it’s a lot of the same people going to all of the shows, which is kind of how it is, you know?”