Jaysia Pecsek-Dunn, a Boise State graduate and winner of season 4 of Boise’s Next Drag Superstar, and Bibiana Ortiz, junior sociology and ethnic studies major, share a passion for spotlighting queer creators. As a result, the two formed a dynamic partnership to do just that, and queer film podcast Boise Bitch Box was born.
Pecsek-Dunn approached Ortiz with a podcast idea for a queer history podcast last summer, just before Ortiz’s departure to South Korea, where they would study abroad until February of this year. When Ortiz returned, they took on the role of editor while Pecsek-Dunn became the voice of the podcast, along with another co-host.
“The show was completely different. It was the same idea: reading, raving and reviewing, but drag performances and entertainers local to Boise,” Pecsek-Dunn said. “And then that person dropped, so [Bibiana and I] talked and we were like, ‘Well, why don’t we revamp this and make it into a queer film review kind of thing?’”
The switch from local performances to film was one founded in collaboration, and Pecsek-Dunn explained that the new idea formed in part after the realization that not all local performers would be comfortable with having their performances broadcasted on a video podcast.
“Part of the struggle that I was coming to realize is finding other performers who would want us to basically read and talk about their performances,” Pescek-Dunn said. “So when we kind of transitioned, I thought of like, ‘What alternatives can we do?’ And I personally love movies. And right now, we’re in COVID-19 and a lot of us are stuck indoors and a lot of us are just watching and binge-watching shows or TV shows or whatever. So I’m like, ‘Why not just let people watch movies with us? Let’s talk about a movie that people can watch and engage with.’”
This new concept also began as a video podcast before the duo transitioned into an audio-only format. The microphone shown in the first (and only) video episode, the two explained, was a prop.
Thus, what started as a video podcast about entertainers in the Boise community transformed into a weekly conversation featuring “rants and raves” about films like “Transfinite” and “Bessie.”
For Pecsek-Dunn and Ortiz, the focus of the podcast centers around queer representation in film as a whole; it is not only about filmmakers or actors, but about themes in the films that center around the stories of queer individuals. Ortiz explained that the podcast highlights queer filmmakers and performers due to a lack of representation in film throughout their adolescence.
“I’ve gotten older, and I’m like, ‘Oh, wow. The representation that I’ve seen of queer trans individuals growing up was very slim,” Ortiz said. “And I think most people that I did see that were queer, trans or LGBT or whatever, they were straight… it’s kind of expanding that and being like, ‘OK, yeah, ‘To Wong Foo’ is a great movie, and also these were straight cis men playing them.’”
While the team has an overarching goal of showcasing queer filmmakers and critiquing the chosen movies each week, the mission is also deeply personal. The podcast may be more than just a hobby for Ortiz, but a means of coping with the changing environment that COVID-19 has created since they returned from South Korea.
“I had to process a lot to get there. These times, people are really pushed to be more creative. And with our platform, in particular, we had this idea prior,” Ortiz said. “And now it’s just been shifting, it’s been adjusted and it’s us following through with what we wanted to do. In terms of coping, I’m trying a lot of different things right now to process a lot and be willing to share. And this has been a great sharing moment, and I’m glad to share it with [Jaysia].”
Similarly, Pecsek-Dunn explained that Boise Bitch Box has been an effective coping mechanism for the pandemic’s effects on life after winning Boise’s Next Drag Superstar. With event cancellations creating somewhat of a domino effect, Pecsek-Dunn was left without an opportunity to celebrate.
“For me, it’s been a great tool for coping, especially because I won right before we went into quarantine,” Pecsek-Dunn said. “So I won and like a week later, we were all in quarantine. So I didn’t get to celebrate. I was supposed to go to LA DragCon, which got canceled this year. I was supposed to be in Seattle’s pride, which got canceled this year or is now online. There’s a lot of stuff that I worked nine weeks for that went out the window, unfortunately.”
The future of event culture is largely unknown, and Pecsek-Dunn did not enjoy online performing, putting most to all performances post-Boise’s Next Drag Superstar at a temporary standstill. Boise Bitch Box, however, gives Pecsek-Dunn the opportunity to feel connected to the community.
“Even though people don’t see me in drag, I still feel like people are getting the J’Sha experience, the drag experience of J’Sha,” Pecsek-Dunn said.
Boise Bitch Box is not a temporary fix, however. The pair not only hopes to create stronger connections with their audience, but with the filmmakers whose work is being showcased in the episodes.
Ortiz explained that, in the long-term, the duo hopes the podcast can embrace the queer film community by focusing on independent film and interacting with queer and trans filmmakers. The films they discover, though, all depend on the draw from the box they fill at random, hence their wide variety of selections thus far.
“We draw randomly when we pick a movie; we just shake the shit, you know?” Ortiz said. “When I think about engaging with queer filmmakers or queer artists, ‘Transfinite’ was a gem. It was a complete gem in the sense where it was an independent film, it was created by a queer, trans non-binary individual who is a person of color… I think it’s the magic of the box.”