DJ Shaw, the now co-host of WUSSY Movie Club Podcast, was a teenager when he cut his teeth on creating YouTube videos critiquing cinema; however, his ability to think critically about films dates back to early childhood.
“I think a lot of my being a critic is owed to my mom, because as a kid I always had an affinity towards film. It used to be very clear: you don’t buy toys for DJ, you take him to the movies,” Shaw told AFPZine. “We would go to the movies basically every weekend, and my mom got into the system where she would ask me three questions every time if I liked a movie.”
“I didn’t realize it, but at the time it was teaching me media literacy. Every weekend, I basically had to give my mom a report on how I felt about X kind of movie.”
“It wasn’t until I was around 12 or 13 that I sort of realized that you could do this as a career, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’d be really cool!’”
Before turning 18, Shaw launched a YouTube channel to put his media literacy skills to the test.
“All I had ever done was make YouTube videos where I talked about movies, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to be a film critic.’”
After creating enough YouTube videos to make a solid portfolio, he sent it off to WUSSY Magazine; stylized as WUSSY MAG is an Atlanta based LGBT and Southern interest magazine which showcases LGBTQIA+ culture and expression in the South.
“I was 18; I had this weird anxiety episode at 11 PM where I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never had a job before,” Shaw exclaimed.
Fueled by this anxiety, Shaw started sending out his YouTube channel in cold emails to publications.
“Pretty much everyone ignored, aside from this one site and that was WUSSY MAG,” Shaw recounted.
“Can I have a job,” Shaw enthusiastically wrote in an email to Jon Dean, Editor-in-Chief of WUSSY MAG. Unfortunately, Dean did not have any jobs available for the actual site, but suggested Shaw take a stab at producing YouTube videos for WUSSY’s channel.
“I was like, ‘Genius, awesome!’ and so during my first six months at WUSSY, I made YouTube videos where I would talk about queer movies,” Shaw reminisced. “This was right before COVID was hitting, and as we all remember, right as COVID was hitting was when the podcasting really started to pick up steam. So, Jon was like, ‘Hey, yeah, love the videos, love the content. You’re so good…but you’re getting cut. It’s not cause you’re bad; it’s that podcasts are in. They’re really fetch right now. So, we’re going to put you on a podcast instead.’”
Today, the podcast known as WUSSY Movie Club is now a two-person show, with the occasional guest, produced by Dean, and co-hosted by Shaw and John E. Kilberg (they/them). The podcast delivers a weekly roundtable movie podcast with a Queer lens, featuring themed seasons and special interviews with Queer filmmakers.
When listening to the podcast, it’s hard to believe Shaw and Kilberg have only known each other for a handful of years. The chemistry between the two hosts is astounding and brimming with charisma.
“[In the beginning,] after every episode we would talk for an hour and a half to two hours just about life, and about where we are and movies we’re watching that were removed from the episode we were currently recording. From there we kind of just got an idea of what if we did a musical season, or what if we did a sexy season or a kinky season,” Shaw described how the energy between him and Kilberg was quickly cultivated.
“In our earlier episodes, you can hear a tempered kind of, ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me,’ but then, talking off the podcast and kind of spending time with each other, the content started reflecting how we know each other way better now.”
“One thing I’ve always loved about WUSSY Movie Club is that we have other people coming in and we get to share it with people, but so much of the process is very, very book club-y, you know? It’s very communal; we’re doing it just because we want to talk about stuff. In recent years, we’ve expanded to incorporate more contemporary, modern stuff. We started doing TV shows a little bit more that are trendy.”
However, the two co-hosts aren’t simply covering what’s trending for trendings sake. Co-hosting WUSSY Movie Club is a real investment of time and energy, and Shaw and Kilberg rarely watch a movie just to watch a movie.
“We usually pick a film if we feel like there’s something we want to say about the movie,” Shaw explained. Moreover, it’s important to Shaw and Kilberg that they’re spotlighting and, consequently, elevating the queer film canon – and they’re circumspect about choosing queer filmmakers that are often overlooked.
“Queer films are just generally overlooked and underrepresented,” Shaw stated.
“We got to talk about my favorite film, The Wild Boys (2017), and so obviously I was super excited because that film to me is just gorgeous upon any comparison…what I’m happy about in regards to that is, I don’t think a lot of people know about the studio company, Altered Innocence. They almost exclusively focus on telling high artistic concept queer cinema. A lot of people don’t really know about them. We know about Neon, we know about A24, but people don’t really know about Altered Innocence. I’m happy that I was able to expose that to young queer people,” Shaw told AFPZine. “You’re going to have to watch with subtitles, but you know, expand your brain.”
Additionally, Shaw finds interviewing queer filmmakers to be a huge highlight to the job of Co-Host.
“There’s a whole conversation between death of the author versus authorial ntent, and I feel like that conversation gets kind of murky when we talk about actual queer creatives telling their stories. I really enjoy when everyone can have actual queer creatives where it’s like they’re making work or they’re facilitating work, but we get to see this other side of them where they are film lovers too. When we think about these people who make art, we sometimes forget that they also love to gush about art. They also have their favorite things that they enjoy and that they think are super great that they want to showcase to people. I think that's the thing I’m most proud of and we’re proud of in regards to queer awareness.”
Every Wednesday, a rotating cast of LGBTQIA+ voices use WUSSY Movie Club as a platform to dish on their favorite films of past and present. It is a podcast that exudes knowledge and joy, and it should not be missed!