It’s hard for me to write about my experience with graffiti because it has affected my life thoroughly that I can’t really imagine what things might have been like without it.
Around 2005 I started going out and meeting people in Brisbane, Australia. People say “What’s it like being a women in graffiti” but I was attracted to the whole hip hop / graffiti thing then because it was the only place I felt treated as something close to equal. There were about 5 girls going to gigs then so I guess everyone made an effort to be nice.
A bunch of us moved into this amazing old art-deco building in town, and converted it into a kind of Lord of the Flies studio space. A bunch of artists lived on the top floor, including Sofles and Fintan Magee. I had just dropped out of university for the second time and had no clue what I was doing with my life. I had taught myself photoshop and was making pocket money designing custom Myspace profiles. I shared a tiny little office with a friend who was working in video. Sofles and I borrowed this friend’s camera and filmed some stuff. Watching this video you can actually see me figuring out the program. It’s really terrible and hilarious. We took it to Ironlak, who published it on their Youtube channel. It got about 50,000 views, not because it was good but just because of Ironlak’s following. They needed an editor and so they gave me a job. I got to watch and cut together all this awesome footage shot all over the world, and learnt a lot really quickly, both about editing and about graffiti. Having this audience on the Ironlak channel from day one was a huge motivator to keep improving. I enrolled back in Uni studying Multimedia and spent hours in my little office on forums, learning programs. I saved up for a Canon 7D and started shooting.
Despite watching all this amazing footage from all over the world I’ve never been overseas. In 2012, Sofles and I flew into Portugal. On the first day we turned up to a wall with some local guys. Everything was foreign and scary. I sheepishly introduced myself. They responded with “Selina Miles? Nice!” These Portuguese writers knew my name from the credits of the Ironlak videos. For me this was absolutely mind-bending. This continued every place we visited. Everyone was so cool. Travelling like this, sleeping on floors and creeping abandoned buildings and getting wasted and following these guys around with a camera bombing was the absolute best.
In 2013 made a video called Limitless. It was supposed to be this little thing that ended up consuming our lives. I got fired from my job editing corporate videos for a mining company because I just stopped handing in my work. I uploaded the video and a few hours later had a message from a friend telling me we were #1 on Reddit.com. The next day the video had 2 million views and I had 700 emails. Included in these emails were several offers to be represented by various film production agencies. I realised pretty quickly most were just trying to cash in on this 15 minutes of fame, but I found a few that seemed serious. I settled on once agency in London, and one in New York.
A month later I was back in Europe, directing a commercial for Pepsi. In between Pepsi shoots I would go out shooting graffiti, and being generally belligerent. I met even more writers, including my now-boyfriend. It was a very steep learning curve, going from shooting graffiti by myself to working in a team of 40 people. I felt like a total imposter, and figured I would just ride this wave as long as it lasted until they figured out I was an idiot and fired me. That was almost 3 years ago and so far they haven’t figured it out. At first it was exciting working on ads, but I realised pretty quickly that advertising is rough. You are given all the responsibility and very little creative control of the project. It’s insanely stressful, everything is due “yesterday” and people take pride in working the most insane hours and having no life outside of work. Often you’ll bust your guts for a week on a pitch and not even get a call back.
These days I do one of these jobs every 6 months or so and spend the rest of my time shooting what I want. I get to shoot a lot of art festivals, I’ve been to Serbia, Suriname, Tahiti, all kinds of crazy places. I won’t ever stop making time for silly, self-initiated, love projects, because those are the only ones that end up being good. Getting to travel and meet like-minded people in new places is all I need to be happy in life. And there’s so many of us now. Every place you go, you meet someone who knows someone you know. It’s a very exciting time to be alive.
I guess the thing to take away from my experience is – take chances. Take that last minute trip or go to that party because you never know who you might meet. Don’t worry too much about your career, or success. Worry about passion, what yours is and how to make the most of it. It doesn’t matter what you’re good at, as long as you’re good at something. If you get that part right, with a bit of luck the rest should follow.