Young Guns 17: India Sleem

By Brett McKenzie Posted on Nov 04, 2019

Shining a light on the amazing class of Young Guns 17

What happens when you take a jury of 60+ respected creatives, more than 500 entries from all over the globe, and mix them all together for two months of serious consideration, debate and decision-making? Eventually you get the winners of Young Guns 17! This year, The One Club for Creativity is honoring a creatively diverse class of 28 winners, including animators, designers, photographers, illustrators, film directors and editors, all of whom came out of this process as true champions of their craft.

Ahead of the Young Guns 17 Ceremony + Party taking place on November 20, we are featuring the various superstars who will be taking the stage that evening.

India Sleem


Brooklyn, NY


Manchester, United Kingdom



Congratulations and welcome to the Young Guns family! You had entered last year; what do you think got you into the winners' circle this time around?

Thank you! This year my work has changed a lot. I felt a lot more confident in my portfolio and the pieces I submitted. I'd done more impressive client work and more thought-out personal work.

Which of the projects that you entered is your personal favorite and why?

That's a hard choice. Some of them I prefer the journey more than the actual outcome, but sometimes I think the journey is what makes the film more impressive. For that reason I choose the Converse: We Start It project. It was amazing traveling to collectives around the world who are using their talents and passions to make a difference in their communities. I think I've been most impacted by this project, being immersed in cultures I'd never experienced and making good friends with people I met along the way. It was an all-female crew, and we all worked really well together; lots of banter and laughs, as well as some really good work!

One of the highlights of entering Young Guns is the ability to submit personal projects alongside professional ones. I see that you took advantage of this...

Yeah! I entered two projects; a photo series called Indian Hills about a group of boys that run a collective from their backyard in Utah, and a film, The Game, a golden hour love letter to New York City basketball culture. Both projects came from a personal interest in capturing beauty in unexpected places. They were both stories that I'd heard about and wanted more people to experience their beauty and give the people exposure to a crowd that they might not be able to reach. If I could do anything for the rest of my life that would be it; tell the inspiring and beautiful stories that those involved might not realize could make a really positive impact on the world if more people could hear their stories.

What was it like to discover that you won YG17?

I wasn't expecting to find out so soon, so I was very surprised and didn't believe it right away! I told my partner and my family, and everyone was really proud. I felt amazing — still do!

How would you describe your creative style?

I always describe that my work deals with color, composition, and humancentric themes. A lot of my work stems from my identity; as a mixed-race person, I am often working with people of color, and with these clients, I try to focus on beautifying the diversity of cultures. I really love relationships, between family members, friends, colleagues and telling their stories that they might not think people even want to hear, but we do! My process does match this. I have a big hand in the casting, and I scout a lot of people that I save in an archive for future projects. Casting is one of my favorite parts of everything.

What is your favorite tool when it comes to making what you do, something you’d feel naked without? 

Dropbox! I love having a system with my work and being able to access stuff that's not just on hard drives at home. I back it up on a hard drive and then transfer selects or clips onto my Dropbox.

What do you do when you hit a creative wall, when you are stuck for ideas and solutions?

It depends. Sometimes I need to go off the grid completely, to turn off my phone and leave New York for a weekend with my partner and dog. But sometimes I'll watch films or visit places I've not been to before, to refresh and feel inspired again to create. 

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career? 

100% definitely my grandparents; Gran and Grandad Swift and Gran Sleem. My heritage is a big influence, and so are the cultures I've lived in; Northern England — the city and the countryside — Utah, and New York. People who I don't know but still admire include Andrea Arnold, Claire Denis, Doug Dubois, and Martin Parr.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners that you look up to and admire?

I really like Jonas Lindstroem's (YG16) work!

Name a creative dream that you have yet to fulfill.

I really want to make a narrative music video without the artist themselves. I want to develop a story and create a hybrid of doc/music video with them. Would love to work with James Blake and Blood Orange. I'm working on a short film and need some funding so that'd be amazing to get some help!

Any final thoughts for the Young Guns community?

I feel really proud that I was recognized for the work I'm making. I don't make work expecting people to love it, but it's an amazing feeling that maybe people felt inspired by my films or photos.


"India is clearly passionate about film and storytelling. Her ability to be consistent in the execution of the diverse subjects was evident and appreciated. Despite being rendered for a major brand, her pieces weren’t chocked with the bells and whistles that some brands exude. In fact, they all evoked a simple aesthetic that was modernized to feel contemporary. This resulted in me wanting to connect further with subjects and also snag a fresh pair of Air Force 1’s."

Dian Holton
Art Director

The Young Guns 17 Ceremony & Party takes place on Thursday, November 20 in New York City. 




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