Beau Miles is known for pushing his limits in the field – but drinking a 20 year old bottle of red he found on the curb in an actual field is taking it pretty literally.
We love a bit of Beau Miles here at We Are Explorers. He’s a scruffy redhead with a big heart and a real knack for telling stories. His ability to find adventure in the everyday and spin a yarn about it has found favour on YouTube, where four of his short films have cracked a million views.
But when a commenter told Beau that he was such a good storyteller that he could film himself sitting in a field and he’d still watch it, Beau took up the challenge. Combined with another idea based around a bottle of wine he found in curbside pickup (the idea was to drink it), Junk Wine was born.
Beau’s got 14 films coming out over the next 14 months (and a book!), so at the very sober time of 9am I gave him a ring to talk Cab Sav and YouTube, with a dash of adventure philosophy for zest.
Tim: When did you decide to do 14 films in 14 months? It reminds me of King Gizzard’s five albums in one year.
Beau: We knew that we had eight or nine films that were close to being finished, and we’re learning that [on YouTube] you’ve got to give your viewers consistency, and I’ve never had that ever. But if this is going to be my breadwinner, then I’ve got to be consistent.
I was quite ambitious thinking that I could do one a month this year, but with finishing off my book and being a full-time Dad plus COVID, it was just way too much, ridiculous. So you’ve got to be realistic too.
But now my videographer Mitch is finishing up his work and I’m finishing up my book and my daughter May’s getting older now.
‘So next year, if we can’t make it then I’ve got to give up and go back to picking spuds, because everything’s laid out for 2021.’
2020 wasn’t how you expected even before COVID right?
I was still sort of shocked by March or April that I wasn’t in Outdoor Ed anymore after 10 or 12 years at Monash Uni, and all of a sudden being made redundant, which I just didn’t see coming. I knew that the course was sick, but I thought there’d be a three or four-year period of teach out.
This was pre-COVID. This was December. So I’ve taken a few months just to get sort of a handle on what the hell the future looks like, and this is it. So storytelling is it mate.
Why did you start this run of films with Junk Wine?
I’ve been meaning to make that for ages anyway, but I was never going to do it as Insta Q&A. I was genuinely going to go on and just test myself and tell a really good story in the field. But I didn’t know what that was going to be at the last minute, and we wanted to turn something around pretty quick.
To be honest, Junk Wine, has always just been bubbling away because I had this bottle of wine that I found on the side of the road and I wanted to make a story around it. But we pulled it forward and shot it in the way that we shot it with Insta questions, because another story about a cabin I built on my property (without my wife knowing) wasn’t quite ready.
Junk Wine suited all purposes. It showed off a bit of a back catalogue of films, it told people what’s coming up, and I got to answer some questions whilst drinking a bottle of wine.
‘There’s not really much of a story with Junk Wine other than getting pissed for a few hours, but it served a purpose in setting up this 14-month thing.’
I felt like it marked a line in the sand, kind of like your Instagram (@beauisms) that’s just hit the present day after posting from the past. I felt like I was getting introduced to the Beau universe.
Yeah, my ego sometimes stumbles along and gets in the way, but I think it came off okay. I answered about 65 questions whilst drinking the wine, and I think only 20 made the cut because I ramble on way too much.
This one big Q&A was quite fun actually, because I never see my stories like other people do, so I get this sort of double insight.
When I come back into the editing suite I relive it, make a story out of it. How do you make something that was three days or three weeks or three years, into three minutes? Or 30 minutes? It’s very hard because you’ve gotta show people what the whole experience was like. So there’s my first layer of inspection. And then the next one is when people watch it and then they give me insights as to what they’ve seen. And so it’s sort of a room of mirrors. It’s bizarre.
It’s so easy for people to fill in the gaps with films. They can get a wildly different view of what happened from small changes or their own preconceptions.
Yeah, that’s right. And I’ve always wondered that, Tim. Does a really good filmmaker give people a similar experience in that they fill in similar gaps? Or does a really good filmmaker make a story that has many ways to interpret it? So yeah, that’s a good question. And I’m not sure what makes a great filmmaker, if it’s one or the other, or a mix of both.
I was watching it and I was thinking, ‘Okay, so I’m interviewing Beau about an interview.’ A lot of the questions that I wanted to ask were already getting answered in the film, so I didn’t want to double up.
That’s a really interesting opening sort of idea, isn’t it? I suppose that’s why at the Archibald Prize so many of the people that get shown now are self-portraits because they tend to be that kind of double illusion. A question of a question. It’s like a babushka doll.
I did have one question though. The wine, the corked Cabernet Sauvignon, was from 1999. What were you doing when the wine was made?
That is a good question. 1999 was my first year of uni. That was a big year; girls and cars and living by myself, travelling by myself. I did a lot of that in 1998, but ’99 was when I really went out. I travelled for three months in Asia and did lots of solo trekking. That was a real breakout year actually.
I’m not sure how much rain fell and how much it played into those grapes being pretty good, but it was good. It was really a good wine and I genuinely thought, ‘Geez, I should really be sharing this with Helen or a good friend.’
But stuff it, I got plonked on a pretty good bottle of wine in the end.
Junk WinePLAY VIDEO
What did you do after filming?
Well, I had to go back to being a sober Dad. So I sort of let loose a little bit, the last ten minutes I just sat there and rambled off what I was thinking and feeling. It’s amazing how drunk I was by then. I was really slurring and I couldn’t think clearly.
And then I had to kind of put on this sort of show a bit of going back to, ‘I’m not too bad, darl. I can help with feeding May and getting her to bed.’ And that was all no worries, but I was pretty dusty. I just left everything out in the field
A bottle of wine’s a big physical challenge. I don’t reckon I could cope with that.
Yeah, I’m not a very good drinker. I never have been.
I don’t know how much truth is in it, but it’s hay fever season down here [in Victoria] right? And apparently red wine exaggerates the histamines. So I was all gummed up and had to take antihistamines that night. It just made me feel like an old man.
You’ve been in Victoria through lockdown, but in a regional area. How’s it been out on the farm? Peaceful?
It’s been pretty good Tim. We were in a real bubble here. We’re an island, a little five-acre block in this beautiful area of Australia. It’s pretty good. I could not leave the block and be pretty happy with building projects and running, keeping fit. And it’s beautifully treed. So I feel like I live in a park.
I’m super lucky, but I know how hard it’s been because all of the collaborations I’ve been wanting to work with were in the city. And shooting. Shooting’s become almost impossible. So it has been hard, not for me, but I suppose just for business, for filmmaking. Because poor old Melbourne, I understand they suffered.
Yeah, it was brutal.
I think it’s good for society. I know that our parklands have been beaten up, but I think it’s a good thing. Hopefully there’ll be more park usage and advocacy for wild spaces, because I know that the little reserve closest to where I live, which is full of lots of single track and horse-riding trails and whatnot, now has tracks twice as wide and twice as beaten in.
There’s rubbish on the trails and whatnot. But now I’m wondering is it a good thing if it becomes a martyr, that one little block of bush? We’re certainly loving our parks to death, and I hope it’s a good thing, because at face value it’s not.
That’s a big thing for We Are Explorers, the balance between promoting wild places and being worried that you’ll overload them.
Totally, it’s that classic thing that happens with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, where everyone wants to go to an island that no one’s been to. That sets a precedent, of course, if everyone wants to go there, and then where’s the next island and the next patch of bush? Everyone wants to create their own footprints. Oh actually, that’s not true. I think a lot of people are happy to follow others, but they still want that kind of genuine feeling of it being pretty new and fresh and that they’re seeing things for the first time.
And you wonder if the Tassie tiger was seen in the ’70s, which a lot of people think it was, it survived 30 or 40 years after they thought it was the last one. How much do those people tell others about that? Is it best to just say nothing?
‘We Are Explorers’ problem is very similar to the thylacine in a sense, how much do you promote these very things that we love? Because in many respects, the people that love them the most know about them and don’t tell anyone.’
But then, of course, no, I’m with you. I think it needs to be told. I think it needs to be shown because it puts it out there in the public domain then too. Surely it’s got to go that way.
I think the mindset’s really important though. I’m really interested to read your upcoming book The Backyard Adventurer, I feel like it’s going to talk more about the mindset of adventure than specifically ticking boxes.
It’s a complete lie, but I write about it as a moment, that I had a moment where I thought ‘You know what? I don’t need to jump on a plane anymore.’ I’ve done my carbon burning and I’ve got to look closer to home to have the same kind of bang for my buck with this sense of adventure that I’m chasing all the time.
So I’ve shifted it and shaped it, poked and prodded it to the point where you strip it all the way back and you see that just as many of these exotic, hard, challenging, physically rewarding and skilled endeavors can be found within a 100k radius of your home.
It was never a moment. It’s taken my whole life to get to that point. But of course, that’s pretty hard to write about in that way, and there have been moments where it’s crystal clear.
Having a child is a big one. And then finding our little five-acre property made me thinking ‘I’m not going to be the last one that sees these trees living on this property. It’s not just about me anymore.’
It’s very much about your ego and mortality when you strip things back and don’t want to go as far anymore.
Has anyone said that it’s all easy for you to say because you’ve already done that travel overseas?
Exactly mate. When a 23-year-old comes to me and says, ‘Look, I’ve discovered backyard adventuring and I’ll never hop on a plane again,’ I think, ‘ Good on you, that’s amazing. But is that sustainable for you?’ I don’t know.
A lot of people come to the conclusion earlier than I have and I think, ‘Gee, good on you.’ I had that privilege of going away for 15 years and never thinking too much about it. Never thinking really about just how lucky I was and what my impact was, doing those things.
And look, I don’t think badly of people that travel, because I did so much of it. Crikey, it’s not a bad thing! But there does need to be a realisation, and there does need to be some sort of self-critique in there. And whether it comes as a 38-year-old or a 35-year-old or a 23-year-old, then excellent. But it does need to come in. I’m very self-critical.
I think it’s about getting people to add a layer of meaning into what they do, especially in their recreation time. I think a lot of people see adventure as their weekend, they don’t want to have to think too hard about it. But bringing that intention into all parts of your life is important.
Yeah, well said. I’ve taught about the history of leisure back several thousand years and you can go back and look at why we now have time off, or why you play chess.
We’ve been playing a lot of chess at home.
Some people play chess 40 hours a week! Why don’t you just do that? And some people can, right? But the fact that we have leisure is often associated with having work, and work is often associated with being something that we do because we need to earn money.
And then because of that, and it’s not quite right, we don’t mind doing our 40 hours a week, but we would rather be drinking pina coladas, but we don’t. The trick is we don’t want to be drinking pina coladas 40 hours a week.
A holiday seems so much better when you’ve worked your ass off to get it. Backyard adventuring flips all that on its head a little because it puts it all in the same bucket. All right, what is my work day and my leisure time and my love life and my hate life or whatever, it’s all in the same bucket, and it’s all just one big, bloody melting pot of life.
And I make films out of that, I write about it, it’s what I do 9 to 5 and it’s what I do at night. It’s just one big thing.
Beau, we could talk all day but let’s leave it there.
Thanks, Tim. Can’t wait to see you again, mate. We’ll have a beer.
Maybe a wine?
Whatever someone hands me.
Junk Wine is out now on YouTube! Make sure you subscribe to hear when the next of 13 films drops.
The Backyard Adventurer is out next year, but you can preorder it now.
Photos by Mitch Drummond