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Selim was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attended St. Thomas College in St. Paul. After working briefly in feature-film production, he won an assignment from his alma mater to direct a recruiting film, for which he earned an award at the New York Film Festival. From there, Selim entered the commercial industry, first as a producer, then as a director. He became closely associated with Milwaukee agency McDonald-Davis, which allowed him to found his own production company, called Departure Films. The venture was an immediate success; Selim worked constantly, directing an average of more than a hundred TV spots per year.
In 1991, at the age of 30, Selim won a Gold Lion Award at the Cannes Film Festival for a commercial that he directed for both the YMCA and Minneapolis agency Clarity Coverdale. The success of that TV spot brought Selim national attention and led to his signing by a prominent New York production company called Giraldi/Suarez. Two years later, Selim joined Chicago-based The Story Companies, where he racked up credits for such national advertisers as Coke, McDonald's, Miller Lite, Blockbuster Video, Reebok, and Citibank. Selim later entered the entertainment industry, becoming a director, writer, and producer.