Now Series 10 of Doctor Who has drawn to a close so too has Doctor Who: The Fan Show – The After Show. Every week they have brought viewers to their YouTube channel interviews with cast and crew, moments after the latest episodes have been screened in the UK. BlogtorWho sat down to chat with the presenter Christel Dee about Doctor Who, cosplay and the Fan Show. In this extensive and at times very personal four part interview Christel discusses her career, her background, her sexuality and of course, her Doctor – Peter Capaldi…
In Part One of this interview Christel reveals how she started making videos, University, working as a runner in TV, FiveWhoFans and how she joined Doctor Who: The Fan Show…
BlogtorWho: Was Film and TV Production something that appealed to you as a youngster or did it take you a little while to decide on this career path?
Christel Dee: When I was in secondary school I was always really good at Art and Design. I wanted to be a graphic designer for years until I went to college. For my A levels I studied, Photography, Digital Art and Media Studies.
At that age, you’re thinking about what you want to do, about the future. Around the same time, I was watching a lot of Doctor Who Confidential. I was watching Confidential and my aunty said, “Why don’t you do that? Couldn’t you work making telly, making Doctor Who?” Not that I didn’t want to, but I just didn’t think it was achievable. Then the more I thought about it, the more I was inspired by it. Suddenly Doctor Who wasn’t a show that I just watched and escaped to; it was a TV show that people were making. I suddenly thought of people considering the lighting, there were people thinking about the acting, and the shots that they’re choosing. A lot of what I did for my A level was breaking down Film and TV shows and talking about them, writing essays and analysing things like production design and sound design.
BlogtorWho: That must be quite fun for an A Level.
Christel Dee: Yeah, my A level media exam was on Doctor Who. You had to watch a clip then write an essay deconstructing that scene. We were watching a range of shows as prep, but we were watching an awful lot of Doctor Who, which is great because I was a fan. I was probably the only fan in my class actually, so everyone kind of hated me.
Then when you get the paper in the exam and you’re trying to see through the paper to see what is on the other side. I tried to read it backwards thinking is it Doctor Who? I thought, surely not, it couldn’t be Doctor Who. I opened it, and it was Doctor Who!
BlogtorWho: What scene did you have to do?
Christel Dee: The scene that we had to watch was the end of Last of the Time Lords with John Simm and Freema. It was Martha’s speech about if everyone calls the Doctor at the same time. That’s what we had to watch and I had to write an essay on that. I got an A for that, so that was nice. I knew that scene inside out. It was on BBC3 that week so I’d watched the episode beforehand as well. I was just really lucky.
Christel attended Westminster Film School situated in Harrow, London, part of the University of Westminster.
BlogtorWho: So then after A Levels you went onto University?
Christel Dee: For Uni I decided to do Film and TV production. I very easily could have gone into costume making or prop design, something like that. I seriously considered it, but I didn’t want the thing that I really enjoyed to do as a hobby to be my job. I thought I’d get bored of it. So I decided to do Film and TV. It was less to do with what I was good at; it was more to do with what I was interested in doing.
BlogtorWho: How was the University experience for you?
Christel Dee: It was a good way of figuring out what I wanted to do. You go into Uni at 18 years old thinking that it is going to solve all your problems, that Uni is going to be the thing that gets you a job, it’s not. I value Uni for the life experience. Despite tuition fees having gone up, I would still recommend that people go and do something like Uni or college because of the life experience that you gain.
BlogtorWho: How did you find the course?
Christel Dee: I remember after the first year feeling very disappointed. This is not to knock my course, the course was very good. Westminster Film School is a very good film school, but I just think with any course in the media, you don’t get anywhere without experience or contacts. That is the truth of it.
Christel Dee: I know the courses like to break you in and stuff, but I was already thinking ahead. I was always thinking beyond that. That summer between first year and second year, I got myself a work experience post at the BBC. I worked for CBBC for a month. I worked with Dick & Dom. Mostly doing runner duties at the old Television Centre before it got demolished and at Teddington studios. I remember those four weeks I learned so much. It was so valuable. There’s nothing more valuable than being in the environment. From then on Uni took a bit of a back-burner for me, I have to admit. I still worked hard and I still got my grades, but the priority was getting the experience.
BlogtorWho: So what other experiences on the job were you able to get?
Christel Dee: I got another work experience placement the following year at CBBC, so I was in Manchester for four weeks. It was in the November, so I was missing work at Uni. I remember my course leader telling me off for it. But I was thinking this is going to get me work, this is the experience that’s valuable to me. The module I missed at the time was on making documentaries. I just thought it’s interesting but where is that documentary going to go? What is more valuable? It’s working in the environment and meeting people. I made quite a few contacts and continued to get myself out there.
Working in TV
As with anything you have to start at the beginning to work your way up.
BlogtorWho: So what did you do once you graduated?
Christel Dee: When I left Uni, I didn’t get a job straight away. Even with some experience, I couldn’t get a job straight away, that’s how hard it is. So I worked in a shoe shop. I’d finished Uni in May 2013 and then through a contact that I’d made two years before, I was invited to do some running work that August. It was on a kid’s show called Munch Box, or something like that; a game show for kids. It was by the company that did Saturday Kitchen. I came in for a day, they liked me and said, “Do you want to work on Saturday Kitchen?” So I worked on Saturday Kitchen for six months.
BlogtorWho: So as a runner, what’s your job?
Christel Dee: A runner is essentially running around. Basically, it covers lots of things. You need to be there to help the production team. Whether that’s washing dishes, getting food for people, cleaning, running errands. But you have to be really on it, really efficient. You have to be very organised. It’s not easy, it’s tough. Quite often runner work isn’t paid, which I don’t agree with. It’s got a lot better, but there are a lot of internships that aren’t paid. My work experience wasn’t paid, and that’s fine because that’s what I agreed to. Saturday Kitchen that was paid, obviously. But sometimes you can be doing quite a lot of unpaid work before you can get actual paid work, which is unfortunate.
BlogtorWho: Well it’s like any job, you have to start somewhere.
Christel Dee: Exactly. It’s good because you get a good feel of the industry and the types of roles there are and just sort of feel your way around it really.
BlogtorWho: I’m sure the variety of people you get to meet is positive as well.
Christel Dee: Exactly, making contacts and impressing people. It’s constantly about your image and how you’re coming across. When you’re breaking into the industry, it’s all about how you’re coming across. It’s all about how you talk to people, how you shake people’s hands, how polite you are, pleases and thank yous. It is hard work because you are constantly on if that makes sense. You can’t slack. There will be people, several different people asking a hundred things of you, and you have to just smile and go, “Yeah, sure.” In your head, you’re like, “Oh my god, I can’t take on any more.” But you just have to smile, even if somebody’s being rude to you and nasty. You could be lovely to somebody for months and months, but if you show that one side if you just let that drop, that is the one thing they will remember. People will always remember the nasty things; they won’t remember all the good stuff.
Being a runner is really hard work, long hours, low pay, and emotionally and physically draining. I knew what I wanted, I knew I wanted to work in this industry and I thought I’ve got to keep going. That’s also what a runner job will filter out, the people who haven’t got it in them to continue. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s hard. It’s a ruthless industry, and it’s not easy at all, it takes a certain type of person. Not everyone has got it in them; you have to be very resilient. I’d only been a runner for half a year and then I started looking for a new job. I just thought, right I’m done, I need to move on. Next thing now.
Beginning with YouTube
BlogtorWho: So what did you do after that?
Christel Dee: I saw this job advertised at an independent company called The Connected Set. They had a project called Mashed, which is a YouTube channel to do with pop culture, gaming and stuff. They do lots of animations and spoofs and stuff. It’s commissioned by Channel 4, but the independent company does it on behalf of Channel 4. They were looking for a channel assistant, which is somebody to do social media, edit videos, produce videos and that kind of thing. I had the skills because I’d been a YouTuber alongside doing Uni work.
BlogtorWho: What started you off making and presenting YouTube videos?
Christel Dee: I decided I wanted to be a presenter when I was six. When I was in my first year of Uni I’d come back to that idea, I think. Actually, at college, I’d come back to that because I met Chris Johnson [CBBC]. He’s a really good friend of mine now; we’re really close, one of my best mates. He knew me from my cosplay work. We just started chatting, and we just made friends. I was aware that he was a presenter, and seeing him made me remember how much I wanted to be a presenter too. I started making videos when I was 15 on an old YouTube channel. It was all silly stuff, blogs. You can’t watch anymore because I made them private. I was doing that, and I thought perhaps I could do this in a serious way, maybe I could actually be a presenter.
BlogtorWho: Chris [Johnson] was an inspiration in a sense then?
Christel Dee: He was found on YouTube, and that inspired me to get YouTube started again. So I started a new channel in 2011, my first year of Uni, and started interviewing people at conventions. I’d been going to these conventions for years, and I thought that was the logical thing to make videos about. So that’s what I did.
BlogtorWho: What valuable skills did your YouTube time teach you?
Christel Dee: I was promoting all that via social media, making my own videos, skills that I didn’t get from Uni, skills that I’d acquired by doing it myself.
Eventually, I saw this job advertised and thought I could do that. I went to two interviews, got called back to a second interview. They wanted me to present a marketing plan for one of their videos. To me, a marketing plan is common sense. Just being a user of social media for so long, promoting my own work, I just did it all the time. I presented a plan, printed it all out on nice paper, did all these mock-ups of things that we’d do. The important thing is that you do different things on different platforms usually. You can’t do the same for Twitter as you do on Facebook. I demonstrated all the different things that you do for a video, and they were impressed by it. Well, they must’ve been because I got the job. That was my first job outside of runner work, making videos properly, professionally. I was there for a year.
This group of friends or geeks as they call themselves get together and, well just make videos about Doctor Who and really cool stuff.
BlogtorWho: Was that around the time that you joined FiveWhoFans?
Christel Dee: Yes, outside of work, I joined FiveWhoFans. In May 2014, I already knew who FiveWhoFans were, because Doctor Who fans we all sort of connected, and they knew who I was and that I was doing videos. One of their members, Jon Gransden, was leaving, and I was asked to be the new member. Of course, I said yes. I was looking for something new to make videos about and wanted to make videos with people as well. Joining FiveWhoFans was life changing for me.
BlogtorWho: How was it so life changing for you?
Christel Dee: Two reasons actually.
1) Through FiveWhoFans I have met the best friends that I’ve ever had. Lifelong friends. I never had any friends at Uni, really. I had some friends, it’s not to knock my friends at Uni, but not people I was close to. Even in school, I had one friend. But FiveWhoFans they’re like family to me. Amazing people
2) It led to me getting my job at the Fan Show.
BlogtorWho: So how did you end up on Doctor Who: The Fan Show?
Christel Dee: On FiveWhoFans we made lots of sketches, songs and silly stuff. The Fan Show was looking for a host, they found my videos online and I was invited to audition. That was March 2015. I worked at Mashed and throughout that year I’d been making these Doctor Who videos. It just so happened that because of my experience working in TV, working in digital, making YouTube videos, and being a Doctor Who fan, that I was good fit for the researcher role as well. So I became the presenter and researcher for Doctor Who: The Fan Show.
Next time Christel explains what her job on the Fan Show entails, talks about the After Show, interviewing and Cosplay…
You can find out more about FiveWhoFans at their YouTube page, on Twitter @5WF and on Facebook. And check out Christel’s website at christeldee.co.uk along with her Twitter at @ChristelDee and on Instagram at officialchristeldee
- Interview by Diane Malkin.
- Article by Bedwyr Gullidge.