What got you behind the camera, and
how did you find the path from factual programmes lead to your sterling
work on the fictional worlds of Doctor Who and its DVD range?
Oddly enough, this wasn't the career I set out for! I wanted to be a
film critic, but randomly applied for a job at ITV at the end of my
post-graduate course in 2005 - and suddenly I was a junior researcher on
a Channel 4 list-show - 'The 100 Greatest Family Films'. As a massive
film nerd, this was like going to heaven, as I got to meet a lot of my
heroes, though Ray Harryhausen was my favourite - he brought one of the
skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts to his interview! After two years
at ITV, I was offered a job as an Assistant Producer at Newcastle indie
Dene Films, but within a few months I'd wrangled it so I was producing
and directing my own stuff, and I haven't really had chance to look back
My work in general ranges from broadcast docos like Stammer School and
The Last Cast for the BBC, and non-broadcast films for folks like Virgin
Money and the NHS, but I'd always been a huge Who fan and suddenly
realised that I was in a position to work on Who professionally. I
contacted Dan Hall in 2008, and met up with him for a chat about where I
could fit in, and he took a bit of a gamble on the spot - commissioning
me to make the 'Time Zones' historical doco for The War Games. I'm
currently working on my 34th doco for the Who range, so it's been a busy
In the work you have completed for
the Doctor Who DVD range so far, has there ever been anything that has
shocked or surprised you?
I think the most shocking side of this work is when a documentary
contributor passes away. So many of the Who stories we cover have been
from the 60s and 70s, and that sadly means that a lot of our guests are
in their twilight years. We filmed on location with Barry Letts just a
matter of weeks before he passed away - it was the last interview he
ever gave, but he was still sharp as a tack. Nic Courtney was involved
in the same shoot and again it's shocking to hear sad news so soon after
having met one of your heroes for the first time. Having said that, I'm
very proud that the range can include interviews with such a range of
people who might never have had their memories recorded otherwise - it
all adds up to an amazing tribute to the hard work and passion of
everyone who was ever involved in Doctor Who.
What Special Feature that you have
worked on to date are you most proud of and why?
That's a tricky one... the first Who documentary I worked on that I was
really proud of was our 4th film - 'Team Erato' from The Creature from
the Pit DVD. I still think that stands up as a very funny look at a
production nightmare - and interviewee Morag McLean is still my favourite contributor from all my docs. After that, I loved working on
the two 'Who Peter' films, and that certainly felt like a gear change
for the range in terms of production values - which I'm very chuffed
about. It's always more fun when we get outside of the studio to film,
so docos like 'Return to Little Hodcombe' and 'Living with Levene' from
the upcoming Claws of Axos SE are always exciting, but maybe the one
that's found the most affection with fans is our 'Looking for Peter'
film for The Sensorites - which was a real pleasure to work on, and
ended up being far more moving than any of us expected.
Is there a particular golden rule or
trick to engaging with an audience from a directors point of view?
I'm always very keen on pace with the Who docos - I like the films to be
nice and tight as an edit, and to be funny! Additionally it's always a
lot of fun with the making-ofs to design them so they positively reek of
the story they're exploring - so the viewer feels immersed in that
atmosphere. For example, in the 'Axon Stations!' making of from the
Claws of Axos SE, I've shot it so the whole documentary takes place
within the living orange walls of the Axon spaceship, with a glam rock
soundtrack that seems to sum up the very 70s vibe of the story itself.
I'm also very keen on pushing the formats where we can to shift things
away from studio talking heads (which can still be very effective of
course) into films like 'Looking for Peter' which are far more
out-and-about and really benefit from a great presenter like Toby Hadoke.
Finally, if you could have one round
trip in the TARDIS, anywhere in time and space, where would you go and
I'd visit the set of Powell & Pressburger's 'A Matter of Life and Death'
- one of the days when they were filming on the massive stairway to
heaven set, that'd be cool. It's been my favourite film for years and I
would geek out absolutely to meet Niv and The Archers.* * *
** Chris Chapman's most-recent work can be seen on the
upcoming DVD releases of
The Ambassadors of Death and The
Claws of Axos: Special Edition.