Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
Chances are if you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve seen a reaction video.
Videos of people watching other people’s videos have been among YouTube‘s top fare for more than a decade, generating hundreds of millions of views.
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And, for Charlotte Dobre, they’ve made a new career.
Dobre is an actress by training and trade, and was right on the verge of snagging enough work to go union when COVID hit. Stuck at home, she started looking for ways to keep sharp–and, as a former staffer at YouTube news channel InformOverload, she had a background in digital video.
So she started uploading vlog-style videos. And, to her surprise, people watched. She went from uploading occasionally to uploading three days a week, then seven. By that time, she’d already noticed one specific type of video seemed to do especially well with her audience: reactions.
These days, Dobre has a full team working with her, and has put together a kind of assembly line production process where she comes up with ideas for videos and team members source material for her to watch live while recording. This, she says, is a crucial part of her channel. Her reactions aren’t rehearsed–they’re real.
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: Who are you, where are you from, and what kind of stuff do you make on YouTube?
Charlotte Dobre: I’m Charlotte Dobre and I’m from Calgary, Alberta. I’m based in Toronto now and I suppose I make reaction content, but I would call it more commentary than reaction. I basically just poke fun at internet trends or Reddit threads or honestly pretty much whatever I think is funny.
Tubefilter: What’s your background? What did you get up to before you started your YouTube channel?
CD: I’m actually a trained actress. I have a theatre degree and I went to New York Film Academy for acting for film. Then I didn’t end up getting my visa to go to the States, so I was like, “Okay, what do I do now?” I ended up going to Toronto. I showed up at my friend’s place with two hockey bags. [laughs]
I lived in her den for like six months and then I lived in the baby’s room for six months. Then I got a job! So I’d been going to auditions here and there, and then I got my job at a YouTube channel called InformOverload. You guys have probably covered them; they’ve been in the top 10 quite a few times. I’m familiar with Tubefilter for that reason.
I was a writer and host for InformOverload for five years, I believe. In between I was going to auditions. I would start the day by going to an audition, go to work for four hours, go to an audition on my lunch hour, back to work for four hours, and then two auditions after work.
So it was a lot. And I did have some success as an actress. I booked mostly commercials. But then right before I kind of felt like I was going to be on the cusp of becoming union, the pandemic hit. The weekend we went into lockdown, I had a YouTube channel that I had tried to start a few times and just kind of was too busy—or, well, I guess making excuses for the fact that I was too lazy to do it and I didn’t set aside enough time. So I started posting on my YouTube channel every Sunday. The videos were getting, you know, like 10,000 views, which is pretty good for just starting, so I kept posting.
I initially started editing the videos myself, but then I saw that there was a demand for my videos, so I started posting three times a week and I hired an editor. Then sooner or later I posted every single day, and I would dedicate every Sunday and Wednesday to filming three to four videos in one sitting in addition to having my full-time job. So working Monday to Friday and going to the odd audition, but it was the pandemic, so there wasn’t much. About six months after I started my channel, I quit my job and took the plunge and was like, “Okay, I guess I’m doing this now.” That was two and a half years ago and, uh, here I am.
Tubefilter: What was the trigger point for committing to your channel?
CD: I think it was a house tour I had posted. I wasn’t allowed to leave my house, but I was like, “Okay, well, I can’t have you guys over, but I will give you a house tour.” My place was absolutely tiny. It was this tiny little 500 square foot box where I just kind of slept and created content and ate and that’s pretty much it. So I showed everybody my artwork and showed everyone where I created content. And that video hit like 200,000 views or something, and it got the channel monetized.
And I was like, “Oh, I didn’t realize that people cared, but okay.” Then I just kind of kept up with it and then I landed on a niche, which was reaction videos.
I figured, what’s a niche where I can film multiple videos in one sitting where I can make sure I hit that video-a-day target but still not compromise the quality. That’s why I chose reaction videos—and everything you see on my channel is a genuine reaction. I don’t look at the content beforehand, which I think adds to the comedy of it and the spontaneity of it. A lot of comedy, you know, it’s spontaneity that makes it funny. People make a spontaneous joke and there’s an art to that. So I just kind of kept up with the reaction videos because it was something that I really enjoyed doing.
Tubefilter: Quitting your full-time job is a really big step. Was that around the same time as the house tour video? Or what prompted that?
CD: It was kind of at the point where I was making more money on my YouTube channel than I was at my full-time job. And that was working two days a week, as opposed to five days a week. And I was like, “Okay, so what if I was actually dedicating every single day to creating content? What’s the potential there?” Because I also wanted a life too, so I was rushing a bit, and the quality of videos obviously wasn’t where it could be as if I’d dedicated way more time to it.
So the threshold that I reached was where I was making three times as much on my own YouTube channel working two days a week than I was at my full-time job.
Tubefilter: Definitely a significant place to reach.
CD: Definitely. And obviously it was a risk, and I was absolutely terrified because with a job, there’s security there. But it’s like, okay, maybe this is a chance worth taking. And I’m really glad that I did take that chance because my company’s grown exponentially, I’m doing a ton of different other projects, and I’m really able to just explore all of these avenues I wasn’t able to explore before as a creator and as an artist. I’ve had the capital to be able to do that and it’s really amazing.
Tubefilter: What does your daily schedule look like now?
CD: I usually get up around 7 a.m. I head to my computer and kind of look at topics for the day. Just browse the internet. I look at what’s trending on Reddit, various news websites, and my YouTube channel to see what’s doing well. Then I also put up the video for the day, or I schedule more than one video and make the thumbnail and do all of the backend SEO and all that stuff.
Then once that’s finished, I go downstairs and get camera-ready. I have this amazing vanity with lights on it that makes me feel like a Hollywood actress and I listen to my hype-up music. Or if I’m feeling really off that day I have, it’s called aura-cleansing music, and it just kind of sets the tone for a positive and peaceful mind. It’s my version of meditating. Meditating with a little bit of light affirmation thrown in there. But I’m also so busy that I can’t sit and meditate, so I work it into my get ready routine. Then I go and I film three or four videos in my home studio per day.
The afternoons I usually spend doing interviews or speaking to my accountant or my agent or my lawyer and all of my staff. I have a really amazing team. We’re all working on so many projects together and a lot of them are actually my friends, so it’s really nice to be able to give work to my friends who are very good at what they do, and have a team that really supports me.
I usually do that for a few hours, and some days I film and some days I don’t. Some days are dedicated specifically to admin stuff, but I do try to film three or four videos in one sitting like maybe three or four days a week.
Tubefilter: How much time goes into the average video from conception to upload?
CD: We have monthly ideation sessions, my friend and I just get together and we have some glasses of wine and bang out a ton of ideas. We just brainstorm and rework titles and look at what’s trending on the internet, what’s trending on TikTok. We just bang out like 30 ideas. We also look at past videos, what’s done well on the channel and what makes sense to follow up on.
Then I have two content producers and a licensing company that I will assign a topic to, and then they will go and find the content that I will react to. I believe it takes in about two hours to do that. Once it’s finished, they send me the files and I react to it, and that’s why I’m able to just create so much content. It’s like an assembly line. Then I send the videos to my editors and it runs properly like a well-oiled machine. I’m actually filmed up to Aug. 17 right now. So it allows me to, you know, take time off and work on other projects if I need to, and really focus on the next step, because you should always be thinking about how to make the content better.
Tubefilter: It’s interesting to hear how you structure spontaneity into your content, so you’re truly surprised by what you’re reacting to.
CD: Yeah. And who knows, maybe the content would be even better if I was a little bit briefed on the topics, but as I said, I’m a trained actress and I’m trained in improv, and I kind of just go with whatever comes to mind. Like the genuine laughter and the genuine reactions that you see are like real, that’s my first time seeing the content. And maybe there’ll be a time where I start to research a little bit more into topics and create longer videos, longer content that way. But for now, the reaction content seems to be what’s working for me. So I’m gonna continue for a little while.
Tubefilter: Have you struggled with monetization at all because you’re a reaction channel?
CD: Oh my gosh, absolutely. Especially right now. I don’t really know what’s going on with YouTube, but there was a Community Guidelines change recently and they’re really hunkering down on age restrictions. Content is getting age restricted. Because it’s an automated system that they put instructions into and then it takes the human reviewers when you appeal the content to fully kind of specify, every time YouTube makes a Community Guidelines change, there’s always just like, it’s just crazy for a little while and like I’m panicking a little bit, and then you start to find ways around it and you stop swearing or, for example, I’m not allowed to talk about sex in any way anymore, it seems like. Anything that is sexually suggestive at all, and I make like a cheeky joke every now and again, but I’m not gonna really get into too much detail. And even that is not allowed.
It also seems that maybe talking about being drunk or showing people who are way too drunk isn’t allowed either. So I definitely struggle with it, like almost daily. It’s kind of part of the job though.
Tubefilter: Yeah. I just spoke to someone who makes content for kids and they’re having a hard time too.
CD: Oh yeah. It’s brutal. It’s really tough out there right now. Unfortunately you just have to learn how to appeal it and you can also use the editor. There’s an editor after you post the video where you can remove copyrighted content or parts of the video if you get demonetized or whatever. But the problem is that when you have an age restriction, you actually aren’t told what the issue is and you can’t appeal it. It’s definitely a bit of a pain, to be honest, but I’m okay. I’m doing really well on Facebook, and I’ve got Jellysmack that’s taking the reins on that. They’re very good at making sure everything is advertiser-friendly, which is probably one of the reasons why my Facebook page has grown to a level that’s just exponential as opposed to my YouTube channel. So I’ve got backups. It’s okay.
Tubefilter: What’s your viewership like on Facebook compared to YouTube then?
CD: Just insane. Like millions of views per video every time, pretty much. It’s alarming to me to see, you know, with my videos it’s like 300,000 views is an okay video, then 500,000 views is a great video. Obviously a smaller creator would listen to me and think, “Okay, I wish I could get 300,000 views on a video.” But it’s just interesting to see how on Facebook, it’s just completely blowing YouTube out of the water.
And it does make me wonder, you know, what I’m doing wrong, or if I need to start catering my content to YouTube differently, or what I should do. Because yeah I guess, as it is in business, adapt or die, and I don’t really plan on stopping or backing down. You just need to figure out how to make your content advertiser-friendly.
Tubefilter: How many people work on your team with you?
CD: I would say there’s about four or five core people. And then I also have subcontractors, like third-party. I would say about maybe 10 to 12 people that I’m working with directly on a day-to-day basis or a weekly basis, including my agents—I actually have two—and core people that work for the company specifically, like five.
Tubefilter: What has been your favorite part of being on YouTube?
CD: The freedom. The creative freedom is great. I always felt like I was passed up on for roles because I’m just a bit weird. And I know I am! And I know that since I’m a theatre-trained actress that doesn’t always translate to film, so it feels really great to be in a space where I can be myself and not have to water myself down to be able to book a role.
All the people who follow me I’m pretty sure follow me because they feel, “Oh, I’m kind of weird like that too, but I don’t really show it to other people. It’s just what I keep to myself or the people I’m close to.” So it feels nice to be accepted for who I am and not have to water it down for anyone.
Tubefilter: Do you see this being your long-term career? Do you intend to try going back to acting at all? Or is this your thing?
CD: So the interesting thing about this is I do want it to come full-circle. One thing I didn’t mention is before the pandemic started, I was just about to pitch a pilot I had written. I wrote a pilot for a webseries and a treatment for a TV series. It was just about to get pitched to Bell Media and the CBC and then COVID happened. So I’m kind of at this point where I, as a business, am supposed to create content, and that’s content. So I’m actually self-financing and self-producing the production of the pilot, which as of right now is going to be a non-broadcast pilot—which means it’s gonna be used as proof of concept to pitch to YouTube or Amazon Prime or HBO or any of those outlets. And if the worst happens and nobody wants it, I’ll probably just release it on YouTube. But yeah, the plan is to go into acting, but not only acting. I want to create my own long-form content.
Tubefilter: Very cool. Is there anything else you’re looking forward to in the next year or so?
CD: Honestly, as a creator, I’m pretty much able to do whatever I want. I recently threw a million-subscriber party, but I didn’t just want a party. I wanted it to be an opportunity to explore another part of myself, which is music. That was another thing I tried to pursue that didn’t really work out. So I actually performed in the band at the party and we videotaped it and I’m hoping to release it on the channel soon. We’re just dealing with some audio issues.
But yeah, maybe releasing a music video, maybe getting back into the studio and recording some stuff. I feel very blessed to be able to do all the things I always wanted to do as a little kid, and to have full creative control. I feel I’m happy in the way that it happened as opposed to making it first as a singer or an actress, because now I have full creative control and I’m able to do whatever I want. It’s really great. I’m quite a happy camper.