The Guardian is one of the world’s most read English Language news and storytelling sources, with over 200 million monthly unique browser visits.

Following the successful re-launch of “Guardian Documentaries” in September 2016, Charlie Phillips, head of documentaries, tells us more about his plans to commission and acquire new documentaries from all around the world for the Guardian Documentaries, at Sunny Side of the Doc 2017.

Number of hours per year : Approximately 20 slots a year, all 15-30 minutes.
Three recent programmes :

Pitch me original short documentaries (approximately 20 minutes) for us to commission – so bring me a really great original and contemporary story you’ve not seen elsewhere and tell me/show me what it will look like. Remember to design it so it will work for online audiences!

Head of Documentaries at The Guardian

Head of Documentaries at The Guardian


Less than a year after re-launching « The Guardian documentaries », how has your editorial line and commissioning strategy evolved ?

Charlie Phillips: We’re commissioning short documentaries of 15-30 minutes which are designed to be watched as immersive destination online viewing experiences. It’s really important that people know our documentaries are of high quality and of a quality they might be used to watching on Netflix, TV or cinema – different styles, but a comparable alternative. This means commissioning really strong global stories that give our audience access to stories, people, places and situations they might nor ordinarily be exposed to in the Guardian or elsewhere, and where they hear direct testimony from the people affected by in those situations rather than loads of ‘voice of God’ voiceover. Plus I want a range of styles and voices from all over the world, so we’re interested in trying new things as long as we think it interests and surprises our audience.

Who are you partnering with to help funding original non-fiction storytelling from all around the world ?

Charlie Phillips: We’ve done partnerships with Bertha Foundation, Sundance and Macarthur in partnership, and the Filmmaker Fund, and we have others planned.

Do you observe a growing interest from new or established buyers/distributors in co-producing short documentary films/series ?

Charlie Phillips: Not so much – our need for global online rights to satisfy our global audience isn’t always compatible with traditional buyers. But we are always keen if they are.

What should producers pitch you ?

Charlie Phillips: Original short documentaries (approximately 20 minutes) for us to commission – so bring me a really great original and contemporary story you’ve not seen elsewhere and tell me/show me what it will look like. Remember to design it so it will work for online audiences! Email me your ideas on charlie.phillips@theguardian.com

Have short formats a higher potential for outsized impact and socially-conscious conversations ?

Charlie Phillips: Yes, simply because the audience is so vast and the films remain there forever!

View more Guardian Documentaries : https://www.theguardian.com/documentaries