Guest Blogger: The Guardian

Posted April 17th, 2015 by Kelie Petterssen

Head of Documentaries at The Guardian, Charlie Phillips, has come on board to tell you about their new initiative to commission short documentaries for The Guardian online. Anyway, we’ll let Charlie tell you more…

Documentaries have become very cool recently, have you noticed? A lot of people are writing a lot about this being the Golden Age of Documentaries, and whilst labelling moments like that feels unnecessary to me, it’s certainly true that more people are making brilliant documentaries at the moment than ever before. More importantly, more filmmakers are thinking themselves as documentary-makers.

I want to support that. There’s no shame in it, stand proud and declare yourself someone who wants to make great doc stories and get them seen.

It’s not always easy though. The number of documentary-makers and documentaries made has shot up, but the number of outlets for them hasn’t kept pace, especially if we’re talking curated mass audience platforms. Platforms are restricted to one territory or one thematic focus, or they’ve got tiny (albeit dedicated) audiences, or they’re not focused very well on documentaries, or they don’t give you a sense that someone behind the wheel really want to help you tell your stories, or you don’t feel they’re reaching that mass documentary audience that lives online. You just want to get your docs seen and feel like the platform showcasing it is collaborating with you, and reaching a big audience.

'Muslim Drag Queens: The lubs are busier than ever - commissioned by The Guardian

‘Muslim Drag Queens: The clubs are busier than ever – commissioned by The Guardian

To try and address that, we’ve recently launched our new documentary initiative here at The Guardian, and I want to invite you all to pitch your ideas to us. We want contemporary documentary stories that are told well, told at a pace that online audiences recognise and won’t get distracted from, and we want to support short films that The Guardian audience and a wider online audience will want to click on, watch and share. Our online docs are available in all countries, and it’s a big audience – The Guardian website has millions of visitors every day, and it’s the second most-visited English language newspaper website in the world. We’re open to all your ideas as long as:

-They’re fast in the speed of the telling, and not too repetitive or ponderous

-They’re contemporary not historical

-They’ll feature brilliant storytelling and characters that really pulls you along and leaves you feeling transformed and better informed in 15minutes or less

-They’re relevant globally

-They feel original, untold and rather surprising

-They’ll be led by actuality/action rather than interviews/talking heads

‘Pretty Radical’ -A young woman’s journey into Poland’s far right -commissioned by The Guardian

We want documentary ideas that will work online and pull in an audience hungry for brilliant stories they can click on that tell them something new. Think honestly about what you and the  people you know click on when they’re on social media and what pulls you and them in and why. We don’t want documentaries that are going to only play to a few – we’re looking to build an online doc platform that acts as a beacon with a call for an online audience hungry for information and story.

Don’t think in terms of traditional journalism and don’t think “What’s Guardiany?”. Think “What do all online audience members (i.e. almost everyone in the world!) need to see and know and what will they do after they see it? Who will they share it with?”

To see the kinds of docs I’m talking about check the 11 very varied short docs up on our site right now – some are original short commissions, some are cut downs of longer documentaries, some are work-in-progress or parallel versions of documentaries that will become longer in the future. They represent lots of different parts of the world and a real social mix. But we want more!

Watch them, get inspired, think about what we’re missing, and then pitch me with a one-page proposal and some visual material by email to, or if you’re going to Sheffield Doc/Fest, enter yourself into our pitch opportunity.

Looking forward to hearing from you and collaborating on making a very special online documentary platform for the whole world.

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