"Storytelling is about connection," said Louis Theroux, British documentary filmmaker and broadcaster, at this year's Festival of Marketing yesterday (10 October).

"A lot of what I have done has been deliberately taking myself out of my element and putting myself in uncomfortable situations — but we are not so different from each other."

Theroux, who has covered issues from white supremacy to the porn industry, has certainly found himself in unusual circumstances over his career, aiming to capture the different beliefs and lifestyles of people around the world.

But his storytelling secret lies in the small connections that we as a society often disregard when faced with people seemingly different from ourselves.

"The more that we get separated from one another in society, the more refreshing and redemptive it is when we find small connections.

"I like to try and do that with my programmes – full of angst and darkness, but at the same time we find light and connection, a tension and release.

"Over the last 25 years, my approach to stories has matured, and I have been learning the skills to tell stories in which there are vulnerable contributors."

With contributors over the years ranging from criminal gangs in Lagos to Neo-Nazis in America and ultra-Zionists in Israel, he has certainly interviewed some interesting characters.

Louis Theroux at the Festival of Marketing (10 October)

Louis Theroux at the Festival of Marketing yesterday (10 October)

Most of his stories are based in a world in which people by accident or design are involved in lifestyles or choices that are extremely filled with angst and conflict.

"The narrative is simply an escalating sense of what the stakes are and then a point at which I, as an interviewer, experience it — there needs to be some sense of danger as the plot builds up," he said.

"So what I do is the juxtaposition of the strange and the familiar — speaking to those people who might have had similar life experiences, but there's some part of them that is off somewhere else.

"There are contributors who you don't want to send up, you want to give them a fair hearing and shed light on very difficult situations. The most magical moments happen when something happens that you haven't planned for.

"I don't often have the urge to have a go at my contributors. I inhabit a professional role and am not powerfully effected by it, I keep my distance."

Theroux has gained recognition as an interviewer due to his ability to ask big questions in a calm and concise manner, which he puts down to being 'authentically approachable'.

"When you're like this, either they open up to you, or they feel uninhabited enough to shout at you — both of which are quite good responses in documentary," he said.

"I'd like to imagine that I had some magic for establishing rapport and beguiling people of their secrets, the truth is that it springs from something much more basic — an urge to be polite.

"There's an anxiety there that I want people to like me. When I am with them, I convey to them that I am not in a rush to be anywhere else and they have time and space to express themselves."

Louis's new three-part documentary 'Altered States' will take a look at how America is handling angst-filled moments in people's lives.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).