The Guardian commissions approximately 20 documentaries a year, ranging in subject matter, format and tone.

In this week's podcast, we hear from Charlie Phillips, head of documentaries at the Guardian, who explains what the publisher looks for in a pitch from independent filmmakers and production houses, and why they are focused on developing a bank of evergreen content.

"Ideally, we are looking for people with access-driven stories, access to communities, people and situations that we may not have imagined existed," he said.

"When people email us their ideas, I'm looking for a clear idea of how the filmmaker is going to tell the story with ambition and visual flair – we want to be convinced that the only way this story could be told is through a documentary film treatment."

Phillips said that the scale and ambition of the Guardian's documentaries is getting bigger all the time.

"It's not true that everyone has short attention spans when they watch online video," he said.

"You think about Twitter but people still sit and watch TV and go to the cinema. There is an appetite for films of all lengths, you just have to communicate to people. We encourage lean-back viewing."

Warning: audio samples from the Guardian Documentaries in this podcast contain strong language and racist slurs

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