Experiencing modern slavery:Nick Broomfield on why he made Ghosts as a drama - and how the cast gave it a real edge
Experiencing modern slavery:Nick Broomfield on why he made Ghostsas a drama - and how the cast gave it a real edge

Where did the idea come from?
Obviously, everyone knows about the tragedy in Morecambe Bay, but
I wanted to show how the country is supported by migrant workers, many of them illegal. The reason we have such a high standard of living here is because there are millions of migrants -working well below the minimum wage. The idea that slavery ended 200 years ago is nonsense.

Why did you choose a drama to explore the issue?
If we had made a documentary the whole film would have had to be done with hidden cameras. We are talking about a situation where people are totally off the radar. They are living in terrible conditions and they are frightened of being removed - we needed to be able to show things that are widely known to be happening but are quite difficult to get on camera.

How did you pitch it?
I originally talked to Channel 4 and said I wanted to do a film about modern slavery and they were lukewarm, but when I said I wanted to show how many of these people are hired by firms that are used by major supermarkets they were much keener.

How did the idea evolve?
I used migrants who had experienced something similar to those that died in Morecambe Bay rather than well-heeled actors. We wanted to replicate the living conditions for the duration of filming so they all had to live together in cramped conditions for about eight weeks. I wanted the harshness of the experience and the intimacy and camaraderie to come through rather than have everyone retire to the luxury of their hotels at the end of the day. It took some time to find people willing to take part. We put adverts in Chinese news-papers. The lead actress is a waitress we found through the Chinese church.

Any major challenges to overcome?
In dealing with the issue of illegal im-migrants it's really hard to film because no one wants you there. You can't get the access. When we were filming around Morecambe Bay the various gangs of local cocklers came over on their quad bikes and threatened to beat us up.

For information on the Morecambe Victims Fund, see www.ghosts.uk.com