Ken Loach was in typically fiery form when he appeared this week at the Talent Talk for his latest Cannes contender, Sorry We Missed You, alongside his regular collaborators screenwriter Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O’Brien in the UK Film Centre.

Watch the full talent talk below.

The film, appearing in Competition, explores the challenges of balancing the gig economy with family life and stars Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor.

Asked about the “gig economy,” Loach expressed his indignation at working practices in the film industry, criticising non-union members and the practice of using unpaid interns. 

“Anybody here who works in the business and is not in (union) Bectu, will you kindly leave the room,” Loach told his audience. “A lot of the industry is based on young people working for free. Work for free, build up your CV. When you’ve worked here for long enough and we’ve got enough out of you, then here’s the door and out you go. Ours is a wicked industry for exploiting people who are vulnerable because they want to work. They’d give their right arm for it,” the director said. “The way to combat that is to join the union. If we are all members, then they can’t do it!”

Loach, now 82, had hinted after Palme D’Or winner I, Daniel Blake that he would retire from making dramatic features. However, as he told the audience, he soon changed his mind.

“When we did Daniel Blake, it was a story about extreme poverty and extreme cruelty and how it is used as a weapon against the most vulnerable people. Of course, one story always begs other stories - begs other questions,” Loach explained.

Loach and Laverty realised that poverty in the UK was being experienced by those in low paid and insecure as well as by the unemployed, living on benefits or welfare. He felt there was another “complementary” story to be told, exploring the effect that this poverty has on families in their everyday lives.

“In a way, that for me is stronger than stories about aliens in spaceships,” the veteran director said of his fascination with the problems facing the parents and the children in Sorry We Missed You. “When you walk down the streets, it’s the expressions you see on people’s faces, the stress you see, the happiness you see, the sadness you see, or the conflicts you see.”

Entertainment One (eOne) will release Sorry We Missed You in the UK in 2019, with Wild Bunch handling international sales.

The Sixteen Films and Why Not production is backed by the BFI and BBC Films, in co-production with Les Films du Fleuve.