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MIPCOM 2012: Jane Campion Talks 'Top of the Lake,' Ignoring 'CSI' Formula

Jane Campion - P 2012
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"Actually, we're trying to go against the police procedural aesthetic," says her co-writer, Gerard Lee, of the BBC/Sundance Channel series.

Film auteur Jane Campion said her latest effort -- a six-parter for the BBC and Sundance Channel called Top of the Lake -- is essentially the anti-CSI procedural, more about "textures" and a troubled central character (played by Elisabeth Moss) than about forensics per se.

"Actually, we're trying to go against the police procedural aesthetic," her co-writer Gerard Lee added. Inspired by her viewing of dramas like Deadwood, Mad Men and The Killing, Campion said the two determined there was "more freedom" and "fewer restraints" imposed upon creators nowadays in TV than in film.

"Feature filmmaking is now quite conservative. The lack of restraints, the longer story arc: It's a luxury not there generally in film," she said.

STORY: Jane Campion Heads to MIPCOM

The director of The Piano and Bright Star also pointed out during an onstage interview Tuesday during Mipcom that one unusual theme in the series is a focus on "post-menopausal" over-40 women. They are a "fascinating" subset that no one is typically interested in dwelling on, she explained. The women are a self-contained counterpoint to the patriarchal structure surrounding them and Holly Hunter is the central figure in their encampment.

"The multiple layers are what make it interesting. A women's camp, a drug lord (played by Peter Mullan) and a murder mystery all in one," Campion said.

As for the challenges of being a female director, Campion said she thought of herself now as having "crossed genders. I can't imagine people telling me what to do -- I just can't imagine it."

Not that it was always so: "Early on, I was constantly undermined by a dp from (Australia's) ABC. A complete ass."