Hotshot director Jane Campion opens up on Project Glenorchy

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Oscar-winning Kiwi movie director Jane Campion will shoot an eyebrow-raising new TV thriller in Glenorchy.

The fictional series – called Top of the Lake – centres around a 12-year-old girl who is five months pregnant and who goes missing in mysterious circumstances.

Sydney-based Campion tells Mountain Scene the project is inspired by time spent at her holiday retreat in the Rees Valley.

“It’s a detective story that’s very much influenced by the landscape around Glenorchy and explores ideas about paradise and community,” she explains. “I’m aiming to film about six hours worth of material for TV and DVD.

“I’m still dreaming about the cast but it will feature actors from New Zealand and Australia.”

Campion will start scripting Top of the Lake this year and the murder-mystery storyline has already attracted interest from major overseas backers like the BBC and cable TV giant HBO.

“It’s something I’ve showed to the BBC in synopsis form and they love it and want to be part of it,” she says. “Involving someone like HBO is another option.”

She’s unsure when filming will begin though, adding: “Maybe we’ll start something next year but it can take me a long time to get a project up and running.”

The 55-year-old director and writer shot to fame with her 1993 Academy Award-winning movie The Piano, starring her Queenstown-based actor friend Sam Neill and Hollywood’s Harvey Keitel.

Campion was at Dorothy Browns Cinema in Arrowtown on Sunday for a private showing of her new flick Bright Star – a tale about 19th-century English poet John Keats and the love of his life, Fanny Brawne.

The low-key screening was no celebrity affair – the audience comprised Campion’s neighbours and friends from Glenorchy.

“People in Glenorchy have been very kind to me and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much or even be there without their help,” Campion says. “When I get the chance, it’s nice to bring what I do here.

“I try to get over on holiday three or four times a year. The magnificence and scale of the landscape tends to dwarf any personal worries I might have.

“My place there is quite simple and living is easy. I don’t even have a lawn to mow.”

Bright Star – released in NZ next month – has received rave reviews in Europe and the United States.
Campion reckons it’s her best work since The Piano.

“I really feel proud of this film,” she says. “It’s a very classical piece and very true-hearted.”

The movie has also attracted a famous fan – in the shape of superstar film director Quentin Tarantino, who wrote to Campion telling her how much he enjoyed it.

“I was really stoked Tarantino really liked Bright Star because he’s the film-making genius of our generation.”