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Iain Canning on Top of the Lake, See Saw's TV slate and producing future Steve McQueen films

Canning discusses See Saw’s growing TV slate and re-teaming with Steve McQueen; Jane Campion drama Top of The Lake set to hit screens early 2013, including BBC2 in UK and Sundance Channel in US.

Oscar-winning UK producer Iain Canning was at MIPTV to discuss new TV crime-drama Top of the Lake, which Jane Campion and Australian newcomer Garth Davis are now shooting in remote New Zealand mountains until June.

Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter, Peter Mullan and David Wenham star in the six-part drama centred on Robin Griffin (Moss), a detective investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl, who is the daughter of a local drug lord.

Written by Campion and Gerard Lee, the major international co-production between BBC2 [originally commissioned by Ben Stephenson, controller, BBC drama commissioning], BBC Worldwide subsidiary UKTV out of Australia and New Zealand and the Sundance Channel in the US, will hit screens in early 2013.

Canning and Emile Sherman’s production company See-Saw had initially been developing a feature with Campion but were “in the right place at the right time” when Campion began writing Top of the Lake.

Funded by Screen Australia, Screen NSW and See Saw’s Fulcrum Media Finance, BBC Worldwide is distributing internationally. Producers are Sherman and Canning from See-Saw and Philippa Campbell of Escapade Pictures.

With a budget of $2m per episode, the project has been creating buzz at the market and looks to be the first of a new line in high-end TV content for See-Saw.

The King’s Speech and Shame producer Canning told Screen about See-Saw’s “exciting” new TV slate: “We will be selective about what we do. We want to pick unique projects like Top of the Lake. We are still developing the See-Saw brand as one which works with quality writers and directors so we will be building up our TV slate but with the right project.”

The transition from features to TV hasn’t been difficult for the UK-Australia outfit, he said. “The pace isn’t so different from film, there is just a lot more material. It is nice to be able to bring some film expertise to the TV world because it seems the way the two industries are building their budgets is similar… It is so fluid between the talent now. There are no barriers between storytelling - epic stories can be told on TV. If this is a golden age for TV [as commentators have called it during MIPTV] I hope it continues and that we can play a part in that,” Canning continued.

The appeal of high-end TV content has even made See-Saw think about repositioning film material it receives: “It has been interesting for us to think about how some projects we receive could become two-part TV scripts rather than features,” he noted.

As Canning told a panel session earlier in the day: “The story finds the medium.”

Canning now sees exciting potential to produce TV out of the UK. “The tax credit for high-end drama is a huge boost and covers the type of project we want to back,” he said.

On the feature side, See-Saw is currently producing John Curran’s Tracks and has Tony Krawitz’s Dead Europe in post-production. However, Canning told Screen that the company is also keen to continue its relationship with Shame director Steve McQueen: “We’re working on another project with Steve McQueen, which remains unannounced as yet. Hopefully we’ll make another one or two of Steve’s films after Twelve Years A Slave.”

See-Saw has its sights on a couple of other feature projects in the meantime: “We’ve got a few projects, one we hope to shoot end of this year and one at the beginning of next year.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • A TV crime drama by Jane Campion?! That is really exciting. With that and The Killing 3 on the way, it's a fantastic time for TV. Bring it on...

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