SUCH are the cookie cutter tendencies of the film industry, few movies genuinely come out of left field any more to startle audiences with their originality.

Last year it was Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin's bayou-set drama. This year the independent film earning mainstream plaudits looks set to be Upstream Colour. Described by one critic as "a film so staggeringly original it is better seen than described", the science fiction drama is set to make the names of its director, Shane Carruth, and lead, Amy Seimetz.

Despite her soon to be status as hot property, Seimetz is living out of a couple of suitcases, albeit in Paris.

"This is my home right now," she says down a crackly phone line. "It's so easy to get around. Once you motivate yourself to get off your ass you can just get on a bike and go pretty much anywhere in 20 minutes. It's beautiful. It's Paris."

The working holiday (she has two writing jobs on the go) came after Seimetz had wrapped on the American version of The Killing. She is on British television screens at the moment in the BBC2 comedy, Family Tree. Her biggest break in cinema looks likely to be Upstream Colour.

Carruth's picture tells the story of a young woman, Kris (Seimetz) who goes through an experience that derails her life. Struggling to put things together again, she discovers she is not alone in what she endured.

Seimetz was one of the few in the cast who had the chance to read Carruth's script in its entirety. Carruth had cast her on the strength of seeing one of her films, and a phone conversation. Trusting they were on the same page, the two went ahead.

Though the tale has its surreal, dreamy aspects, it is rooted in the real world, complete with pigs (told you it was strange). Almost stealing the picture from the actors is a sty full of piglets.

They were cute, agrees Seimetz, but they were also farm animals. "I got lucky on the farm days because I didn't have to go through much of the muck like everyone else did. It was pretty gross."

As it turned out, Florida-born Seimetz, 31, turned out to have a knack with them. One piglet, squealing at first, was soon soothed. "I just talked to him and he ended up falling asleep in my arms."

Seimetz first made her name as a director and producer, only occasionally venturing into acting.

"I had (acted) for friends in their movies, and done it here and there and I enjoyed doing it, and I would act in my own movies if it seemed like a lot of effort to cast somebody. But I didn't go at it. It was something that accidentally happened and kept growing and growing."

She had hesitated about acting for various reasons, chief among them that she would not be her own boss any more. Acting involves waiting around for someone to choose you, she says, a process that is unappealing to her. "When I want to make something I feel like I have complete control to be able to do that."

Taking control, not waiting around for someone to say yes, is important to Seimetz, who started out in the micro-budget "mumblecore" movement, where filmmakers had to do every job going. She had completed a year at film school but the fees were too high and she left. Reasoning that the best training was going to be picking up a camera and learning on the job, the mumblecore films were ideal.

"It makes everyone better all around," she says of the have-a-go ethos. "You just have to work with what you have."

To bring money in between films she did the usual variety of jobs, including working as a seamstress and a nanny. Today, she is still juggling the jobs of actor-writer-producer and director. She regards directing and producing particularly as essential quality control.

"No-one really cares as much as you do. No one is going to be working 24 hours a day to get your movie made. Usually when people are producing they have got six or seven different projects that might go at different times, so you have to be your own producer."

Family Tree is written and directed by its creator, Christopher Guest, the improvisation comedy legend behind Spinal Tap, Best In Show and For Your Consideration. While it stars such Guest regulars as Fred Willard, Family Tree finds the door being opened to new talent such as Chris O'Dowd, Seimetz, and Nina Conti.

It was intimidating to enter Guest World at first, says Seimetz, particularly to someone whose favourite movie as a teenager was Spinal Tap, but she felt genuinely welcomed and soon relaxed. So no unrestrained fandom about Spinal Tap?

"The whole time I was on the show I was trying to play a little cool," she laughs. "Until the end when I wrapped and I totally gushed. The last day I was fan girl."

While in Paris with her boyfriend she is thinking of shooting some scenes for one of her own projects. "That's the goal. We'll see." After that, it will be time to pack those two suitcases and return to the independent filmmaking fray.

Upstream Colour opens on August 30