Stan walker says he had a Once Were Warriors childhood. Now he's starring opposite Jake the Muss in a feature film.

In Mt Zion, the Australian Idol winner plays a talented singer who is trying to branch out from life with his traditional Maori family of contract potato-pickers in Pukekohe.

And co-star Temuera Morrison, who plays his father, has been giving him plenty of tips.

"The one thing I told Stan was singers make great actors, because they know emotion," said Morrison during a break in filming near Pukekohe. "They have to convey it in a two- or three-minute song.


"What I keep telling Stan is, 'we all know you can sing but I want the audience to say, Oh Stan can act'. He's the magic of the movies, we're just the potatoes."

Walker, who endured a troubled upbringing in the Bay of Plenty, said the script for Mt Zion was "so good" that he couldn't turn down the opportunity.

Producer Quinton Hira said the on-screen chemistry between Morrison and Walker was "electric".

"To see Stan standing up against him is powerful. The film has an undercurrent of working-class hero."

Hira said Mt Zion may be compared to Whale Rider.

"The heart in that film was tangible. You've got the same thing here."

Mt Zion also featured original music from Walker.

The film, which is written and directed by Tearepa Kahi, received $200,000 from NZ On Air and additional funds from Te Mangai Paho.

It is due for release early next year.