Wanted for a starring role: A cheeky yet respectful Northland kid. Must be Maori, aged 11-13, but can be a boy or girl. Has to be outdoorsy and know how to milk a cow.

Those, in short, are the requirements for the lead child actor in a feature-length movie to be shot in Northland next year.

The film, which is so far simply called Northland, is the brainchild of a Northland-born, Auckland-based schoolteacher about to turn fulltime film-maker.

Writer/director Hamish Bennett, who was raised in Tauraroa and spent his first 30 years in the North, won a series of awards for his 2014 short film Ross & Beth.


Filmed in the Ruakaka area it tells the story of a rough-as-guts dairy farmer and the unlikely boy who comes to his rescue after his wife's death.

Mr Bennett said the characters in Ross & Beth were inspired by his childhood neighbours, a classic farming couple whose harsh words masked their love and the fact each would be lost without the other.

He always felt Ross & Beth could be turned a full-length movie and now, with encouragement and funding from the Film Commission, he was doing just that.

While the story could be set anywhere in New Zealand there was something unique about Northland kids and farmers, he said.

"It's an environment I know well and I'm comfortable with. That will help me make it as authentic as possible."

However, he still needed to find a child to fill one of the key roles. He or she had to be a country kid, ideally from Northland, who could ride a horse, milk cows and stack hay bales.

The would-be movie star would also have to be well-raised, cheeky but respectful, and always upbeat.

Mr Bennett said he had already held a series of auditions and been swamped with videos sent by kids and parents.


"There's lot of talent out there ... A lot of these kids aren't even aware how awesome they are. They have a naturalism I just love," he said.

The movie would be set over four seasons and filmed in three blocks next year, starting in January and ending with calving in mid-winter. It would be aimed at mainstream cinemas and the festival circuit.

Ross & Beth won the jury prize for best New Zealand short film, as well as the audience and cinematography awards, at the 2014 NZ Film Festival. Mr Bennett's first short film, The Dump, won the 2012 NZ Writers Guild Award for best short film script.

The search for Northland's newest child star is being conducted by Auckland-based Catch Casting, which also did the casting for Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the biggest grossing film in Kiwi cinematic history.

Go to www.catchcasting.com/online-casting/northland to apply or email applications@catchcasting.com with any questions.