By Farida Master
It was while he was watching movies as a little boy at the Monterey Cinema in Howick that Orlando Stewart first discovered the magic of movies.
The award-winning movie producer who has produced short films, television and feature length documentaries, is now excited about the release of his first dramatic feature film Bellbird—at the Monterey Cinema on November 7.
Talking about his fascination with the dream merchants of the celluloid world, the owner of Stella Maris Productions says, “I watched Police Academy 13 times at the old Monterey Cinema and later in school it was a teacher at Howick College who was instrumental in helping me pursue my passion for film making.”
Stewart has appeared in several mockumentary series (including Wayne Anderson) as a reporter, talent manager and ‘marketing director’, handing out pizza flyers in Pakuranga and has been described as “dementedly brilliant” by one media critique.
The former Howick local who started working at a local video store in his formative years says it was through television that he met writer Hamish Bennett. Together they made three short films including The Dump which won Best Short Film Script at the 2012 Swanz Script Writer Awards (New Zealand Writers Guild)
“I acted in and produced The Dump, but then Hamish didn’t ask me to act in any of his other films,” he laughs.
“The second short film Ross and Beth won numerous awards including the Jury and Audience prizes at the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival.
On a personal level, the movie feels like a culmination to a journey that began six years ago over a meal of mussels where I was asked by Hamish to play a role in his first short film, The Dump, says Stewart.
“Spending eight months planning and shooting on a small family run dairy farm was both challenging and rewarding. The love and care the Deeming family shows for their animals and land is touching and inspiring.
“And there is an amazing cast including Marshall Napier as Ross and Annie Whittle as Beth who came on board even though we didn’t have a big budget to make the film,” he says.
Set over four seasons on a humble Northland dairy farm, Bellbird is the story of a dairy farmer struggling to cope with the sudden death of his beloved wife and the gradual bond he builds with his gentle only son and the local community.
“Bellbird is set in the small rural Northland community where Hamish grew up. It is such a heart-warming film, a story of loss, love and hope. I’m so proud to be involved with it,” he says.
“The people of Howick are going to love it.”