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First-time filmmaker gets a leg up from competition

January 5, 2010 | 10:43 am

Netflixblog Until this summer Philip Flores of Hemet was working as a lowly production assistant in Hollywood.

Now, the aspiring filmmaker is shooting his first movie in L.A., "Touchback," an indie drama about a high school freshman who reluctantly engages in a contest to see who can score with the most girls.

Flores' reversal of fortune came courtesy of an unexpected benefactor: the online movie rental firm Netflix. Flores was the recent winner of the "Netflix Find Your Voice" competition, which Netflix launched last year with the non-profit arts organization Film Independent to recognize and assist first-time filmmakers with grants.

Flores' project, a trailer for "Touchback," beat out more than 2,000 other applicants and was selected by a panel of film industry veterans, including, including actor-director Josh Brolin.

The award includes a $150,000 cash production grant funded by Netflix, a camera package donated by Panavision, 25,000 feet of Kodak Color Negative Film, as well as complimentary production and post-production services donated by Deluxe Entertainment Services Group. The film also gets to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June and will also be available for streaming from Netflix.

The 28-year-old Flores, writer and director of the film, could barely contain his excitement when he heard the news four months ago. The grant would cover about half the cost of his film, which originated from a script he co-wrote with buddy Max Doty when the two were graduate students at USC's Film School. Another college pal, Chase Kenney, is producing the movie.

 "When I received the call I was on my lunch break walking up Sunset Boulevard,'' Flores said. "I was just looking at strangers to hug and high five."

"Touchback" began filming at a high school in Lawndale in the South Bay last week and will shoot this week in Santa Clarita and North Hollywood. The movie, which will be filmed over 22 days, stars Alex Frost, star of "Elephant," the dark 2003 high school drama from Gus Van Sant, and veteran TV actor Billy Campbell.

Keeping such company still hasn't sunk in for Flores.

"I was out with the actors last night and thinking a year ago, not in my wildest dreams, could I imagine sitting there with them and working on this project,' he said. "It's been a surreal experience."

-- Richard Verrier