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Building steam in Hollywood Turlock native finding success with debut project

Actor Mickey Gooch Jr. believes there are two phases to creating a successful movie. First, he says you have to actually make a good movie. Secondly, you have to get people to notice your movie.

Gooch and Turlock native Mike Hermosa believe they have accomplished phase one with their locally filmed project “The Head Thieves” and there is no doubt they are making major strides with phase two.

The film is currently being represented by William Morris Endeavor, which submitted it for the Sundance Film Festival.

“Sundance gets thousands of submissions every year, but having someone like the William Morris Endeavor agency advocating for your film ups the odds by about 95 percent,” Gooch said.

Hermosa and Gooch also recently welcomed Ryan Moore as an associate producer, a move which brings the film a new level of clout in the film festival circle. Moore is campaigning to have the film shown at the South by Southwest festival, where he won rave reviews in 2014 for his documentary “Manny” about boxer Manny Pacquiao.

“It’s like getting the gold seal of approval,” Gooch said of Moore’s involvement in the film.

The buzz the film is attracting is a big boost for Hermosa, whose first venture into the entertainment business was done as a favor.

Hermosa graduated Turlock High School in 2002 and joined the U.S. Air Force. He served two tours in Operation Iraq and Enduring Freedom before his military service ended and he set up residence in Fullerton, California. His first foray into scriptwriting came about when his friend, Cory Yothers, brother of “Family Ties” star Tina Yothers, asked him with help on a project.

“He needed some help finishing a script and asked me to give it a try,” Hermosa said. “I really just dug in and learned it and I found myself falling in love with cinema and screenwriting.”

“The Head Thieves” is Hermosa’s first feature as a writer and director. The film is about three brothers, one of whom is a recently released inmate from the fictional Stanislaus County Correctional facility, who mastermind a scheme to recover stolen cash and go on the run.

“From then on it’s a wacky adventure,” Hermosa said.

When it came time to film the independent project, Hermosa looked to his old stomping grounds. Filming was done extensively in Turlock, Modesto, Oakdale in November 2014, and other areas in and around Stanislaus County. They also found plenty of locals willing to fill the roles of extras.

“It was great working with the community,” Hermosa said. “They were really supportive and having fun with the project and it lent it an element of authenticity.”

The film stars Gooch, Dante Basco, Dion Basco, and Sandy Martin. Dante Basco played the role of Rufio, the Lost Boy adversary of Robin William’s Peter Pan in the 1991 Steven Speilberg directed movie “Hook.” He also voiced the title character in the animation series “Disney’s American Dragon: Jake Long” and portrayed Prince Zuko in the television series “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Martin began her acting career in the 1970s and has been featured in numerous top-rated television shows, including recent roles on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Big Love,” and “Shameless.” She also starred in “Marley and Me” and played the role of the grandmother in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Gooch recently finished filming the upcoming release “How to be Single” with an ensemble cast that includes Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie and Damon Wayans Jr. The experience he had with Hermosa led them to partner on other upcoming projects.

“Together we found that creative bliss where all the magic happens,” Gooch said.

“The Head Thieves” has an expected release sometime in 2016.