Max Doty still remembers some of the strange rumors that swirled at Ashland High School when he was a student there in the late '90s.

Max Doty still remembers some of the strange rumors that swirled at Ashland High School when he was a student there in the late '90s.

He remembers them so well, in fact, he wrote a novel that treats the rumors as fact and explores the difficulties high school students face in trying to navigate social spheres, academics and family.

In 2009, Doty and his friend Phil Flores adapted Doty's novel, "Almost Kings," into a screenplay and entered it in a nationwide Netflix contest. The screenplay and accompanying trailer beat out 2,000 other entries in the contest, and Doty and Flores garnered a $350,000 funding package to make their film.

And now, after premiering the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival last summer, Doty, 29, is bringing the full-length feature back to Ashland, the place that started it all.

"To me it really feels like coming full circle," he said. "My heart is definitely still in Ashland and, more literally, my mom is still in Ashland. It's a place I always feel at home at and always look forward to coming back to.

"To go out in the world and then bring this film back with me feels like a kind of homecoming and a kind of growing up."

"Almost Kings" will play at the Ashland Independent Film Festival at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday, 9:30 p.m. Sunday and 6:30 p.m. Monday. Doty will discuss the film and answer questions from audience members after the Friday, Saturday and Sunday screenings.

Set in an anonymous town similar to Ashland, the film follows high school freshman Ted (Lorenzo James Henrie) as he struggles to fit in with his older brother's friends and take care of his abusive father, Ron (Billy Campbell), who is in a wheelchair.

The older brother, Truck (Alex Frost), and his friends, all football players, design a contest to see who can have sex with the most freshman girls. The younger brother, who is friends with many of the girls, is appalled and begins to learn what it means to grow up — and to stand up for himself and others.

"It is kind of a dark movie and not for everyone, so I'm sure there have been people who were taken aback by it, but there are others who have really liked it," Doty said.

The film is recommended only for mature audiences, because it contains sexual scenes, profanity and violence, Doty said.

Doty and Flores had hoped to shoot the movie in Ashland, but ended up filming in the Los Angeles area for budget reasons.

Even though the filmmakers are planning to go to dozens of film festivals, Doty, who graduated from Ashland High School in 2000, said Ashland's is especially meaningful to him.

"I think it's going to resonate with a lot of people because a lot of things in the movie came from my experience growing up in Ashland," he said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.