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"After a while, I just told everyone, 'You're going to be in the movie.' There wasn't a single boring person that came through. One guy talked about being in a coma for a while. I go, 'How long were you down, exactly?' He goes, 'Here, I'll show you.' He rips open his shirt: the day he went under and the day he came up."
Huggins says he wants to be a Kansas City filmmaker making films about Kansas City. He doesn't want to celebrate the myths of New York or Los Angeles. "I want to stay in Kansas City and make movies that have a national presence — sort of like Alexander Payne and Omaha — that are about where I'm from."
He says other cities are immediately recognizable, thanks to television and film.
"Because of The Wire, people have an immediate sense of Baltimore," Huggins says. "What do people think of Kansas City? They think of stuff that was true maybe 50 years ago? Jazz? Cattle? There are so many amazing stories in Kansas City and so many amazing locations and people."
"We're filming a film in Kansas City that calls it Kansas City," Gran adds. "We're not saying it's the streets of New York because we're proud of where we're from. We're proud of the actors. We're proud of the stories."
Contributions to Kick Me don't go unrewarded, either. For example, pledges of $1,000 will return an 11-inch-by-14-inch oil portrait of your soul, courtesy of Vasquez, who has also promised to write a short verse in Spanish about your soul (a soul lifted by the more standard premium: an autographed Kick Me DVD). A gift of $300 gets you a 10-minute lesson from Vasquez, via Skype, in "top-secret kill techniques from [a] real life karate master."
Donations can be as low as $1, but come on.
"We've got all of these schemes and scams, all legal, to get it to $70,000," Huggins says.
Look for a couple of the schemes and scams this weekend at Tivoli Cinemas and the Brick.
The Tivoli (4050 Pennsylvania) is showing a night of Huggins' short films Friday, March 30, including First Date and Happy 95 Birthday Grandpa; the latter won the top prize in the Reel Shorts category at the South By Southwest Film Festival in 2009. The Tivoli program, which starts at 9:30 p.m., also includes shorts that inspired Huggins. He says there's a good chance that he'll show a recently discovered 16 mm treasure: the late Robert Altman's Modern Football.
Altman shot the 26-minute instructional movie in 1951. Sponsored by Wheaties, it may have been the KC native's first directing job. (The future M*A*S*H director also appears in a cameo as a sports announcer.)
"It's phenomenally rare," Huggins says. He doubts that anyone had seen the film in the 50 years before he discovered it in a pile of instructional videos he bought for $10 at the Boulevard Drive-In's flea market.
"Maybe I'll bring the print if people are curious," Huggins says. "Altman's an inspiration, for sure, but the short wasn't. If it would lure people out to that event, yes, I'd show it."
The Brick (1727 McGee) hosts a fundraiser for Huggins' project Saturday, March 31, beginning at 7 p.m. Home movies, shot on 16 mm Kodachrome in the 1970s by a Kansas City truck driver named Hulen Oliver, provide the backdrop for acts such as Mr. Marco's V7 and the People's Liberation Big Band. The reels include footage of a 1970 international expo (and its "World of the Future" exhibit) in Osaka, Japan.