For those who think these plots smack of ridiculousness, the Pitch tapped Tinseltown insiders for a list of fictional Kansas towns (and one Missouri city) that double as titles of failed TV pilots. · Manly, Kansas A homophobic preacher known for picketing soldiers' funerals "bonds" with a gay neighbor who moved in next door.
· Kline City Bound by a state law that bars necking, two small-town teens elope. Faced with the stigma of divorce or moving in together, they realize they are living a very adult life when all they wanted to do was dry hump.
· Maginopolis When a former Big 12 football coach gets caught with a player in a cheating scandal, he's required to tutor the academically challenged students whom he recruited to his program.
· Pitberg After most cities in Kansas ban pit bulls, dog lovers found a town for owners unwilling to give up their man-eating breeds. Things go awry when Pitberg leaders outlaw leashes and electric dog fences.
· Powerandlighttown In a downtown revitalized by pricey lofts and upscale restaurants, the only people who can afford to live there are retirees. Hundreds flock to the area, creating a blue-haired Sex and the City. Kay Barnes stars as herself.
When the Pitch learned about an upcoming documentary filmed in Kansas City about eminent domain called Begging for Billionaires, we dug the title but stifled a collective yawn. It would take some pretty fantastic special effects to make us want to sit through an hour or more of people complaining about officials land-grabbing.
But then we called the movie's director, Philip Klein, and learned that he has something up his sleeve:
The Pitch: What's this movie about?
Klein: It's a documentary about eminent domain and corporate welfare. People need to have a right to their property, and it needs to go back to what eminent domain was originally intended to be used for: public use, like schools, roads, hospitals, not for corporate special-interest groups.
But how did you get into this seemingly boring topic?
I've been an activist for almost 25 years, and I started filming this stuff with a camera. And that's how the documentary started eight years ago. You know, filmmaking and being a professional magician go hand in hand. Like Orson Wells, you understand the sleight of hand with politicians
Wait a second. You're a professional magician?
Yes, I've performed all over the world. I'm also a Ringling Brothers graduate of clown college. Class of 1980! So I've been in the entertainment field for a long time.
And you think politics and magic are similar?
Oh, yeah, because of the sleight of hand. It [politics] is the art of sleight of hand. You know, follow the pea? That little shell game?
Do magic and filmmaking enable you to be a better political analyst?
Looking through the camera and looking at the footage later enables you to see a lot of things you wouldn't normally see. A lot of times in the meetings, you get what you called "zoned out." When you look at it [the footage] with a fresh eye, you see things you don't see before. And you hear things. I can't name any examples. But it gives you a fresh perspective of what is really going on.
Do you still perform around town?
I don't perform anymore. I'm 46. Filmmaking and being an activist and actually working here take up my full time. The Sunflower State gets discovered. And check out this eminent domain flick before it goes poof.