I have a habit—had a habit—of keeping things I didn’t want, thinking: “maybe I’ll use this in a production design job someday.” When I signed on to The Garage Sale, I started clearing my closets of those items. This was the production design job of someday.
In my role, the project’s opportunity was to tell the stories of characters not through the objects they surrounded themselves with, as you typically would, but the objects they were letting go of. The characters were making an effort to reinvent themselves (knowingly or not), through the unburdening of their stuff.
It’s an interesting process, to visually illustrate characters by what they try to sell to strangers on a lawn—
A couple of years ago, I was spitballing with some friends about a garage sale short film idea. We discussed a scene where a couple talked seriously in the foreground while (a la Blake Edwards) something physically comedic happened with a different couple in the background. The idea hit us that those kind of moments could be interactive. Meaning a viewer could hit a button and go into the background to see what was happening with that other couple.
I approached Josh with my little schtick-and-bit script. He loved it, and further suggested fleshing out all the couples, writing three complete, concurrent story lines that had their own arcs that were equally important. Each couple’s story would happen in real time in sync
With three stories working simultaneously, the whole set had to work in perfect sync with characters leaving and arriving at very specific times in the script. The easiest way to put something this big into my brain is to break it down into its parts, so I
designed a tool to help me sort it out - I built a model. I started with a top diagram of the location which I drew using a satellite photo, and made little paper cutouts of all of the characters, known objects, and the ‘set’ with roughed-in tables and scripted props. Then I put the characters for all three stories on the board in their starting positions - and just started running the whole script very slowly.
Because I had to track three stories at once, I decided to break the script up into “beats”, which I defined as 'chunks of time during which a manageable number of events happened' inside each story. This ended up being about 1/3 of a page of the three-columned script
The ART of UI
It began with a thought-- how personal and hand-crafted neighborhood garage sales are. How they reveal so much about the individuals through their belongings. And how earnest everything is - from scrawled, slanted writings on blinding neon posters to embarrassingly unstylish relics of the past. It became clear from the start that the design language should embody the sincerity of the characters Molly had created and honor the humorous spirit in which Josh captured them on film.
But how do we untangle, organize, and build a story with a multitude of narrative paths and characters, and do so in a stylistically coherent way?
I kept returning to the core of why I found this story so compelling. The Garage Sale captures the heart and humor of the everyday.