I found a ad for a film-production garage sale last week on the Austin Film Society site. Austin being the filmarific town it is, these sales seem to happen regularly on the Austin Studios stages. A film wraps production and Austin Studios holds a garage sale to get rid of all the props. A few weeks ago, it was for The Wendell Baker Story, which Luke Wilson has written and co-directed. The ad I saw last week was for a movie I didn’t recognize, Coyote. The ad said nothing about the movie at all other than the title, which was unusual, so I figured it was an ultra-low-budget film.
I wanted to post info about the garage sale in my weekly News from Slackerwood column for Cinematical, so I looked up Coyote on IMDb. No info found at all. Even for ultra-low-budget films, that was unusual. But on a whim, I ran a search on the Cinematical site itself … the name was ringing a distant bell in the back of my head and I wasn’t sure why.
Sure enough, there was the info, plain as day on Cinematical: “Coyote” was rumored to be an alias for Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Fast Food Nation. Linklater wanted to shoot in locations where the reputation of the book Fast Food Nation might present problems (like restaurants, perhaps) so he created an alternate title, a coverup title that no one would find suspicious.
Still, no one seemed to be 100 percent sure that Coyote was definitely Fast Food Nation in disguise. I thought that the garage sale would be a fine opportunity to find out more info. If the sale included items from a meatpacking plant, or a fast-food restaurant … bingo!
Also, I had never been to a film production’s props sale before, nor had I ever been to Austin Studios. Here was a chance for a little film adventure. And finally, who knows what sort of wonderful items I might find and actually want to buy at the garage sale.
I drove to Austin Studios on Monday morning in a spirit of adventure and suspense. The studio complex is in the old airport location and is easy to find: one warehouse-sized building has “Austin Studios” on the side in giant red letters. Once I pulled into the main driveway, little signs pointed me to the studio sale on stage 3.
Stage 3 turned out to be a big warehouse building full of … junk. Half of it was set up like a garage sale, with tables full of stuff to buy. A few standing racks held all kinds of clothes. Some furniture was scattered around the tables. The other half was mostly empty and someone was rollerblading around it when I arrived.
A couple of people were browsing the garage sale area. I started to walk through the maze of tables. Here were some really nice backpacks, barely used; I liked one well enough that I would have bought it if it had been padded for laptop use. Over there, boxes of kitchen stuff. Near the loading dock, a line of toilets next to a table of dinosaur toys.
Most of the stuff looked like it had been used to furnish low-rent apartments: furniture that was straight out of the 1970s, very plain dishes and kitchen items, that sort of thing. I could imagine that a movie adapted from Fast Food Nation would include characters who didn’t have much money. Still, that wasn’t concrete proof.
I also noticed a lot of office furnishings, including furniture, general office supplies, and even a white board with a list of names and shifts. If Fast Food Nation had been a novel, I could have tried to match up some of the names with characters in the book, but since it is nonfiction, there was no way to tell. Too bad.
For example, why did they need a box of jewelry-making supplies, I wondered?
Lab equipment—a shallow box full of test tubes, a big box of goggles. A table half-full of knives in varying sizes—might this be related to meat processing? Except most of the knives appeared to be unused, still in the packaging, and looked more kitchen-like than industrial. A number of plain Dickies jumpsuits on the clothing rack—what did these things mean? And what about the trombone and ukelele included in a mess of home decorations on the shelves of one wall? And so many lamps … damn.
I noticed a line of big green trashcans labeled “Keep Colorado Beautiful” and remembered hearing that some of Coyote was filmed in Colorado. Were there any Fast Food Nation chapters set in that state? I couldn’t recall.
I finally gathered the courage to ask someone, a guy emerging from an office door in the big warehouse who joked to me that I really ought to buy the trombone.
“What movie is this for?” I asked.
“Coyote, it just wrapped last week.”
“I haven’t heard of that film,” I remarked. I felt like I was returning to the days of my news reporting internship where I played dumb around the legislators to see what they would say. It worked back then; would it work now?
“It’s a takeoff on Fast Food Nation,” he told me. Jackpot! I nodded my head.
“There are three major stories, all intertwined,” he continued. “One is about illegal immigrants trying to find work here. One is about a Colorado executive. And the other’s about a girl who works in a meatpacking plant.”
I nodded and said it sounded interesting and thanked him very much. A few minutes later, I was even more courageous and asked the guy who was handling people’s purchases if I could take pictures. He agreed. I took a few photos with my camera, and right around that time some crew members came in to see if they could find any good deals. I figured I’d seen everything there was to see, and I didn’t have any money (or house space) for garage-sale finds, so I left. On the way out, I noticed one final, huge prop that wasn’t for sale: a fake highway sign.
I felt very Hildy Johnson-ish (His Girl Friday) with my camera and innocent little questions, but how newsworthy was the info I gathered? I checked the Web later and realized none of it was much of a surprise. The big news appeared in a press release today: Fox Searchlight Pictures bought the distribution rights for Fast Food Nation, which is not being referred to as Coyote. Was Coyote just a temporary code word after all? Can’t say for sure.
Still, I am glad I checked out the movie sale. Overall, it was slightly more exciting than a standard garage sale. The prices for furniture seemed a little high, but most of the items were in better condition than at a garage sale—the backpack I liked appeared hardly to have been used at all. If you’re a garage sale fanatic, you might want to keep an eye on the Austin Film Society page; these sales seem to occur at least once a month, if not more frequently.
And if you are not a garage sale fanatic, it is a fun way to snoop at the end of a local film’s production. I am sorry I didn’t get my butt out of bed this morning to hit the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Origin garage sale. What on earth do you think was available for sale there? And would you want to buy it? All I can think of are meathooks and chainsaws and chicken-feather decor, but I suspect it would have been much more prosaic.