Garage Sale Documentary

Being offered at a garage sale can confer an almost mystical aura to a thing that draws people in. Janky attributes that would make us laugh at Target will actually make it more desirable sitting on a plastic folding table in a driveway. I can only speculate that it makes us think we’re going to get a bargain for something really cool. Today MIGHT be your day to find that valuable Antiques Roadshow thing for five dollars cash.

Alternately, finding something at a garage sale that you perhaps were thinking of buying, then the reality of it once feeling the weight and texture is less than pleasing may make you happy you dodged that bullet. Sometimes I suspect the wanting and buying is more satisfying than the having. A garage sale might be therapy for overindulging in retail. It’s certainly a rebellion against retail. With the popularity of shows like American Pickers it’s clear that there’s some compulsion to rifle through other people’s stuff for some reason. 

In many ways Jared Witham’s film Garage Sale Documentary is itself like an item at a garage sale. Allow me to elaborate: This is not a good film, despite years of curating footage from garage sales and raising $11K in crowd funding. It’s bad, and not in a “so-bad-that-it’s-good” way. It’s just bad. However, possibly, if considered as a kitschy garage sale find, it could have a certain charm. It’s definitely audacious.

The film is broken into themed segments about how early in the morning people show up for sales, what types of people shop garage sales, the tax implications of garage sale income, etc, but ultimately there’s just so much anyone wants or needs to know about them. Go to a couple on your block. There, now you know. 

“…instead of seeking distribution, Mr. Whitham should consider selling copies of the film on VHS and DVD exclusively at garage sales.”

Introducing the segments are scenes featuring a smarmy narrator doing silly things who reminded me of the ‘70’s local chiller theater hosts with cheesy lines and bad graphics. Think “Svengoolie” or “Elvira.” I actually really like both of them. With his mustache and bowtie and his Jersey to Florida retiree accent, I thought “this guy is like someone’s uncle Morty” and immediately felt bad about myself for stereotyping and profiling him. Then I looked up the actor’s name: Chickster Shenkman. So my impulse was actually correct, if not politically correct.

To review the film for it’s filmic qualities is almost beside the point, but that’s what we do, so you’ll have to disregard the poor quality image and sound, the bad editing, the bloviating by people at garage sales about garage sales, and the “experts” included to talk about the deeper meaning of the culture and appeal of garage sales. Honestly, this film could be cut to about 20 minutes and still be what it is without killing off an hour and a half of your time. There’s a whole segment introducing the filmmaker and giving us his resume in the form of an interview with uncle Morty.

I believe instead of seeking distribution, Mr. Whitham should consider selling copies of the film on VHS and DVD exclusively at garage sales on commission, a little found treasure peeking out from under the old Simon games and stacks of viewmaster slides. I bet it would sell that way.

Garage Sale Documentary (2017) Written and directed by: Jared Whitham. Starring: Chickster Shenkman, Chris Dotson, William Maier.

4 out of 10 (7 out of 10 at a garage sale!)

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