"We were very busy and weren’t paying much attention to these two men until they began piling vast amounts of antiques up on the counter," Watkins said. "We
were running out of room on the counter and we were thinking -- what in the world is going on? This isn’t our usual, typical customer!"
Watkins (Barbara Watkins Antiques) and Trueman (Charlene Trueman Antiques) each have a space in the Fredericksburg Antique Mall.
"Finally we said to them, 'You look like you have a game plan here; there’s something you’re working on,'" Watkins said. "And for some reason it popped into
my head -- a movie, a stage production, they’re looking for props. And one of the men said, 'Yes, we are. As a matter of fact, Steven Spielberg is working on a movie."
That man was set decorator Jim Erickson and the movie was Lincoln.
"'We’re finding lots of things in your shop, but we’re really just getting started here in Virginia,' he told us," Watkins said.
"When they were finished and checked out to the tune of -- I don’t know what, but most of the dealers in the shop were pleased, especially me, I asked the gentlemen what else they were specifically looking for," Watkins said.
Watkins, who specializes in 18th and 19th century antiques, had items at her home which interested the set decorator, and he made an appointment to visit a
week later, on October 7, 2011.
"He came to my home with his assistant and started purchasing things off the walls, off the floor, or asking me if they were for sale," Watkins said. "And
since I’m of a certain age where I need to be downsizing, most things were for sale," she laughed.
"The whole time I was concerned about how they were going to pay," she said. "I kept thinking, 'I don’t have a credit card machine.'"
"Mr. Erickson sent his assistant to the car for their evidently unlimited funds -- now I know why movies are so expensive," she quipped. "They paid me in
cash and off they went."
Erickson kept in touch with Watkins for a while, and she recommend other places for him to find props. "He was very well informed," Watkins said.
"He had in his head what he needed and wanted. I never saw him pull out a list and cross things off," she said. "He was entirely doing this from his own knowledge. He’d been a collector of antiques for many years, so he knew what was right and what wasn’t. And he had instructions from DreamWorks concerning each scene," she said. "It was a lot of fun."
When the movie came out, Watkins was surprised how difficult it was to identify "her" items in the film.
"They bought all this from me and from our shop and it's going to just pop out at me I thought," Watkins said. "It was a harder search to find things that I remembered because they had so much in the film," she said.
"I saw a set of chairs I sold him and I believe he used one print of George Washington I sold him," Watkins said. She said attorneys for the film called to confirm the print was an authentic antique. "The chairs were in many scenes
where the men were sitting around the tables having their meetings," she said.
Watkins plans to watch the movie again on DVD so that she can stop and start and look more closely at the scene decor. "There are lots of things [in the movie] that you just wouldn’t notice or could tell were yours -- quilts,
baskets, jugs -- primitive things that were in the scenes of the more modest properties," she said.
Watkins, who works as an assistant reference librarian at Central Rappahannock Regional Library, wondered
if she might have a chance to repurchase anything when the filming was completed. Erickson told her no; everything would be shipped to massive warehouses in Hollywood.
"Little shops and little towns don’t frequently touch fame," said Watkins, who also sells from a showcase in New Oxford Antiques Center in Pennsylvania. "It was very exciting and we all had a lot of fun."