Alumnus’ film puts spotlight on station wagon enthusiasts

A documentary on the history of station wagons was shown in Belk Library last Thursday. The film was made by Sam Smartt and Chris Zaluski, an Appalachian alumnus. Maggie Cozens | The Appalachian

Michael Bragg

A documentary on the history of station wagons was shown in Belk Library last Thursday. The film was made by Sam Smartt and Chris Zaluski, an Appalachian alumnus. Maggie Cozens | The AppalachianThe short documentary “Wagonmasters” was shown in Belk Library and Information Commons last Thursday, which focuses on station wagon enthusiasts and traces the history of the station wagon through American history. 

The filmmakers, Chris Zaluski and Sam Smartt are Master of Fine Arts candidates at Wake Forest University. Zaluski is an Appalachian alumnus, completed his undergraduate degree in electronic media and journalism in 2008. 

The project began after Zaluski read an article in Fortune magazine in February 2011 about Volvo’s decision to discontinue the sale of their last station wagon model in the U.S. 

“The way the author wrote it was kind of like this ‘end of the era’ piece and it got me thinking this would be an interesting documentary,” Zaluski said. “He was looking at this vehicle that was such a symbol of American culture and Americana that’s basically all but dead, so what does that say about American culture now?” 

The film began close to home in Charlotte in the home of Tim Cleary, who Zaluski found after searching “station wagon enthusiasts” on Google. Cleary is the president of the American Station Wagon Owners Association and provided Zaluski and Smartt with the contact information for the rest of the people featured in their film. 

“My idea was that if somebody was really into station wagons they probably had an interesting story outside of that,” Zaluski said. 

The film follows station wagon enthusiasts in several cities in the U.S. — from Detroit, to Venice Beach, Calif., to small-town Illinois and beyond. 

The screening in Belk Library was only the fourth time this film has been shown to a public audience.  Next on the agenda for the filmmakers is the official premiere Saturday at the Hot Springs Film Festival in Arkansas. 

“We want as many people to see it as can,” Smartt said. “We do want the sort of street cred that comes with screenings at festivals even though that may not be the best way to make money off the film.” 

In addition to the film festival audience, Zaluski and Smartt have brought the film to the car-enthusiast world by screening “Wagonmasters” at a few car shows. 

“We’re in the processes of organizing a drive-in screening in the Triad area,” Smartt said. 

The screening at Belk library drew an eclectic crowd of station wagon enthusiasts, friends of the filmmakers and students in film classes. 

“I really loved it,” said Celeste Caton, a senior theatre arts education major.  “One of my best friends has a station wagon, which is not very typical.” 

Caton attended the film as a suggestion from her documentary and film class. 

“Wagonmasters” features music from Winston-Salem band The Bayonets and Boone-based band Naked Gods. 

“We tried to shop local with the music,” Zaluski said. 

Story: EMMA SPECKMAN, A&E Reporter

Photo: MAGGIE COZENS, Photo Editor