American street icons are controversial: Corvette or Model T? Route 66 or the modern highways? Waffle House or Stuckey’s? Standard Oil or Shell? Paper maps or GPS?
But there may be a street icon that stands on its own and above the debate. It’s the Airstream trailer, and “Alumination,” a documentary about the aluminum-riveted icon, is slated to premiere in October (but read on to find out how to watch the film before its official debut).
The film was actually supposed to premier months ago, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic put such debuts and people like the filmmaker actor Eric Bricker on hold.
Bricker is actually not on hold, he and his team are working on their next film project. Bricker is from St. Louis, where his grandmother took him to many movies and where he was in a high school choir. He was encouraged to try his hand at the school’s production of “Guys and Dolls” and landed the lead role of Sky Masterson.
He enrolled at Indiana University to study economics only to end up studying English literature with minor in theater and art history and starring in a production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Films he had seen with his grandmother sparked his interest in Hollywood, and he moved there after college only to find that he would rather make films than appear in them. After 15 years, he also discovered that he would rather make these films from a base in Austin, Texas, where he has lived since 2007.
Bricker and his co-producer Lisa Hughes premiered their first joint project “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman”, with Dustin Hoffman telling the story of the architectural photographer Julius Shulman. It was Hughes who called Bricker in 2013 and suggested the Airstream trailer as the next film project.
“That’s when the adventure began,” recalls Bricker, admitting that he and Hughes not only discovered the history of the popular aluminum trailers, but also that of their creator, Wally Byam, and the community of Airstream owners.
“We were fascinated by this iconic caravan, the iconic design piece and the iconic brand, that was our starting point,” says Bricker. “But when we got in, the people using these trailers are really amazing. We didn’t know anything about the church. We didn’t know what we were getting into, the Airstream cult. It is the most welcoming world, a combination of enthusiasm and openness and willingness to share. “
If that sounds like the collector car community, it makes sense. Airstream trailers are valued by their owners as much as collector cars are valued by their owners. In some cases, Airstream owners have been looking for vintage cars or trucks to pull their classic car trailers.
“Everyone, even Generation Z, has Airstream travel trailers emblazoned in their memories,” added Bricker.
But the Airstream community wasn’t the only surprise the filmmakers got.
Alumination movie poster
“The story and the spirit of Wally Byam,” said Bricker of perhaps his biggest surprise in the long process. “He’s an unsung American entrepreneurial hero. There aren’t many people who have had his sense of vision, the rigor he applied, constantly striving to make things better, get through the tough times and make these caravans for marketing. I am very happy that we had the opportunity to tell the Airstream story, its story. “
Figuring out how to weave the various threads together, however, was one of the reasons it took so long for the film to go from inspiration to final cut. What finally brought it all together, Bricker said, was a photo of Byam touching an Airstream, “almost like he’s building his ghost into the trailer, and I think the caravans carry the ghost of Wally Byam.” he added, who was also activated by the people who use these trailers.
“Alumination”, which runs for 77 minutes and is narrated by Kate Pierson of The B-52s, is slated to debut in Spring 2020 at the Newport Beach Film Festival, now in October 2021.
You don’t have to wait until then to see the movie, however. Silverstream Filmworks offers private screenings for groups of 50 or more people and, on request, also offers question-and-answer sessions with the producers.
“Independent film is tough,” noted Bricker. “If you want to achieve financial freedom, I wouldn’t recommend taking the documentary route. But for most documentary filmmakers, following their curiosity is a passion. “
Curious about Airstream? Gather a group of 49 or more friends now, or wait until this fall when the film makes its official debut at the Newport Beach Festival. And then? The producers are of course hoping for a cinema release, followed by a run on one of the digital platforms such as Netflix or Amazon and for fans to buy copies for their film libraries so that they might even watch them again in a wilderness location while camping in their Airstream- Trailers.
Written by Larry Edsall, this article was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.