Creating Unexpected Experiences Using Event Spaces

Author: Casey Gale       

Four teams of amateur filmmakers gathered at the DOUGLAS, an Autograph Collection Hotel, to learn the rules of the 48 Hour Film Challenge.

Two strangers spend an evening experiencing a new form of dating that involves … clones? It sounds like a long-lost “The Twilight Zone” episode, but it’s actually the plot of Ajouté, one of four short films shot for Marriott International Convention & Resort Network’s (CRN) first 48 Hour Film Challenge.

Not to be confused with a film festival, the challenge — hosted in March at the DOUGLAS, an Autograph Collection Hotel, located in Vancouver — was a way for Marriott to bring the local filmmaking community together. “Autograph Collection hotels have a strong dedication to the independent filmmaker community,” Mike Wainwright, vice president of sales for Marriott’s CRN, told Convene. “And as Vancouver is the third-largest film city in the world, the DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection, made for the perfect location.”

But beyond celebrating the talents of local filmmakers in Vancouver, the competition was directly tied to the property — and its capability for hosting imaginative events. All four teams, each with five up-and-coming filmmakers, had to create a short film from scratch that somehow showcased the meetings and events spaces at the DOUGLAS.

Starring Role

Each team of filmmakers was given a mock budget to hire actors and rent filming equipment.

The teams, chosen based on a specific list of categories after an open call for applications, arrived at the location without any filming equipment and were given only a theme for their script and mock budget to hire actors and buy filming necessities before making a mad dash to complete their two-day masterpieces.

Each team, made up of a director, director of photography, producer, writer, and editor, was tasked with working within the confines of randomly assigned spaces in the DOUGLAS — including suites, meeting rooms, and event spaces — to write, capture, and edit around a 10-minute film that event planners could draw inspiration from. Teams were also given some quirky rules, such as the requirement to include the words “maple syrup” in the script, honoring the challenge’s Vancouver setting.

The 48 Hour Film Challenge “perfectly highlighted,” said Amy Ballard, director of sales and marketing for the DOUGLAS, how “event spaces can be used to create unexpected experiences for attendees.” For instance, Meandering Lines, a short film about a painter dealing with newfound fame, required a meeting room to be transformed into an art gallery. “Imagine, as a meeting attendee, that you walk into your reception and instead of seeing cocktail rounds, you unexpectedly encounter an art gallery,” Ballard said. “What a conversation starter for a networking event.”

Joint Effort

The 48 Hour Film Challenge required not just the work of the filmmakers, but also the DOUGLAS staff, who aided in the setup and breakdown of the film sets, which could be considered “uncharted territory” for most hotel teams, according to Ballard. “It was critical that we prepared a team of diverse individuals of varying skill sets to plan and execute this multi-day event,” she said. The hotel team was split into “the Organizers,” who were responsible for overseeing the timing, production, and communication with hotel associates; “the Visionaries,” who stepped in to help the filmmakers where necessary, including a sub-team that built the film sets; and “Experts in Film Production,” who shared insights that helped shape the challenge itself and provided context on how “what we do every day when we create events is in fact very much like creating a film,” Ballard said.

At the end of the 48 hours, the films were judged by a panel of experts, including David Shepard, film commissioner for Vancouver; Todd Gilchrist, a Los Angeles–based film critic; and Marnie Orr, the British Columbia film commissioner and director of production. The challenge culminated with an award ceremony that recognized the best actor, producer, director, cinematographer, editor, writer, and of course, the best film. The winning team, creators of Nut Job — the story of a man rethinking his life’s choices as he chokes on a nut — received filmmaking gear and the additional exposure of having their film featured on the property’s in-room channel.

Around 150 guests, including event planners, joined in the festivities at the award ceremony, where they viewed the films.

Marriott’s CRN will have already hosted another 48 Hour Film Challenge by this month — this time at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida. “We have had requests from other planners in our community to join us next time — they would like to tour the sets and see firsthand how we transformed the meeting rooms,” Ballard said, “and then follow the journey as the films are created.”

At the end of the 48 Hour Film Challenge, teams were awarded for cinematography, editing, and writing, among other categories.

Behind the Scenes

In addition to the film crews on hand to shoot the short films for the 48 Hour Film Challenge, there were also cameras on site at the DOUGLAS to document how the films came together in real time. This footage is set to debut later this year as part of what Marriott’s CRN calls a reality show. Part one will showcase how business event strategists can work with the hotel’s team to “plan and execute meetings and events,” as well as how the hotel can transform spaces into creative productions, said Marriott CRN’s Mike Wainwright. Part two of the reality show will give a behind-the-scenes look at how the 48 Hour Film Challenge contestants worked to create their finished shorts.

To learn more about Marriott CRN’s 48 Hour Film Challenge, visit

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