Beyond classroom style with signature events

VANCOUVER — Marriott's CRN wanted to show what this 100+ hotel group can do to creatively transform hotel meeting spaces. What better way to do that than to hold a 48-hour Film Challenge in film-friendly Vancouver?

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

VANCOUVER — Marriott's Convention and Resort Network wanted to show just what the resources of this 100+ hotel group can do, to showcase meeting spaces beyond conference rooms and transform those spaces into just about anything. What better way to do that than to hold their first ever 48-hour Film Challenge, at the DOUGLAS, An Autograph Collection Hotel in film-friendly Vancouver?

Jason Dallas.

Jason Dallas.

This month's innovative 48-hour Challenge enhances the Autograph Collection’s dedication to independent filmmakers and elevates Marriott’s CRN’s creativity in the meetings industry following the recent launch of Mastermind by Marriott and video resources consisting of “:60 Smarter” and “Made Here. A Marriott CRN Travel Show.”

The idea began back in November, when Amy Ballard, director of sales and marketing for the JW Parq Vancouver and the DOUGLAS, Amy Popper, senior marketing manager for Marriott's CRN, and LA filmmaker Jason Dallas of 3000 Mile Productions, came up with the concept.

“We were picking Jason's brain at Honey Salt [restaurant in the JW Parq Vancouver],” Ballard told CLN at the festival. “He talked about a film challenge he'd been involved in. 

Three Amys involved in the 48-hour Film Challenge: Amy Popper of Marriott CRN; Amy Ballard of the DOUGLAS; and Amy Campbell of JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live.

Three Amys involved in the 48-hour Film Challenge: Amy Popper of Marriott CRN; Amy Ballard of the DOUGLAS; and Amy Campbell of JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live.

“There would be various film professionals on each team, and they wouldn't be in their usual roles — an editor might become a producer for example — and they had to stick to those roles. The fact that they are not in those usual roles gives people a opportunity to showcase those new roles,” said Ballard. 

“Teams could sign up with funny money to rent gear, they'd have a time limit to write the script, and there would be a bank of actors to choose from.

“And nobody sleeps while they are writing, directing, casting, filming and editing,” said Ballard.  She immediately told Popper and Dallas, “We have to do that here!”

After all, film is ingrained in The Autograph Collection's DNA; they have a special relationship with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the American actress and producer from the storied family; indy films would showcase the DOUGLAS's capabilities to transform into incredible meetings and event space; Vancouver is the third most filmed city in North America; and there are many filmmakers who would apply. Plus Spring Break would be a great time to hold the Challenge because it's a slow time for corporate meetings.

On Feb. 5 — a little over a month before the March 15-17 date for the Film Challenge — they put the word out to the film community that they would hold the challenge, comping meeting space and rooms for the teams.

“I was confident we could pull it off,” said Ballard. “Jason was confident and he was a great support. Still, a little over 30 days was a leap of faith!”

On set at the 48-hour Film Challenge.

On set at the 48-hour Film Challenge.

What was involved

Picture this: a reality show featuring four teams of filmmakers, each making an 8- to 10-minute short film on a specific theme within the DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection in Vancouver. The teams arrived at the hotel empty-handed, without a single piece of equipment, and had to manage a small budget provided by Marriott to rent gear, actors, and editing equipment to complete their task within 48 hours. Each team was given a designated area of the hotel to film their movie, which is centered around a given theme. The rooms included an art gallery, a loft, a board room and a den complete with bar.

Thinking outside the ballroom: The Loft at the DOUGLAS was one of the settings for the films.

Thinking outside the ballroom: The Loft at the DOUGLAS was one of the settings for the films.

“We're encouraging meeting planners to think outside the ballroom,” said Ballard.

Once the short films were completed, three industry judges evaluated the films and chose an overall winner, that was announced at an awards ceremony literally hours later: 8 p.m. on March 17th at the DOUGLAS.

The winning team received an Independent Filmmakers’ Production Package of gear, including a camera, lens, and tripod, an audio recording package, and a lighting kit, as well as distribution of their short on the hotel’s independent film channel and Marriott’s Convention and Resort Network Show page.

There were some interesting quirks to the Challenge — each team had to include a bottle of maple syrup and the name, “Amy Ballard,” in their film, plus use the phrase, “This place has great space.”

A reality show about the Challenge

Then the organizers came up with the idea of a Marriott film team to film the filmmakers. This reality show film would document the teams from beginning to end, and be used by Marriott Convention Network and the DOUGLAS to show just what Marriott hotels can do with their hotel spaces.

Jeff Krapf.

Jeff Krapf.

Dallas was executive producer of the Film Challenge, and television personality Jeff Krapf was the host. Amy Popper, Marriott's CRN's senior marketing manager, called on two other CRN group hotel people for assistance — Amy Campbell, director of public relations at the JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live, and Tracy Tirrell, destination sales executive at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.

What a weekend!  CLN was privileged to follow the Marriott film team around as they filmed the four teams mid-project — after they had chosen their equipment, written the script, chosen the cast members, done the filming and were ready to start a gruelling night of editing to meet a 6 a.m. deadline…

On Sunday night, Marriott had an Awards Gala, hosted by Krapf, presenting awards that included Best Writer, Best Director, Best Producer, Best DP, Best Editor and Best Actor. Three of the teams were from Vancouver and one was from L.A. The winning team, Team Cinemaroll, won both Best Actor (Kevin McLeod) and Best Picture for their short film, titled Nut Job. 

Ashley Mendoza, producer for the winning team.

Ashley Mendoza, producer for the winning team.

“In order to create a good story, we got to be challenged emotionally, physically and mentally,” said Ashley Mendoza, producer for the winning team. “It was the first time we had worked all together — I had never met the other members of the team before. I'm so happy we did a comedy — at one point we decided, 'Let's lighten up and have some fun with the film.'

“It was an amazing opportunity that brings us to the next level. It's great that Marriott supports local filmmakers. I've never been in a 48-hour film festival before.”

Asked if she'd do it again, Mendoza's answer was a resouding, “Yes!”

“… Just not tomorrow or next week!”