Indoor plumbing, free soap, bath tubs and locks on the door are amenities that we take for granted when staying in modern hotels.
Up until 1829, however, you would not have had any of these conveniences at public lodgings. Designer Isaiah Rogers changed all of that with the opening of Tremont House in Boston, a four-story hotel which set a new gold standard for home-away-from-home accommodations in America. Who could ever have imagined that one day the perks of booking a room would include free WiFi, hairdryers, plush robes, movies, mini-bars, and access to onsite salons, gyms and Olympic sized swimming pools? Even Hollywood loves the concept of hotels and how to use them as comedic/glamorous/mysterious/romantic/scary backdrops for movies.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1. Have you ever stayed in a hotel? If so, where was it, what was the occasion, and what do you remember the most about the experience?
2. If you could design a hotel specifically for kids in your age group, what would it look like and what features would make it truly unique?
3. If you were going to stay in a hotel, would you prefer one that is ultra modern or one that is over a hundred years old? Why?
4. Would you stay overnight in a hotel that was supposedly haunted? Why or why not?
5. If you were staying in a big city hotel by yourself, would you order room service or have your meals in the dining room? Why?
6. Which hotel stay do you think would be the most fun (and why): (1) An undersea lodge in Florida; (2) A glass igloo in the Arctic Circle; (3) A cave in Italy; (4) A tree house in Africa; (5) A lighthouse in Wales; (6) An ice hotel in Sweden.
NOT QUITE AS ADVERTISED
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) revolves around the premise of a group of British pensioners who believe they can make their retirement money last longer if they go to India. Upon arrival, however, they discover that Sonny, the hotel’s ambitious young manager, hasn’t exactly been honest about selling its merits on his website. The posh facility they were expecting has, sadly, seen better days. Much better days.
Your assignment: The main character in the film you want to write is a spoiled diva rock star who expects the best of the best of the best whenever she goes on tour. Through a mix-up in bookings, the star ends up at a grungy youth hostel where everyone is expected to help with chores. (Every hotel and motel in the city is already packed – because of her concert – and there’s no one she can stay with.) Write a three-page scene in which she tries to resolve this completely terrible mistake.
THE LATE CHECK-OUT
Hotel Impossible is a reality TV program in which a veteran hotel operator named Anthony Melchiorri is called in to reinvent, redesign and reenergize hotels that are failing to live up to their potential. No stone is left unturned as he and his team oversee everything from physical renovations to operational issues to hospitality management so as to make each project a 5-star achievement.
Your assignment: On the first day of meeting with the owners of a struggling hotel, the protagonist in your movie arrives early and is immediately set upon by a variety of characters who have very outspoken opinions about keeping the hotel exactly as it is. Write a one-page synopsis in which the reveal is that these people are actually the ghosts of former hotel guests.
THE SUITE LIFE
In the 1950’s, author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight created a series of books about an intrepid young girl named Eloise who lived on the top floor of New York’s Plaza Hotel along with her nanny, her dog, and her turtle. Calling a hotel “home” may seem a tad quirky and like something out of an earlier century but for people who spend a lot of time working in a distant city (or country!), an extended stay at a hotel is sometimes not only less than renting an apartment but also comes with en suite amenities, room service, and the flexibility to be able to leave without breaking a lease.
Your assignment: An old hotel is being converted to condos and several of the elderly residents are talking about how long they have lived there. Write a three-page scene in which one of them has lived there for 50 years and never knew that a rival from high school has lived there the same amount of time but on a different floor.
ALL HUMANS MUST REMAIN ON A LEASH
What better place to hide stray dogs than in a vacant hotel? That’s the premise of Hotel for Dogs (2009) in which a pair of young orphans named Bruce and Andi decide to hide their beloved pet rather than risk it being taken to the animal pound. Before they know it, even more strays have come to the door and it’s everything the kids can do to not only keep the furry residents happy, fed and entertained but also keep themselves from being fostered into separate households.
Your assignment: Write a two-page treatment for an animated film in which all of the talking characters are dogs that work at a “dogs only” hotel. Under a new ordinance, dog guests will be allowed to bring human companions. Not every employee is happy with this. In the movie you want to write, consider all of the things that could possibly go wrong if the humans aren’t well behaved.
CHECK YOUR SANITY AT THE FRONT DESK
Certainly one of the scariest movies ever made about a hotel was The Shining (1980) adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Tuck a dysfunctional family into a snowbound hotel with a dark reputation, hallucinatory images and dead phone lines and it’s little wonder that the stage is totally tricked out for a winter of terror.
Your assignment: The owners of a century-old hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter are suddenly experiencing seller’s remorse. On the day the new owners come to take possession, the husband and wife plan to scare them into thinking it’s truly a house of horrors. Write a four-page scene in which they relate the ghoulish goings-on that have made the place a living nightmare.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 30 books, 154 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.