Hotels, motels and inns have long been a popular backdrop for films.
It’s a chance to put a bunch of disparate personalities all under one roof, add an eclectic mix of staff trying to keep everyone happy, and throw in unexpected challenges such as bad weather, faulty elevators and even mischievous (or malevolent) spirits. At the Grand Hotel in “Somewhere in Time,” (1980), it provided a portal to pursue timeless romance. At the “Hotel Transylvania” (2012), it was a mad scramble to keep a teenage boy in the dark about supernatural goings-on. And who among us hasn’t been just a tad wary of using a shower at a creepy roadside motel ever since Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” debuted in 1960?
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1. Would you like to be the manager of a hotel, motel or B&B? Why or why not? Would the size of the place and the city in which it’s located make a difference in your answer?
2. As a guest, what do you think is the most important factor in choosing a place to stay: The size and décor of the room, the number of onsite restaurants and shops, the history of the building itself, or its proximity to sightseeing attractions?
3. Would you rather stay in a high-priced room with a view of the parking lot, a medium-priced room next door to a family of noisy kids, or a low-priced room that is supposedly haunted? Explain your choice.
4. What do you think is the best job to have in a hotel? Why? The worst job? Why?
5. A lot of movies set in Paris have a window view of the Eiffel Tower from any hotel room. A lot of movies set in Washington D.C. have a window view of the Washington Monument. What view would you most like to see from a hotel/motel/B&B window and why?
In 2007, a couple of entrepreneurs strapped for money threw a couple of air mattresses on the floor of their San Francisco loft and advertised it as a cheap alternative to traditional hotels. Before they knew it, the concept of Airbnb took off and today there are over half a million properties listed worldwide.
Your assignment: The lead character in the comedy you’re writing comes home on college break to discover that his/her mum has not only rented out his/her old room but two other rooms in the house as well. Write a four-page scene that introduces the tourists (of any age), all of whom love Mom’s home cooking so much (especially her made-to-order breakfasts) that now none of them want to leave.
THE PRINCE IN ROOM 302
In 2002, Jennifer Lopez starred in “Maid in Manhattan,” a contemporary romance in which a hotel worker is mistaken for a wealthy socialite as the result of trying on one of her dresses while she’s cleaning the room.
Your assignment: Write a one-page film synopsis in which a bellhop (of any age) tries on the clothes of a visiting prince and is subsequently kidnapped by rivals for the throne. The real royal, meanwhile, is enjoying a sense of freedom he has previously never known and only learns about the kidnapping when he sees it on the news at a local diner.
Who can really blame a bunch of ghosties for wanting to hang out in an elegant place? The fashionable Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles was one of several backdrops for 1984’s “Ghostbusters” in which Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis portray a trio of goofball parapsychologists called in to save mere mortals from supernatural forces.
Your assignment: In your own twisted tale of ghost hunting, it’s a trio of ghosts brought in to rid an abandoned roadside motel of humans living off the grid. Furthermore, they’ve hired their own videographer to record the weird sights and sounds as proof that the humans really exist. Write a three-page scene in which the group encounters its first evidence of earthly occupancy.
When crooners Wallace and Davis (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) shows up at a Pine Tree Vermont lodge in “White Christmas,” (1954), they’re shocked to discover that the former general of their old Army unit is actually the innkeeper.
Your assignment: In the four-page dramatic scene you’re going to write, a snarky diva is making insensitive remarks and unreasonable demands as a hard-working, older maid cleans up her room…until the maid says something that makes the diva realize the woman she has been maligning is her own mother she hasn’t seen in 20 years.
In 1983, a prime-time drama called “Hotel” debuted on ABC and featured a succession of guest stars interacting with a hotel staff deftly lead by James Brolin and Connie Sellecca under the direction of a wealthy absentee owner (originally played by Bette Davis).
Your assignment: If money were no object to hire your dream cast for a 21st century reboot of the series, who would you cast as the (1) absentee owner, (2) general manager, (3) assistant manager, (4) concierge, and (5) head of security. Additionally, who would comprise the first three celebrity guests and what storyline would cause their paths to cross and collide in unexpected ways?
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 31 books, 157 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.