'Business Unusual' Short Film Challenges the Norms of Business Travel

Business Unusual 2015
Courtesy of Ritz Carlton 

"Business Unusual."

"How do you defy some of the conventions of business travel?" That’s the question Renaissance Hotels is asking with their new original film Business Unusual, written and directed by Daniel Malakai Cabrera and Caine Sinclair. Created in conjunction with Marriott’s Original Content Studio and dance collective Substance Over Hype, the 12-minute comedy stars Yoshua Sudarso (Power Rangers Dino Charge) and Jason Gerhardt (General Hospital, Mistresses) as ad execs competing for a Chicago client and staying at the newly renovated Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel.

The short film, which will be released across digital platforms (including YouTube) and in limited theaters early next year, features parkour athletes and dancers from Substance Over Hype as well as local Chicago band The O'My's.

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"Business travel is not just about the suit and the briefcase," Dan Vinh, Renaissance's global vice president for marketing, tells Billboard. "It's musicians, it's artists, it's all different fields."

"It's not an advertisement -- it's the brand as a storyteller," David Beebe, vice president of creative and content marketing for Marriott International, says of the project. That commitment to organically integrating Renaissance Hotels into independently valuable content is at the core of the Business Unusual campaign, which spans music, food (Andrew Zimmern brings his Bizarre Food to the properties) and, with this new film, cinema. The idea is that "discovering unexpected experiences while you're traveling for business helps you get a new fresh perspective and allows you to be even more productive and successful in your work," Vinh adds.

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With music, Renaissance Hotels are bringing in local artists, while also offering touring musicians the opportunity to earn credit towards a room with their "Play to Stay" initiative. For Business Unusual, Renaissance will be releasing a soundtrack as well, "to introduce The O'My's to the rest of the country and, actually, the world," as Vinh puts it.

Chicago is featured prominently in Business Unusual (former White Sox player Ozzie Guillen even makes an appearance), with the city's sites serving as a way to "inspire people to travel," in Beebe's words. "It’s more authentic when you have that local flair," he adds, emphasizing that the company's desire is to account for "all the reasons people travel" by "creating content of all types for all screens" -- and all audiences.

"Stop interrupting what consumers are interested in and become what they're interested in," Beebe concludes. "Short film's a great way to do that. If you do it in a way that first adds value to their life -- not trying to sell them something right away, but trying to entertain them, you're trying to inform them, you're trying to solve a problem -- they appreciate that and they remember that. When they do go to travel, they'll ultimately remember that experience."

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Business Unusual marks the third original short film produced by Marriott's Content Studio after the release of French Kiss and Two Bellmen.

Watch the most recent Marriott Content Studio production, Two Bellmen, below: