Remember that glorious 2017 music festival in the Bahamas that garnered headlines for its excellent planning, exceptional execution and gorgeous attendees? Fyre Festival was all the rage, until it was supposed to happen and attendees found themselves stranded on an island with no infrastructure, F&B easily surpassed by your average soup kitchen, leftover FEMA tents for housing and, well, no festival.
With so many outlets for fresh streaming content, we’re blessed with two documentaries chronicling the disaster that was the Fyre Festival, which was more of a Ponzi scheme than an actual event. Start with Fyre Fraud on Hulu to get a solid background of the characters at play, their previous dealings/money shuffling and the dream of this beautiful event.
As that concludes and the cringe-chills remain, got over to Neflix for Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a piece that acts more as a companion—or extended DVD extras—to the Hulu offering.
Rest assured, both films are sure to induce anxiety in planners. Don’t believe me? Check out the Reddit thread, “Watching the Fyre Festival doc as a former event planer feeling TRIGGERED.”
“I have experience in event planning too and the time frame got me so perplexed. 6 months is barely enough time to plan a neighborhood festival,” said redditor 1nformalStudent.
However, watching these movies did make me wish the event—or at least a multiday, island-based music festival more in line with my tastes—was on the table. Turns out, planners thought about that, too: “I am also an event planner and Fyre Festival goer who got stranded on the island,” redditor taytotz said. “This doc made me want to actually throw this festival. Totally doable with the proper team, planning, and expectations.”
Of course, the main problem with Fyre Festival was that the big-picture organizers were experienced con artists more interested in getting large investments for the festival to pay off investors from their other schemes, all to prop up an online talent-booking service (Fyre) that was actually a really good idea. This situation is more about financial fraud than event planning—but since events are such a visible highlight, many people see it as though the event itself was the problem.
After biting my nails and laughing for three hours watching the pair of Fyre docs, I thought more about the representation of meeting/event planning in film. There’s no shortage of feature films that prominently (if not always accurately) depict the chaotic life of meeting and event planners. Think back to the last time you sat in a theater (or chilled on your comfy couch) and cringed as you watched a snippet of your life—wine and all—portrayed on the big screen.
After 16 years in this industry, my antennae still twitch when I get a hint of the meeting/event life while watching a movie. In order to manage my thirst for fodder on this topic, I reached out to a selection of meeting and event industry friends to commiserate and identify more movies that you can add to your queue.
Weddings & parties
Of course, you’ve got the wedding angle—perhaps the most prevalent and more easily accessible to non-planner humans.
“One that I do like a lot is The Wedding Planner. Why? Mathew McConaughey…and it does portray the job somewhat well,” says Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, president and chief connecting officer of thrive! meetings & events.
“Bride Wars with Candace Bergen as the wedding planner. This is a complicated story about two best friends who are getting married but who have a fight and then learn they’ve chosen the same wedding planner and venue,” says Kim Estep, founder and CEO of ConventionNation.com. “I love that Bergen’s character is able to satisfy both brides and delivers a memorable experience despite the emotional turmoil between the main characters. A true professional.”
Courtney Stanley recommends a pair of wedding-based movies to consider.
“My Best Friend’s Wedding. I love a good romantic comedy, especially one starring Julia Roberts! The drama around a big wedding, hilarious scandals and a great soundtrack make this movie one of my all-time favorites,” says Stanley, owner of CS Consulting.
“And if you haven’t seen the movie Bridesmaids, it’s time to check this comedy off your list. This hilarious film portrays the events leading up to a wedding in a whole new light. From competitive and dysfunctional bridesmaids to food poisoning and bridal showers gone wrong, Bridesmaids never fails to make me laugh myself off the couch,” Stanley says.
“Additionally, this movie inspired some seriously great memes and GIFs that I throw into conversations and presentations every now and then.”
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MPI’s director of community Kristi Casey Sanders, CMP, CMM, DES, HMCC, gives a nod to Four Weddings and a Funeral as, “a delightful exploration of how events, especially pedestrian life events, can bring people together and change how we see the world.”
This movie also got two thumbs up from Andrea Driessen, chief boredom buster of No More Boring Meetings, “in part for a very funny bit about catering and mitigating guest ‘issues.’”
While we’re looking at social-party-type of events, one recommendation came in for Office Christmas Party, along with some activities you can go through to actually learn and better your professional self.
“From a safety and security perspective, Office Christmas Party is horrifying, but it is also a fun adventure in impromptu emergency planning,” says Jessie States, CMP, CMM
head of meeting innovation for MPI. “Watch it with your team, and every time an incident occurs analyze the risks associated with it, set some SMART objectives and detail what tactics you would take to protect life and property.”
OK, enough about weddings and parties. Over on the F&B/catering side of the world, Big Night, got multiple props.
“I LOVED Big Night, it’s about two brothers whose Italian restaurant is not going well as a rival Italian restaurant is out-competing them. In a final effort to save the restaurant, the brothers plan to put on an evening of incredible food,” Stuckrath says. “The first time I saw this was at an ILEA (ISES at the time) event in Columbus, Ohio. We watched a portion of the movie in a theater, then went to the lobby to eat that same course. Went back in for the next part and then again to the lobby to enjoy the next course. The movie event was hosted within another event.”
Casey Sanders says Big Night, “really captures the anticipation and all the work that goes into creating a memorable event and some of the fires that happen behind the scenes.”
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But then her consumable recommendations get a little disturbing with The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover: “Probably one of the creepiest illustrations of the effect of revenge being best served hot. In this case, through one of the world’s most disgusting catered events.”
Of course, the bit convention and trade show side of the industry deserves some play here, especially as pop culture cons continue to grow.
“One of my all-time favorites is Galaxy Quest. I love that the main character, played by Tim Allen, uses Trekkie-like conventions to showboat and feed his ego. He is found at one of these convention by actual aliens who confuse his fictional character as a real character and ask him to come save them in an intergalactic battle. The drunk egomaniac actually goes, involving his bitter co-stars along the way,” says Tyra W. Hilliard, Esq, PhD, CMP, a speaker, professor and attorney with Hilliard Associates.” Of course, the convention attendees who witness part of this just think it’s part of a stunt. Convention magic!”
Shawna Suckow, author, speaker and founder of SPiN, notes, “There are several Apple-like events, with Tom Hanks as the Steve Jobs-type character, in The Circle starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and others. Aside from being Paxton’s last movie, I really like the plot of this movie. Lesser known and not loved by critics, but I love the storyline about our growing lack of privacy. I love it both from an event planner standpoint and a tech geek standpoint. They have elaborate meetings with huge crowds, big tech reveals and cool effects.”
On the political side, Hilliard is fond of The Manchurian Candidate, in which, “The action crescendos at the political convention with the assassination attempt. You don’t know just how badly the convention is going to be affected until you see who he takes a shot at and whether he’s successful. Risk Management Girl (me) thrills at this one, of course.”
Back to the real world
For a conclusion, this fun list circles back around to another Netflix documentary around the world of big-name professional speakers.
“I am Not Your Guru. A behind-the-scenes look at Tony Robbins and his events. It’s interesting to watch his team create these events, get the audience insanely fired up, and then try to get Tony Robbins to listen to them and their suggestions. AND his team are entirely volunteers from what I understand,” Suckow says. “Worst-paid, hardest working, toughest boss. Ugh.”
Now, what are you waiting for? Step aside from your spreadsheets and cloud-based organizational apps and grab some snacks…and get you’re binge on!
What are some of your go-to planner-related movies? Share with your peers in the comments!
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