In journalism school, it was pounded into our brains when writing standard newspaper pieces to tailor it to an eighth-grade reading level. I’m not exactly sure where or when the decision was made, but it’s a pretty universally taught ideal.
Later, in a screenwriting class, it was steeped into our minds to always speak to that mid-range audience, but it never hurt – in fact, it was comedy gold or drama silver – to interject higher-brow ideals and pop culture and historical references wherever possible. The mid-range audience wouldn’t notice, but those who did would appreciate it – as if they were a part of a super-secret club and understood the super-secret lingo. As if they, too, were part of the Life and Death Brigade. A light bulb went off as if to say, “Oh, I see what you did there.”
In a 30-minute comedy, 60-minute drama or full-length feature film, these are gems I don’t expect to find, but I am happy when I do. When this happens in a commercial, and it’s done well, the piece is promptly researched with the link copied and pasted to those in my world, so I can share my “Oh, I see what you did there” with anyone willing to watch and listen.
Apple’s recent iPad Air commercial is beautiful. Many people probably just hear the words, paired with the images on the screen, and think, “That’s pretty cool,” before moving on to the next episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” And that’s OK. But for those who know “Dead Poets Society,” the 1989 film starring Robin Williams, a young Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard, it’s even more. I use the word “more” because I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s just more. All the emotions associated with watching that movie, which I didn’t see until I was 15 years old, come flooding back into a single one-minute and 30-second clip.
And it’s brilliant.
As a writer, when I’m tailoring a piece to the eighth-grade reading level, I always think of how I can insert a fun vocabulary word or reference for the population out there that will actually get it.
And it’s fun.
“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
Tiffannie Bond is a media relations specialist at Imagine Communications. Email Tiffannie at email@example.com.