Content, Creativity, Image and Imagination

Here’s Looking At You Kid – How Movie Lines Move An Audience

The coming summer season in Vancouver (summer?! Vancouver?!) brings with it the added treat of outdoor movie screenings. I once shared a viewing of Mamma Mia in Stanley Park with a sparkling group of fireflies buzzing with Abba-inspired energy. That movie – let alone Meryl Streep in bluejean overalls – seemed more appropriate in the ragged outdoors than in the formality of a theatre.  During all the musical numbers, the crowd got carried away with the lyrics. It seems everyone knew every song by heart. It was a field full of grass-stained Super Troupers and Dancing Queens.

Last summer I went to see Casablanca on the plaza at the Olympic Village – there were no fireflies but the city sparkled in the distance. This time the experience was tuned to the sound of language rather than the sound of music.

As a content strategist, it’s always a thrill and somehow redemptive when words get remembered.  In older movies language seems more important, more sumptuous. A great line was allowed to have as much impact as all the digital pyrotechnics of today. Old movies treat language as a luxury, a wanted good.  When considering content for your blog or brand story, it’s useful to consider how diction that sparkles like diamonds can get an audience to pay you attention.

The American Film Institute named Casablanca history’s most quotable movie.  At the screening every time Rick or Ilsa or Captain Renault rang one of these silver bells there was a whoop of energy and bright applause. The crowd knew the words by heart and swooned at every sentence. Here’s the AFI list :

We’ll always have Paris (#43)

Round up the usual suspects (#32)

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship (#20)

Here’s looking at you, kid.  (#5)

My favourite is the most fermented – the crowd seemed to go weak in the knees over this: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine. (#68)

But it’s a line not in the movie that often speaks for the movie: Play it again, Sam. Maybe its absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Coming up with lines that both roll off the tongue and stick in your head is hard for anyone trying to create engaging content.  But a good line gets noticed. The Epstein brothers (Jules and Phil) won a well-deserved Oscar for their screenplay though they were still writing it as the cameras rolled.

Of course, one short cut for any content strategist is to borrow some cinematic jewels and give your writing the Red Carpet treatment.

Think of how you can stregthen your content with more power by using May the force be with you (#8). Or give your audience some hope for the future with After all, tomorrow is another day (#31). Or start them off with a charming comment like Hello, gorgeous (#81). Or shock them with brutal honesty – Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn (#1).. Even Scarlett fever can be contagious and make a post go viral.

Here’s one more from Casablanca’s desert menu – 

Captain Renaut: And what in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: Waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.

Hasta la vista, baby!

Can you think of any other movie quotes and how they might be twisted to useful effect?

– b