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Samuel D Southwell

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Falling Down: A case study in Foreshadowing
by Samuel D Southwell   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Posted: Friday, October 04, 2002

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This is a article I wrote a few years ago about the art of foreshadowing. It is a very important tool to a good screenwriter.

In my last article I gave a brief summary of what foreshadowing is and how it is used. A few of you wrote to me an asked if I could give a few more examples of foreshadowing. So, to help out my fans I have decided, instead of giving you a list of different example for many different movies, I am going to give you many examples for one movie. A movie with some of the best examples of foreshadowing I have ever seen.

The movie is called "Falling Down" and it is about a man, burned- out on life, taking a walk through L. A. on his way "home". The man, Bill Foster, faces many situations from gangland hoods to golfers. On the other side of the coin a cop, on the last day of his job, finds out about him, from the clues left from seemingly unrelated crimes, and trys to stop him.

The first use of foreshadowing we see is a billboard of a woman with a little cartoon man spray painted between her breast, with the caption, "Help me". This is used later on in the story by the cop to find out who Bill Foster is. Another image used many times in the story, in verbal as well as visual, was the word D-FENS. It was the license plate on Bill's car and it is also said by the Korean shopkeeper. D-FENS is the key word that helps the cop track Bill down.

The next set of examples is more obvious. The first is when Bill takes the baseball bat from the shop keeper, the one he used for defense. Bill uses the bat to defend himself against a couple of gang members, who claim they were defending their turf. Next example Bill takes a gym bag (a gym is where people go to learn to defend themselves) full of guns from the gang members, who shot at him and missed as they were again trying to defend (There's that word again) their turf. Final Bill uses the guns to defend (Do you see a pattern forming here) himself against big corporation, at a fast food restaurant, a fascist, at an army surplus store, and even some rich golfer on a golf course.

As you can see, some foreshadowing follow a theme throughout a movie. This movie follows the theme of defense and defending oneself against all who stand in your way. That is one of the best things about foreshadowing it can do a lot more than just show the audience what is going to happen next. It can draw your audience deeper into the story and in most cases they wouldn't even know how you did it.

Other examples, the cop sings London Bridges to his wife over the phone to cheer her up. Later Bill buys a glass globe that plays London Bridge. Still later the Fascist throws the globe and shatters it. Foreshadowing, as you can see, can also follow a pattern like that you would never see, unless you look really close.

In conclusion, foreshadowing is at the heart of the story. It is interwoven throughout the script. The writer doesn't have to really think about it, but they should always have it in the back of their minds. Remember, next time you write or rewrite a scene, think what details can I put in to help move the theme or story along. When you do this you are thinking about foreshadowing.

To my fans good luck with your writing and if anyone else needs to know about something. Let me know I am very happy to help.

For anyone who would like to see the movie I used as an example it is called "Falling Down" released by Warner Brothers in 1992. It stars Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall. You should be able to find in the older section in the video store under drama or were older videos are sold.

Web Site: Twisted American Publications

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