Watch: How '10 Cloverfield Lane' Nails Foreshadowing

The surprisingly good 'Cloverfield' sequel contains some incredible examples of micro and macro foreshadowing.

In a landscape dominated by pointless sequels, 10 Cloverfield Lane wasn't exactly a title that stood out as a potential quality release at the time of its announcement. Its predecessor, though a commercial success, is one of the more gimmicky horror flicks (shaky-cam for days) to have come out in recent years and it certainly seemed like there wasn't much more of a story to tell.

The sequel, however, was surprisingly very, very good, and a large part of this can be attributed to how well it was crafted. And as Covert Film explains in his video essay 10 Cloverfield Lane: The Art of Foreshadowing, it was an intensely detailed focus on foreshadowing that pumped the film's storytelling to the next level. As you'll see in the video, the number of foreshadowing moments in 10 Cloverfield Lane is quite astonishing, but note that there are lots of spoilers here, so if you haven't seen the film yet you might want to hold off.

In the book Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger, foreshadowing is defined as "the use of visual or audio material to hint at and build the audience's expectations for specific future events…When an object or piece of information is set up in one context and paid off in another. This subtle kind of foreshadowing gives us information that at first seems unimportant, but later pays off when we understand its significance."

An excerpt from Screenplay: Writing the Picture by Robin U. Russin and William Missouri Downs, furthers this definition by likening instances of foreshadowing to "signposts, which hint at and sometimes justify future events."

Foreshadowing provides two direct benefits: "motivation" and "payoffs." Covert Film identifies macro-foreshadowing as the precursor to "payoff" and micro-foreshadowing as the precursor to "motivation."

Payoffs are the result of macro-foreshadowing when there is a large amount of time between the setup (the foreshadow) and the effect (the payoff.)

Setup + Time = Payoff

In contrast, micro-foreshadowing isn’t something that the audience is overtly conscious of. Instead of payoff, Covert Film believes micro-foreshadowing results in motivation.

Invisibility + Intentionality = Motivation

The video above does a great job of identifying these uses of foreshadowing throughout the film. 10 Cloverfield Lane is full of macro-foreshadowing; one example is actually established at the very beginning of the movie, but we don’t see the payoff for another hour and a half until a crazy resolution at the end.

There are even more examples of micro-foreshadowing then macro-foreshadowing here. You can almost assume that everything that is given a close up in the first half of the movie will come back in a significant way. Nothing is insignificant. Isn’t this what every filmmaker should strive for with each scene?     

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1 Comment

Saw this video first through reddit now it has gotten up on nofilmschool...wow

June 11, 2017 at 5:26PM

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William Yeh
Director, Director of Photography, Visual Effects Artist
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