“Adventures in Writing Animation” workshop by Greg Acuna

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Greg Acuna taught his "Adventures in Writing Animation" Workshop at Toonskool in Mumbai.  Besides students and faculty the workshop was attended by reporters from AnimationXpress.com, Animation Reporter and Animation Today.  Esha Birnur wrote about the class for AnimationXpress.com.

(Original Article on AnimationXpress.com)

The screenwriting seminar held by Greg Acuna, on ‘Adventure in Writing Animation‘ on 18th June ‘07 at Toonskool, Mumbai was unanimously agreed by all those who attended as being worth every minute.


Greg is the founder of Goa based animation studio, Pala Flicks. He has received his MA in playwriting from San Francisco State and has written/directed one produced feature film, Co-scripted two others, and has been a script doctor on a number of projects. Greg has taught screen writing at the university level and has been a consultant for Paramount Pictures among others.

Keeping each of those attending the workshop engrossed all the while, Greg followed a structured pattern while conducting various exercises as part of the five hour seminar.

Everyone wants to write feature films." Greg began the workshop by talking about ‘Key Concepts‘, he said, "There is a blurring line between animation and live action. The difference lies in the style feeling and the target audience.

"Greg outlined four types of animated films namely serials, shorts, experiments and features. Animated shorts are usually less than 60 minutes in which the story begins while quickly moving into the confrontation and then the resolution, going through the stages of character set up, the plot set up and then the dramatic situation. Serials are almost similar to shorts in structure, the difference being that in serials, the characters are put into different quads. "Film making is expensive and time consuming, hence structured scripting helps in making it effective."

"A script is the blueprint for a film," piqued Greg. It is a story told in pictures, dialogues, is descriptive in from and placed in the context of the dramatic structure. The trick in making a good script is to get into the scene late and get out early.

Key people involved in making a film are the screenwriter, director, producer, actor and the animator. But how does one get ideas to make a film? According to Greg ideas come from imagination, the kind of animated film one wants to make, reading, watching films, talking to others and observing the world. As a writer one can choose to do an infinite amount of things within the script.

Also, reading the completed script out aloud can help improve the script.In animated films the characters can be modeled around interesting personalities or significant people while the plot can be based on an interesting story, an important theme or complex series of events.

"Character is king and can be placed in any plot," commented Greg. "In order to overcome the writer‘s block, write down your ideas on a sheet of blank paper and then group all the related things. This helps organize ideas. The trick is to look between the lines and free the imaginative mind. Mind mapping is another approach that can be adopted where one can draw diagrams and then connect similar or related things. There is a difference between the story and the progression of the film. Also, screenwriting is not a linear process and the thinking has no boundaries.


" At the workshop, Greg shared that character inspirations are either drawn from reality or fantasy or from human and animal traits. How one develops the characters is what makes them interesting. While creating characters, the script writer is creating believable characters. Creating the illusion of reality which is the suspension of disbelief. It is important to keep the animation simple since animated characters are usually one dimensional in the sense that they are not complicated as they don‘t have various facets to them.

"You don‘t want your character to stop. Great characters have a strong driven dramatic need. You have to change and twist things to make them look real in their world."


Elaborating on the plot, Greg discussed briefly the four types of animated films. In experiments the script writers have to know where they are going whereas for shorts, the set ups have to be immediate where the opening leads directly into confrontation keeping the plot simple all the while. For serials the subjects are either narrative or educational or educational versus established. The rise and fall of the three acts is the most essential in feature films.

Speaking about writing the script Greg said, "In a script elements are laid out in a certain way. He outlined the different areas in a script including slug line, interior and exterior, action, character name, dialogue, parenthetical, cut, capitals, page margins, screenplay and spacing between the elements. For Greg outlining is essential as it gives direction to the script and helps in getting different ideas.


Highlighting the building blocks in writing; he touched upon, shots, scenes and sequences. Greg concluded the seminar by giving his views on the business of screen writing.

Unlike other workshops, "Adventures in Writing Animation‘ had the audience which comprised mostly of students involved throughout. Wanting to bring out ideas and giving a feel of how scripts are actually written, Greg had printed worksheets which were distributed for everyone to work on. Back and forth discussions of ideas and approach to films were one of the major features. In addition Greg screened the stop motion movie, Horn Ok Please by Vaibhav Kumaresh and Joel Simon as well as a few shots from Finding Nemo to aid in illustrating his explanations.

It was evident from the positive response of the students and the enthusiasm with which all participated in the activities that the workshop was a success. Way to go Greg, we definitely want more workshops like this!

-Esha Birnur


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