I attended a really interesting workshop today. It was a session designed to combine young people’s love of film with literacy and creative development, and I couldn’t resist since they were using my favourite Japanese animation studio: Studio Ghibli!

It was delivered by qualified teacher and actor Adam Pepper from Silverscreen Primary Education.

I really enjoyed looking at writing in this way and hope to use it myself in the future. Maybe when I’m having a bit of writer’s block I can watch a film, and use the observation skills I learned today, to help me find inspiration. I also really wanted to share this experience because I think it’s a great idea that many people can benefit from.

The first thing we did was to look at these screenshots from one of Ghibli’s most famous films – Spirited Away.

Even though I’ve watched this film many times and appreciated the artwork, I’ve never spent this amount of time observing it. We had to note down and imagine what we could see, hear, feel in this place, going into detail about the description.

Spirited Away 3

These were some of my notes:


  • The Old Amusement Park
  • The pig-shaped sign on one of the restaurants
  • A worn, concrete path
  • Paper lanterns
  • The peeling paint on the buildings
  • The blue sky


  • The paper lanterns rustling in the light breeze
  • The distant sound of leaves rustling
  • The heavy breathing of Chihiro (the girl)
  • Creaking of the wooden supports on some of the buildings
  • Chihiro’s light, unsure footsteps
  • Maybe birds?


  • Lost
  • Confused
  • Intimidated 
  • The heavy air in her lungs from the black smoke pouring out of that chimney
  • The smooth wood of the bridge

Afterwards, we got to watch the first 15 minutes of the film and observed Chihiro and how she reacts to the events that unfold. It got me to think of the film from a different perspective. I previously hadn’t thought about how the characters felt about their situation, I usually just sit back and enjoy the story. We looked into Chihiro’s feelings and asked questions we would want to ask her, like:  (Spoiler Alert!)

spirited away gif.gif

  • What was your first impression of Haku?

  • Are you going to listen to what Haku said?
  • Do you trust Haku?
  • Do you really want to extend your time in the Spirit World to work?
  • How did you feel when you saw that your parents had turned into pigs?

We had answered these questions in groups. After watching another 15 minutes of the film we wrote a final piece. We had to pretend to be Chihiro, and write a diary entry describing the day’s events – using all the observation notes we made along the way. (Spoiler Alert!) – If you’re not bothered about spoilers, the things I’ve written about are only from the first 30 minutes of the film and don’t reveal anything big/plot twists.

Chihiro’s Diary

When I first got to the park, all I could see around me were the abandoned restaurants, strung between them a row of bright paper lanterns. It was so quiet at first, only the gentle breeze and soft creaking of wood could be heard. Although neglected it was a beautiful emptiness – the detailed buildings and the twisted trees comforted me in the silence.I listened carefully and could hear the distant sound of rushing water. While my parents scoffed food that I wasn’t interested in, I decided to see where it was coming from. I was humbled by the stunning view around the corner, a beautiful wooden bridge that led up to a brilliant red building adorned with intricate details and gold fittings. A hot spring was gushing over rocks beside it, the rushing water I could hear from before. Black smoke poured out from a tall chimney hidden behind the building and a group of beautifully verdant trees contrasted the structure behind. I peeked over the edge of the bridge, feeling the smooth painted surface as I leant over.

A train rushed past and as I followed it the other side I came face to face with a boy! He was about my age and dressed in traditional clothing. What shocked me though were his green eyes, they were glaring at me with such anger, and I was so afraid when he started shouting at me to “get out of here!” It seems to go dark so quickly as if the sun was being forced down as I ran back to my parents. The paper lanterns began to glow. Emerging from everywhere, were weird ghost-like shapes and I thought I was seeing things. As I rounded the corner to meet my parents, I stumbled back in disbelief. I wasn’t seeing things! But what nightmare had I just walked into!

I wish my diary entries were written like this…

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Does it inspire you to want to look at films in a different way? Do you have a favourite Ghibli movie?

I can’t wait to try this with other Ghibli films…!

Thank you for reading \(^ w ^)/


~ The World is Quiet Here ~