Intro To Movietelling (Neo-Benshi) With Dennis Somera

Sunday, October 04, 2009

From MySpace:

Tuesdays, Nov 3 – Dec 15, 7-9pm
*No class Nov 24

KSW @ PariSoMa, 1436 Howard St., SF

Join KSW for a unique workshop in Movietelling/Film Narration. This art form has a long history in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, as well as western nations where silent films have called for narration and/or translation. Film narrators—called Benshi in Japan, Pyonsa in Korea—not only narrate the on-screen happenings, but seamlessly incorporate the poetic and political, as they hold the power to reinterpret the visual scene. Experimental poets in the Bay Area, including Dennis Somera, have rediscovered the practice and have been creating “neo-benshi”/movietelling work for several years.

In this workshop, participants will have the chance to recontextualize or balance their own narratives with an altered poetic language and inject it where a film’s “realism” might not have originally allowed. Reinscribing a story/narration/poem on a film is in turn taking back some of the control, the autonomy, the voice—a subversive, if not revolutionary art as action. The act of movietelling/film narration is taking what has been forced upon us through popular culture and shifting, turning, tweaking, or transforming it into something autonomous. Participants can translate not only the language of another culture or an auteur but retell their own stories, bringing more interactivity to an art form that typically has its interaction limited to suspension of disbelief or a one-way bridge (spoon-)feeding into the audience.

Through five meetings, participants will first find films and particular scenes that best visually and sometimes sonically tell/represent their own story/poem: deriving the visually poetic and symbolic from the film and bringing their own autonomous narratives and poetics in their writing. With help from a video technician, participants will excerpt scenes from their chosen film into a small 5-10 minute piece they can then write into, toward and around. They will also have time to workshop their writing and have exercises to help elicit improvisational sound skills in preparation for actual performance. The last workshop meeting will be devoted mostly to rehearsal, practice, repetitions and feedback so we can explore the best performance choices. Finally, Kearny Street Workshop will present participants in a movietelling event to the public.

About the instructor: Dennis M. Somera has been performing to mostly his own text tending toward poetry since 1996 at venues such as Oakland’s Asian-Am.: Ohana Open Mic, KSW’s APAture and poetry readings, The Lab and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and many more in the the Bay Area. He has performed movietelling/film narration across the country in New York City at the Bowery Poetry Club and Galapagos Art Space as well as the University of Miami and the Miami Beach Cinemathique. He has studied and performed commedia del arte plays with Teatro Ng Tanan and The SF Mime Troupe’s summer intern program. He revels in collaborating with other artists, genres (such as film), disciplines beginning with dancer’s and experimental musicians in his creative writing: poetry MFA at Mills College. He has taught writing and performance workshops to teens with Meridian Gallery, Youth Speaks, World Savvy, California Poets in the Schools and a movietelling/film narration workshop at the University of Miami.

Registration fee is $200. To register by check, please send check or money order to: Kearny Street Workshop, PO Box 14545, San Francisco, CA 94114-0545. Or pay online at Please include your full name and contact info.