Greetings. Welcome to this “journal” which consists of the occasional thoughts I have as I travel through the two professional worlds of science and cinema. The title, “benshi,” is a term we learned in our Silent Cinema class in film school. It refers to the tradition the Japanese developed with their silent films in which a humble, friendly little man — “the benshi” would stand beside the movie screen with a pointer and explain to the audience who the characters in the film were and what they were saying. Today, in sound movies, a film is supposed to stand on it’s own with no outside explanation. But film is at times an elusive medium of communication, and quite often you need the filmmaker present to answer the audience’s questions of, “What the hell were you trying to do here?”
UPDATE 4/10 “STORYTELLING IN SCIENCE”: Over the course of the first three months of The Benshi we’ve zeroed in on a clear theme — the need for effective storytelling in the communication of science. The third, and most important, chapter of my book was titled, “Don’t Be Such a Poor Storyteller.” In it I only scratched the surface of the subject with what I wrote. The work we’re doing now on The Benshi is a deeper exploration of this topic, primarily by interviewing professional storytellers from the worlds of documentary film (Mark Harris), narrative film (Christopher Keane, Margaret Nagle), improv acting (Jeremy Rowley), the business world (Doug Stevenson), communication theory (Tom Hollihan) and elsewhere. While I’ll continue to do interviews on the communication of science and environmentalism in general (such as the interviews with Mike Mann, Marc Morano, and Ed Begley, Jr.), storytelling is really the main direction I intend to head as we seek to break new ground in figuring out what can be done to improve the ability of the science community to tell it’s stories.