Hampshire Professors Chris Perry and Eric Sanders Co-Author New Scenewriting Book

SceneWriting, The Missing Manual for Screenwriters was co-authored by Chris Perry, professor of media arts and sciences, and Eric Henry Sanders, adjunct assistant professor of writing and multimedia at Hampshire College. As award winning screenwriters, both have a deep understanding of the art and craft of writing scenes.

We spoke with them about the upcoming book release and how the origins of the book developed from their shared experience teaching at Hampshire.

What can readers expect from your upcoming book?

You've got an idea for the next great screenplay. Maybe you're just getting started or perhaps you've spent time with other screenwriting books, and you have your hero's journey, plot twists, reversals, and cat-saving scenes all worked out. Either way, what stands between you and an outstanding finished screenplay are the blank pages that you must fill with cinematic life, energy, conflict, and emotion. So, how on Earth do you do that?

The secret is scenewriting.

This thorough and effective guide will help beginners and professionals master the most critical and overlooked part of the screenwriting process: the art and craft of writing scenes. With step-by-step instruction and numerous exercises, you will learn how to transform an outline into a fully-developed script. Learn how to prepare scenes for writing, construct sparkling, naturalistic dialogue, utilize scene description and the unique structure of the screenplay format to maximum advantage, and polish your scenes so that your idea becomes the script you always imagined it could be. Through scenewriting, great ideas become brilliant.

Because Hampshire attracts the kind of students who always question ideas and always look to expand upon concepts, they pushed us to be clearer, more thorough, and more rigorous every step of the way.

Chris Perry & Eric Sanders

You said that the origins of the book developed from your teaching at Hampshire. Can you elaborate on that?

We began teaching screenwriting together at Hampshire in the fall of 2000 in a class called Developing and Pre-Producing the Short Film in which students would write single-scene films and then visualize them by editing together a storyboard with sound.

We quickly discovered during that class that the existing screenwriting literature, which was (and remains) largely focused on feature structure, didn’t support our students in the actual writing of individual scenes. There were wonderful resources for thinking about the macro-structures of screenplays even down to the level of creating beats for a feature. But missing was a way of taking those beats and turning them into fully-realized scenes. That’s where the idea for the book was born.

We have essentially been writing the book ever since, informed by our classroom experiences, Div III advising, and professional collaborations with many Hampshire alums. Because Hampshire attracts the kind of students who always question ideas and always look to expand upon concepts, they pushed us to be clearer, more thorough, and more rigorous every step of the way. We’re thrilled at how accessible and practical the book came out, and we look forward to seeing it help screenwriters at Hampshire and beyond!

***

Perry holds an M.S. in media arts and sciences from the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.F.A. in art from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His B.A., in physics and astronomy, is from Amherst College. He is a screenwriter, director, and producer who worked at both Pixar and Rhythm & Hues Studios before he began teaching at Hampshire College in 1999. Perry won a Sci-Tech Oscar in 2014 and joined the Writers Guild of America in 2017.

Sanders is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, film producer, and director. His plays and films have had productions and screenings in London, Paris, Berlin, Edinburgh, and throughout the U.S. In addition to his position as adjunct assistant professor of writing and multi-media, Sanders also served as a Hampshire screenwriting instructor on and off for three years (most recently in 2018). His next teaching position will be at Amherst College in the spring of 2023, where he will be the visiting assistant professor in the department of English.

1