Aurin Squire on Scripting for Stage & Screen

aurin squire

Aurin Squire is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and reporter. He is a recipient of the 2014 Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Lincoln Center and the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellowship at The Juilliard School.

He graduated with honors from Northwestern University and worked as a radio reporter for the college’s national newsfeed. He was also a reporter for publications like ESPN, The Miami Herald, and Chicago Tribune.

After graduating from The Actors’ Studio and New School University with an MFA in Playwriting, he was commissioned as a screenwriter for Moxie Pictures, adapting the novel Velocity into a movie.

Most recently, Squire worked on the critically-acclaimed NBC television series This Is Us as a writer and story editor, helping to garner the series multiple nominations at the Golden Globes and Primetime Emmy Awards.

I met Aurin in 2012 when we collaborated on a crowdsourced media project for the presidential election. Always developing multiple projects, he brings a fresh and nuanced perspective to the modern American experience and is a natural connector of creative people on both coasts.

You’re always working on multiple projects – what’s next? 
I’m going to be vague and leave out names because I’m superstitions about name-dropping stuff until I’m in the middle of it and have a feel of things.

I just came back from Seattle because I won the Emerald Prize from the Seattle Public Theater. I wrote a new full-length play for the first time in two years. Exhilarating to see how I’ve grown and changed.

Last month I moved back to NYC to take a TV job on a new show that both offered me a higher position and tapped into my passion for social justice. Being back in NYC also means getting back into theatre, so I am working on a hip hop musical for a national tour starting here in NYC, working on a musical for a theatre down in Miami, and outlined a musical for a theatre in London that wants to get something by next year.

I’m also working on a few book adaptations for film producers. These things all came about through my karmic management practice that I have shared with friends. Karmic management isn’t so airy-fairy feel-good thing. It is solid planning and actual work in helping others in specific ways that then trigger my own opportunities as well as my colleagues. I owe so much to this practice that I have been doing for the past 10 years.

How did you get your start? Did you formally study writing or television?
I was a reporter in high school. I was in a few small town papers because I was captain of the debate, football, and wrestling and MVP. An editor at a local paper, Larry Blustein, let me write my first article and the rest is history. I went from that paper to working for four other publications by the time I graduated from North Miami Beach High School.

I went to Northwestern to major in journalism and a computer error in the registration office put me in radio/TV/film instead of journalism. I went with the “error” and decided to dive into learning about film and TV.

As a film major you’re writing material so you can film it. It’s not a big deal, you just need material. I would write these lines on notecards and yellow pads and tell the actors to read it while I filmed. My teachers liked my notecard/notepad scripts and suggested I apply myself toward writing. I got into the creative writing program in the media at Northwestern and just cranked out TV, film, and theatre scripts for the last two years of school.

What inspired your bicoastal career?
My job ended in NYC and I couldn’t get an interview for anything else here. Seriously.

My first TV job was in Brooklyn and I had two theatre fellowships at the same time, while doing a theatre podcast, writing reviews, and getting grants. It was great. But there’s more TV opportunity in LA so I interviewed for a few shows.

How is writing for television different from writing for the stage?
TV is more the puzzle-solving, engine-building as a group, while playwriting is a fanciful and ancient practice of poetry through action.

As a playwright you have to think like a magician: anything is possible on a blank stage if you can invoke people’s imagination. In TV, the possibilities are based around the capabilities of a team and material resources.

What is your next passion project?
Too many to list. Seriously. I keep a email draft folder of ideas. It’s my bar napkins on my phone. Usually there’s 10 or 20 different draft emails with different ideas.

Who are some of your mentors?
Marsha Norman and Chris Durang at Juilliard were very focused when it came to looking at writing from the business side of things. Tanya Barfield was the literary manager at the school when I started there and she also had excellent advice.

What’s your dream project?
A collaboration between Belarus Free Theatre, Ontological Society, and BAM media about social justice and how we’re losing our humanity to AI.

What impact do you hope your work has on its audience?
When I write I am thinking through my hands. That’s why I don’t care about spelling errors or syntax. I am pouring it out as a way to think. The audience isn’t in my thoughts when that’s going on. I am discovering stuff. I would like to think the audience is too, because I never write something fictional if I have “the answer.” If I have the answer, then I write an essay.

What are your biggest career challenges? 
Balance. And not getting pulled apart by the million opps that pop up once you’re in the midst of work. Writing requires focus and the second you start working it seems as if the world creates a thousand distractions.

Which platforms do you use to impact the community?
Buddhist organizations and charities like Limitless Health Institute, where I’ve been on the board for 10 years, fundraise, and organize events.

You’re outspoken about your personal beliefs on social media. What effect do you hope that has?
Once again, I’m thinking aloud on social media. People chime in and a thread of thought is built and it’s like a beehive. People add to it and the group brainstorming increases the power of the idea.

How do you define success?
Using work in a spiritual context and using spirituality in a work context every day.

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