In the tough-to-crack world of Hollywood, screenwriter Joe Hauler fosters creativity, connections and community with Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance-West (NUEA-West), the Los Angeles–based club for alumni in the entertainment industry.
A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Hauler joined the club’s board in 2015 and became co-president with Desiree Staples ’14, ’14 CERT in 2019. He helps guide the club by blending educational programs with networking events and performance opportunities, such as the popular Storytellers live event series that returned in May from its pandemic-era hiatus. During the past nine years, the Cleveland native has served first as Storytellers’ creative director and now as producer, empowering more than 60 alumni to craft and present more than 150 autobiographical stories onstage.
What brought you to Hollywood?
My journalism interest was always in entertainment, so this seemed the right mix. I freelanced for magazines and newspapers and worked on music documentaries for VH1. I shifted to screenwriting from there.
When did you join NUEA-West?
In 2011 I joined the club’s annual Showcase, which brings together the talents of Northwestern writers, actors and directors. I had one of my own pieces selected for performance but got involved behind the scenes too. It was fantastic to meet new people and have that common touchstone of Northwestern. Out here, I feel like the rising tide floats all boats, so it’s important to get to know each other creatively and personally. There’s a willingness from the seasoned folks who’ve worked their way up to look behind them and reach out, which is NUEA-West’s secret sauce.
How did Storytellers originate?
I was in a writers’ group with some Northwestern grads, and we came up with the idea for a Halloween show with scary stories read onstage in a dark theater. But Halloween had just passed, so we planned a Valentine’s Day event with autobiographical stories instead. We picked the theme of “love” that could be interpreted and spun in different ways. We’ve had 14 more shows since, each built around other themes, such as resistance, fame or escapes.
What makes Storytellers special?
Autobiographical storytelling is very personal and scary, but we try to make it welcoming and safe, especially in the writers’ room as we’re developing stories. Every time a storyteller has had to dig a little deeper to get to the heart of something, they’ve never regretted it. The story is better, and it helps them process the experience as well.
What Storytellers tales stick with you?
One storyteller was at Northwestern in the 1970s, sitting in his dorm room as Vietnam War draft numbers were being pulled. Another storyteller detailed her first high school job — dressing as a pickle mascot for a local company in Wisconsin — and learning about responsibility. And one storyteller described getting chased by a mountain lion while out on a hike. Ostensibly, the story was about escaping the mountain lion, but it was really about needing a break from Hollywood. The common theme in every story is transformation, someone being different at the end than at the beginning, because that makes a story compelling and relatable.
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