“The second the sperm hits the egg, parents become instant nut-jobs,” laments second-grade newbie teacher Margo Antler, the protagonist of the award-winning web series “Other People’s Children.” The program is the brainchild of filmmakers and Naperville residents Anna Maria Hozian and Brad Riddell, both of whom teach screenwriting at DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts. Each episode features a different parent-teacher conference, during which Ms. Antler slowly begins to realize it’s not her students who have problems—it’s their parents.
“The show isn’t about children,” says Riddell, who also wrote the lacrosse film “Crooked Arrows” as well as “American Pie: Band Camp” (one of the highest-grossing live-action DVD releases in history, which is now syndicated on TBS). “It’s about the parents who often act like children. Teachers love it. Educators come up to us and say, ‘You have no idea how accurate this really is.’”
Anyone from Naperville with kids will easily relate to the characters in the show, as well as the set. The series was filmed in a Naperville Community Unit School District 203 classroom at Maplebrook Elementary School.
“Everyone at the district offices, as well as the school itself, was absolutely incredible. We could not have made the show as we did without their generous support,” Riddell says.
The concept came about when Hozian and Riddell were batting around ideas for a web series. Riddell wanted to do something about people fighting over the best table at Starbuck’s, but Hozian came up with a different premise, one based on her talks with a teacher friend.
Lasting just under five minutes per episode, “Other People’s Children” is easily bingeable and features Atta Asdou as teacher Margo Antler, as well as some of Chicago’s best improv and theater actors as the various parents. The show has been screened at prestigious festivals around the globe.
“It always seems to be a fan favorite. We’ve won awards for Best Actress [Asdou], Best Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best International Series,” Riddell says. “We had no idea it would play so well internationally. Maybe there’s something universal about crazy parents and the frustrated teachers who have to deal with them each and every day.”
The series adds notoriety to the booming film and television industry in the Chicago area.
“As a screenwriter and filmmaker, you continually hustle to create work and opportunities for yourself, which can happen anywhere. That said, it’s much harder to do that away from Los Angeles. But Chicago continues to grow every day. Our film community is incredibly collaborative and supportive. I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now,” says Hozian, who was one of 12 women chosen for the inaugural New York Women in Film and Television’s Writers Lab. Her screenplays have placed in the semifinals and quarterfinals of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Academy Nicholl Fellowship and have won the Gold award for drama in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.
While there is no second season for “Other People’s Children” in the works yet, the two filmmakers are busy with other projects in the near future. Hozian’s script, “Anchor Baby,” was chosen for the first year of the Writers’ Lab sponsored by Meryl Streep and has been optioned by Lynmar Entertainment. She also plans on directing a short film, “The Pool.” Riddell is pulling together investors for a feature film he hopes to direct in Naperville this summer. “Later Days” is about an ’80s prom reunion party where a bunch of 40-year-olds get together for the first time in decades and are forced to face the truth about their pasts and the decade of decadence.
To watch episodes of “Other People’s Children,” visit opctheseries.com.