Kat O'Brien is an interdisciplinary Cinematic Arts Professor, and a respected expert in curricular design. She actively develops programs, courses, and content for students of all ages from K-12, to post-graduate professional development.
Outside of her work in Hollywood, Kat is a teaching artist and community activist with a passion for building pathways to platforms for underrepresented voices, and mentoring up-and-coming content creators.
In service of the many creative communities Kat supports in Chicago and around the world, Kat's ChiTown Screenwriting project launched in 2021 to connect writers, filmmakers, and changemakers at all stages of their professional career -- from up and comers to her colleagues with 20+ years in the game -- to collaborative opportunities.
Over the course of her 25+ year career as an educator, Kat has created programs and courses in writing, filmmaking, professional development and the science of education for students and professionals at the University of Southern California, Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, The Second City, The Doha Film Institute in Qatar, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, The Chicago Teachers' Union Foundation, Chicago Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Young Storytellers Foundation, and Akiba-Schecter Jewish Day School.
Tapped to develop the screenwriting program at The Harold Ramis Film School (now The Second City Film School) in Chicago, Kat also teaches in the world’s only accredited MFA in Comedy program at DePaul University, in partnership with The Second City. Kat teaches screenwriting and producing at DePaul University and Columbia College respectively, and has been an educational consultant for the Doha Film Institute in Doha, Qatar.
Kat is a frequent panelist at Chicago film events, especially in support of women and underrepresented voices in comedy and how to navigate opportunities in the Hollywood-based film industry. Her guest speaker appearances include supporting the Chicago Comedy Festival, Scruggs Fest at The Second City, NYTVF, and the Austin Film Festival, as well as guest lecturing at the University of Southern California and (upcoming) Northern Michigan University. Additionally, she served on the jury for the student competition in the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival for the past three years.
Her passion for storytelling and changemaking led Kat to create, develop, teach and direct programs for K-12 students to write essays and explore their voices through creative fiction and screenwriting for the Young Storytellers Foundation in both the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in Chicago Public Schools. After several years as a mentor, head mentor, and curriculum designer for the Young Storytellers Foundation, Kat founded and directed the L.A.C.E.S Writing Center to help address opportunity gaps for students in grades 6-12 at the school.
In 2018, Kat launched the Kindergarten Voices Project at LaSalle Language Academy in CPS focused on helping kindergarten students find their storytelling voices. The success of this project has led Kat to develop additional arts and literacy programming for CPS schools. Currently, as the Co-Chair of the Friends of LaSalle Fine and Performing Arts Committee, Kat has co-designed and facilitated the implementation of grant-supported interdisciplinary fine and performing arts programming at LaSalle Language Academy, including the AY2023-2024 Arts Residency, The Language of Dance. In Spring 2024, Kat will be an Artist in Residence at Akiba-Schecter Jewish Day School.
SUPPORTING OUR LOCAL SCHOOL COUNCILS
In July 2020, Kat stepped up to fill an appointed spot on the LaSalle Language Academy Local School Council, was elected Secretary, and got to work right away. She helped her school achieve their goal for their 100% Digital Access campaign within the first weeks of school -- ensuring that every student could connect to a device and reliable internet to navigate remote learning. Meanwhile, Kat supported administration and fellow council members on more effective collaboration and communications strategies, including council member training. In November 2020, she was reelected to the LSC, and served as its Chair from January 2021 through June 2023. During her tenure as Chair she advocated for renewed training of LSCs through the Office of LSC Relations, and was able to support key changes to the school's leadership culture around matters of budget and school improvement planning transparency and accountability.
SUPPORTING CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
There's a great need for visionary parents to step up and lead in a number of ways to make things happen in Chicago's Public Schools. Outside of Kat's work on the LSC, she stepped up to support our citywide CPS community with CTU and Fox32/My50 to Executive Produce Season 2 of We Still Teach. Broadcasting lessons by teachers on television to bridge the digital divide, We Still Teach connected more than 50K families weekly throughout 100+ mile radius of Chicago. Through the CTU Foundation, Kat also developed and taught in a professional development training program for more robust remote learning for CPS teachers navigating remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic-school year.
As soon as pediatric vaccines became available for kids ages 5-12, Kat partnered with Ward 43 and Instavaxx to host the first elementary school pediatric vaccine event within Chicago Public Schools, and consulted to help support dozens of other public schools to do the same.
With decades of experience as a grassroots community organizer and changemaker impacting policy and cultural changes at the national level as well as the state and local levels from L.A. to Chicago, Kat is always happy to consult and advise to share ideas for how to connect our community.