Mount Prospect native and Prospect High School grad Ian Brennan has enjoyed big success with "Glee," the popular television show he co-created.
Now, he's taking his work to a bigger screen. "Cooties," a movie he cowrote and stars in, will have its premiere this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
"I'm so excited," Brennan, 35, said Wednesday. "We started working on this sometime in 2010. The fact that it will be shown at Sundance in just a few days is pretty amazing."
"Cooties" is a horror-comedy set in and around a Midwestern elementary school, where a virus has turned students into murderous monsters. The teachers at the school are forced to band together and fight back in order to survive. Among the actors in the ensemble cast are Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer and New Trier High School grad Rainn Wilson.
Brennan wrote the film with his good friend, Leigh Whannell, who co-created the "Saw" horror franchise. The two had long talked about working together when they received the pitch for "Cooties."
"Basically, we were given the title and the overall tone," Brennan said. "We wrote the script from there. I think people will love it. Leigh is a great writer, and he's really hilarious. And I love that we've done something that will say 'From the co-creator of "Glee" and the co-creator of "Saw."' Those go so well together!"
Like "Glee," which revolves around a high-school show choir, "Cooties" takes place in the world of teachers, students and classrooms. The projects' similarities stop there.
Brennan, who comes from a family of teachers, said he finds himself naturally drawn to school settings when writing.
"First, it's just a fun place to write about, because you have all different kinds of people spending all day, every day together," he said. "I also have a passionate respect for teachers, because my mom taught at (Mount Prospect's) St. Raymond's school for so many years, and my sister works at a charter school in Chicago. Teaching is such an important job, but it's often a thankless one, too. The cool thing is that Leigh and I actually got to address some of that in 'Cooties.'"
As Brennan waits to see what kind of reception "Cooties" gets at Sundance, he continues to write and direct for "Glee," which is in the middle of its fifth (and penultimate) season. The past year has been a difficult one because of the death of actor Cory Monteith, one of the show's key stars. But Brennan said the show will end on a high note.
"Losing Cory was personally devastating for me and for everyone on the show," he said. "It also raised questions about how we move the show forward. But I think the next season and a half will be very special."
Looking ahead, Brennan said he hopes his post-"Glee" career will include a mix of writing, acting and directing in both TV and film. A number of potential projects are on the horizon, he said.
"I'm so grateful to be doing what I'm doing," he said. "It's the greatest job in the world."