One of the benefits to living in the world’s creative capital is the rich array of learning opportunities available for creative professionals. A few weeks back, FilmL.A. staffers were reminded of this fact while touring Exceptional Minds, a one-of-a-kind, non-profit vocational education program that prepares young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in digital animation and visual effects.
Headquartered in Sherman Oaks, CA, Exceptional Minds is the first and only school of its kind. Established to help answer the high unemployment and social isolation challenges facing today’s young adults with autism, the school equips students with technical skills and work readiness training. On admittance, students are immersed in a full time, three year vocational program including lab-based small group instruction, summer workshops and private tutoring.
The school’s curriculum includes training in rotoscoping, VFX cleanup, animation, and ACA certification in industry standard software including Adobe Flash, Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere. After graduation, Exceptional Minds alumni receive career placement assistance and ongoing career readiness support from volunteers and faculty.
The program’s co-directors, Yudi Bennett and Ernie Merlan, are proud to have placed several alumni with respected companies. “Our students and alumni inspire everyone,” Bennett says.
But perhaps the most important aspect of Exceptional Minds is the real-world experience available to these talented students. Exceptional Minds has a fully-equipped, MPAA certified, post production studio on-site, just below its classrooms. Having a studio on-site allows graduates to build their resumes doing work for real industry clients.
The Exceptional Minds Studio is credited for work on a growing number of major feature films. Scenes from Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron feature Exceptional Minds talent, in addition to scenes from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. The Exceptional Minds Studio also completed work on Martin Scorsese’s HBO drama, Vinyl and on the the hit series Game of Thrones.
FilmL.A is proud to support a creative community that makes programs like Exceptional Minds possible. If you are interested in learning more about Exceptional Minds, please visit their website. For more information about working with Exceptional Minds Studio, contact Susan Zwerman at [email protected]exceptionalmindsstudio.org.
Sample Student Work