Two Exceptional Minds Students with Autism Stand Out at 2013 International Student Film Festival Hollywood

Share Article

Technical creativity is the great equalizer for young people with autism. How else to explain why two youth with autism were singled out for their animated shorts in this year’s International Student Film Festival Hollywood competition – the only two known students with autism out of 74 others selected?

Each film is judged on its own merit, as this is an open competition, and in these two students’ case, we saw some very creative animation at work, as we have previously seen in other autistic students.

Two Exceptional Minds students with autism were singled out for their animated shorts in the 2013 International Student Film Festival Hollywood (ISFFH) competition, October 26 and 27 -- yet another example of technical creativity as the great equalizer for people with autism.

Twenty-four-year-old Nicky Benoist of the Los Angeles area, who attends Exceptional Minds digital arts academy for young adults on the autism spectrum, placed as a finalist in the ISFFH best animation category for his video Cool Carla. Another student who attends Exceptional Minds in the summer, 11-year-old “PK” Keith of Valley Village, California, was also named a finalist in the same category at the elementary school level for his animation Penny Goes to Italy.

The two beat out hundreds of entries and were the only known students with autism out of 74 others whose films were selected for the ISFFH screening event held on October 26 and 27 at Beverly Garland’s Theater, in Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn, North Hollywood (http://www.isffhollywood.org).

“Each film is judged on its own merit, as this is an open competition, and in these two students’ case, we saw some very creative animation at work, as we have previously seen in other autistic students,” said Dorothy Supri, Festival Director with ISFFH.

Both PK and Nicky were diagnosed with autism and showed an interest in animation at an early age. Nicky has a degree in Computer Aided Design from ITT Tech; young PK is a two-time ISFFH winner. PK’s Animal Party animation won the elementary category in the 2012 International Student Film Festival Hollywood and his L is for Lion animation won the elementary category in the 2011 International Student Film Festival Hollywood.

The International Student Film Festival Hollywood, now in its 11th year as a venue “where the next generation of filmmakers showcase their work,” is open to all elementary, middle school, high school and college or vocational students from around the globe.

“Being recognized like this by our peers in Hollywood is a huge reminder to all of us that the talent we are developing here at Exceptional Minds is both creative and professionally competitive with the rest of the industry,” said Ernie Merlan, the program director for Exceptional Minds, a vocational school specifically for young adults on the autism spectrum who are pursuing careers in digital animation, film post-production and the digital arts in general. Started in 2011 by professionals in the visual effects and film animation industries, Exceptional Minds is the first and only digital arts academy for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, many of whom are underemployed or unemployed yet demonstrate an aptitude for digital animation and technology in general.

Exceptional Minds’ three-year program includes proficiency in six software applications considered the gold standard in the digital visual effects industry, including at least three Adobe applications. Actor Ed Asner is on Exceptional Minds’ advisory board, and two of the school’s founding members, Yudi Bennett and Susan Zwerman, are recipients of the Frank Capra Achievement award.

Both PK and Nicky expect to one day become professional animators. Recognition of their work by the ISFFH puts them both among an elite and esteemed group of young, aspiring talent.

About Exceptional Minds (http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org):

Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational center and working production studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. It was chartered in 2011 to provide the training necessary for creatively-gifted individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who may not otherwise be able to make the transition from high school to careers. Exceptional Minds offers technical proficiency and work readiness training that prepares students for careers in graphic arts, animation, web design, visual effects and rotoscoping. Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Exceptional Minds is both an instructional learning facility and a working studio with hands-on student involvement in production projects, many for the film industry.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Yudi Bennett

Dee McVicker
Visit website