Sherman Oaks, CA – A new vocational school has opened up to help train people on the spectrum for jobs in Hollywood. Called Exceptional Minds, the school was started by assistant director of the classic film Kramer vs. Kramer Yudi Bennett, and her friends in the film industry who also have children on the spectrum.
Bennet was inspired to start EM when she realized that her son was facing a common problem. Since he lands in the middle range on the spectrum he didn’t need full-time care. But he also didn’t have to tools to become independent yet. She needed to find a way to incorporate his love of computers into a paying job. Bennet soon realized she was not alone. Bennet told Los Angeles Magazine,
“I found a lot of other families who were in the same position. We all had kids in middle school or high school, and we didn’t have a clue what was going to happen to them once they got out of high school.”
The group formalized the idea in 2009 and opened the non-profit vocational school’s doors in 2011.
What’s amazing about Exceptional Minds is that they cater only to students on the spectrum. Each potential pupil has to go through rigorous screenings to see if they’re ready. Classes are held from 10AM-4PM Monday through Friday and each week they host a movie night to help boost students social skills, something that can cousin their transition into the adult world. They also have “bad movie nights” where students get to roast flicks in the flavor Mystery Science Theater 3000.
As Bennet can tell you, this three year program is really beneficial. Not only do graduates get the chance to land jobs in Exceptional Minds’ in-house effects studio, they also get to the chance to work on actual Hollywood blockbusters like American
Hustle. When Direction David O. Russell realized the cars weren’t authentic enough, it was EM students who changed the Lincoln and Oldsmobiles colors from flashy red to dull gray, and beige.
24-year-old graduate Kevin Titcher even accepted a job at Stargate Studios, a visual effects house in South Pasadena. And he is only one of the success stories. Sandra Oshiro moved from Hawaii so that her 27-year old daughter Lauren Kato could attend the school.
“She’s coming out of her shell, blossoming, being more social, becoming independent,” Oshiro told LA Magazine. “She’s made friends. For this group of kids, friendships aren’t always something they can come by naturally.”
But their love of technology and computers does, proving once again that as long as they focus on their passions, people on the spectrum can reach the silver screen and their golden dreams.
Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead