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Jamie Lee Curtis Offers Sage Advice to the Exceptional Minds Graduating Class of 2015

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LR-EM_JLCopenhouseJamie Lee Curtis shared some valuable industry advice last week with young visual effects artists at an open house at the Exceptional Minds vocational school for young adults with autism in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Curtis is the author of bestselling children’s books and is known for her starring roles in Freaky Friday, True Lies, Trading Places and A Fish Called Wanda.

“Just pretend you’re going for a job with, oh I know, Jim Cameron at his visual effects studio,” she said, referring to the movie industry icon and reminding the graduating class of seven – all in their 20s – to aim high.

The graduates Nicky Benoist, Lauren Kato, Shane McKaskle, David Miles, Jeremy Pollock, Erik Prothero and Mason Taylor talked about what type of work they would love to do.

They join 2014 Exceptional Minds graduates, who wowed everyone with their visual effects skills in roto and cleanup, greenscreen keying, simple compositing, object removal, tracking mark removal and end credit work for a dozen movies and projects, including American Hustle, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

“I will tell you what they have that other people don’t have: obsessiveness over detail,” said Victoria Alonso, Marvel Studios’ executive VP of VFX and postproduction, who worked closely with Exceptional Minds visual effects artists on Avengers: Age of Ultron and was honored by the school for her company’s support during the open house. Marvel Studios is the second recipient of the Ed Asner Award, which is presented to the school’s most exceptional supporters in honor of Asner, who is an autism advocate and the school’s most notable founding advisor. Stargate Studios was presented with the award in 2014.

“This wonderful school that gives this group of kids an opportunity to live their dreams with dignity and purpose only works if there are companies that are going to support these graduates,” Curtis said, as she presented Alonso with the award. “Today we honor one such company for the community they’ve allowed us into.”

Exceptional Minds VFX executive producer and job developer Susan Zwerman thanked the industry’s studios and visual effects facilities for the opportunities given its students in the past four years. She specifically thanked Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Lionsgate, HBO, Stereo D, Pixel Magic, Stargate Studios, Engine Room, Method Studios, Encore Hollywood, United Front Design, Sesame Workshop, Profectum and Dr. Ben & Company for their support.

In closing, the students spoke of their experiences and their opportunities going forward, as well as their appreciation for the industry and their school. “Thank you to Exceptional Minds for giving me the skills necessary to do this, to start off my career,” said Benoist, who will be starting his new job as visual effects artist with Mr. Wolf studios in Culver City the day after graduation.

Many Exceptional Minds graduates go on to work in the Exceptional Minds Studio (EMS), which provides visual effects and other digital animation work on a project basis. EMS recently announced an expansion into a new 1,100-square-foot studio facility co-located in the same building as Exceptional Minds to meet the demand for rotoscoping, paint work, roto for comp, simple composites, visual effects cleanup work, end title work and animation.

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