Creating the future...one frame at a time.

Exceptional Minds Advisory Board

Ed Asner
is one of America’s most loved film, television, stage, and voice actors. Winner of seven Emmy Awards, he is well known for his role as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series, Lou Grant. A former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Mr. Asner received their Life Achievement Award in 2001. In 2003, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. He most recently won critical acclaim as the voice of Carl Fredricksen in the Academy Award-winning Pixar film, Up. As a parent and a grandparent of children with autism, he has become one of the leading champions for Autism-related causes.


Marcia Berman

has worked in the non-profit field for the past fifteen years. She is currently the Director of Advancement at Campbell Hall, an independent K-12 school in Los Angeles. She has worked in the advancement field for The Archer School for Girls, The Los Angeles Leadership Academy, and the Hollywood Community Housing Organization. Prior to her work in the non-profit field, Marcia worked in the casting arena for CBS and Warner Bros. Television.

Ellen Bialis
is an investor and  philanthropist. A primary focus of her charitable efforts are  directed towards making impactful and long term positive changes in the lives of individuals with disabilities through creative solutions. Ellen and her husband, Gary,  were  pioneering early funders of Exceptional Minds. Ellen's continued support has provided unique hands-on work opportunities for both students and graduates of EM.

Richard Goldsmith

In his role as Executive Vice President, Global Distribution, at The Jim Henson Company, Richard leads the company's financing and sale of content to all platforms, including television, home entertainment and digital media worldwide and oversees all aspects of the company's multi-platform channel, Jim Henson Family TV.

Prior to Henson, Richard was Senior Vice President, New Initiatives, for Warner Bros. Entertainment where he oversaw international distribution for Warner Bros. Animation's current television series, including "Batman", "Looney Tunes" and "Scooby-Doo!", and led global business development initiatives and re-development of classic animation brands.

Previously, Richard was Vice President of Programming for investment company Chartwell Partners, which controlled Spanish media group Univision Communications. He was also President and Co-Owner of Hollywood Ventures Corporation, a leading distributor of preschool television series worldwide, where Richard also produced the feature film "Jack Frost" for Warner Bros. and owned and operated two record labels with Warner Bros. Records.

Goldsmith has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication. He also attended the University of Southern California’s Cinema-Television School and is now a member of the faculty where he teaches graduate students The Business of Animation.


Robert Hackl

received his BA degree, Cum Laude, in Communication Arts from Loyola Marymount University.  "Bob" began his career at CBS film studios as a post production executive and was Director of Post Production at HBO Pictures from 1986 to 1990.  He served as Director of Post Production at Disney/Hollywood Pictures from 1990 to 1992 during the Eisner/Katzenberg heyday.  Since that time, Bob has amassed more than 35 feature credits as a freelance post supervisor and consultant for major studios and independent producers.  His credits include Milk, Good Will Hunting, The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore and Rounders.  He was credited as the main visual effects producer on American Hustle, Death Sentence, Middle Men, and Lawless.  Bob also has multiple music credits as a writer, arranger and producer on films like Broke Back Mountain, The Wedding Planner and Taking Woodstock.  He and his wife, Yvonne, have been active with EM since its inception.

Barbara Helfing

Barbara has a master's degree in Education, and is a credentialed and experienced public school special education teacher, a former principal of the Frostig Center for Educational Therapy, a former Training and Development specialist for Hughes Aircraft Company and a Manager of Training and Development at Transamerica Life Companies. Currently, she is an advocate and consultant for children with special needs and the adoring mother of 2 teenagers with autism.

Mike Kanfer
After graduating from the University of Rochester in 1980 with a degree in Fine Art and Science, Mike Kanfer began his career in visual effects in New York as a graphic artist and motion control camera operator at CHARLEX, Inc.  In 1993, he joined the founders of Digital Domain in LA to work on VFX for feature films. In 1995, Mike was nominated for an Academy Award for VFX on "Apollo 13," and shared the Academy Award for VFX on "Titanic" in 1998.  Other credits include "Interview With The Vampire," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow," and "Superman Returns."  Realizing that digital technology was not only revolutionizing VFX, but the entire film production process, Mike used his color and imaging expertise to help implement some of the first Digital Intermediates done by EFILM Hollywood.
In 2005, Mike joined Adobe where he is currently a Senior Solutions Consultant specializing in digital production technology and workflows for motion pictures and video.  Over a four-year period, he conceived and executed the technical marketing and web video campaign for the promotion of Adobe technology as used by James Cameron's team on "AVATAR."  Recent projects include leading Adobe’s technical and marketing support for director David Fincher’s editorial team on “The Social Network” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” andassisting the product development and engineering teams with the development of Adobe's roadmap for VFX, color correction, and editing platforms.
website: www.adobe.com

Sam Nicholson, ASC

is the CEO and founder of Stargate Studios, a state-of-the-art visual effects production company that has been around for over 25 years. Headquartered in South Pasadena, Stargate now has eight studios around the world.

As Stargate's principal Director, Cinematographer and VFX Supervisor, Sam draws from his extensive expertise in film, television and visual effects to lead roughly 150 talented producers, CGI artists and technicians. A graduate of the UCLA graduate school of Fine Arts, Sam has been involved in film and television production for over 35 years. Since his first experience as on-set VFX Supervisor on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Sam has continued to work on groundbreaking projects like CSI, Heroes, and The Walking Dead. As an acclaimed member of the visual effects community, showcased by his Emmy Award for TNT's Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Battlegound and VES Award for NBC's ER, Sam has built Stargate into an international leader in digital imaging for high concept television, feature films and commercials.

As CEO of Stargate Studios, Sam has built a dynamic international network of production partners interconnected with Stargate's proprietary Virtual Operating System (VOS) which seamlessly integrates the entire Stargate global network of VFX studios. As a cinematographer, Sam created Stargate's "Virtual Backlot," one of the most extensive stock footage "environment" libraries that continues to expand every day.

Sam Nicholson is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, a member of the Directors Guild of America, an IA Director of Photography, a Canon "Explorer of Light," and a multiple award-winning member of the Visual Effects Society.

Dr. Ricki Robinson, M.D.
Dr. Ricki Robinson is co-director of Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning in La Canada, California.  She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School Medicine of USC and Senior Attending Physician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.  She has been in private pediatric practice for over 30 years, specializing in children with developmental delays for over twenty years.
Dr. Robinson received her M.D. degree in 1973 from the University of Southern California.  She trained in pediatrics at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, having served as Chief Pediatric Resident for CHLA in 1976.  She is Board Certified in Pediatrics.  In 1988 she received her MPH from the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health.
Dr. Robinson has been actively involved in the field of autism since 1990, developing  multidisciplinary educational and medical programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and devoting endless hours in education, legislation and research efforts on a national level.  She is a founding board member of Cure Autism Now (now Autism Speaks) and the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders (ICDL), and currently serves on the Scientific Review Panel of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism advocacy organization.  Dr. Robinson organized and chaired the first nationally recognized task force to define the standard of care for clinical trials in autism.

website: www.drrickirobinson.com

Felice Rosen
Felice Rosen is a Partner at Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors. Ms. Rosen has managed human resources in the investment industry for approximately 20 years. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the PAP Corps, Boca Point Chapter. The PAP Corps champions Cancer Research and is one of the largest all-volunteer fundraising organizations in South Florida.
Ms. Rosen and her husband have boy/girl twins entering college and reside in Boca Raton, Florida. The family would not be complete without their two wheaten terriers, Stevie and Mr. Tibbs.


Ivan Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Aerospace & Defense Forum Founder and Executive Director, The Uniquely Abled Project.
Ivan has over 35 years experience as a management consultant, working with aerospace, engineering, and scientific organizations. His clients have included NASA HQ, three NASA centers, 19 robotic space missions, ground-based and space telescopes, a number of entertainment companies, and the Entertainment Technology Center @ USC (which focuses on the impact of new technology on the entertainment industry).
In addition to being a consultant, Ivan has been a software engineer, a university professor, founder of a software company (now over 35 years old), an IT consultant, and vice-president of an international franchisor. He co-founded and leads the 1600+ member Aerospace & Defense Forum. His extensive non-profit activities include being on the Boards of Technology for Results in Elementary Education, the Hewlett-Packard International Users Group, the Association for Strategic Planning, the Institute of Management Consultants, a local council of the Boy Scouts, and the California Wildlife Center.
Ivan was on the Exceptional Minds Board from 2012 to 2015. Arising in large part from this experience, in 2013 Ivan founded The Uniquely Abled Project, whose purpose is to shift the societal paradigm from “disabled” to “uniquely abled”. The UA Project’s programs focus on matching the needed skills of jobs in demand to the typical characteristics of specific diagnosis. Currently the Uniquely Abled Academy is providing CNC (computer numerically controlled) manufacturing machine operator training to those with high functioning autism.
Ivan has Bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering, Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a Ph.D. in Management.
He is married to Exceptional Minds Board member Cathee Weiss, with whom he is raising two autistic children.


Mike Sarkissian

Mike founded Three Foot Giant in 2006, a creative production company which produces Film / TV and Music Videos. Projects have included the 2011 Grammy Nominated Film The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights, 40 Episode TV series for Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza, and music projects for a wide variety of artists such as, The White Stripes, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Jack Johnson, Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Age, and 2007 VMA Video of the Year, Rhianna featuring / Jay Z Umbrella.

Mike’s career started while in college, working as a production manager for promoter Bill Silva Presents. After graduation he landed a job at A Band Apart, Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender’s production company, eventually becoming an Executive Producer of their Music Video Division at the age of 25. For four years he produced countless award winning projects with a wide variety of directors. In 2002 Mike worked at Epic Records as their Video Commissioner, working with artists such as Tori Amos, Audioslave, and Jennifer Lopez. Two years later he moved out of the label to become the Executive Producer at Partizan working with award winning directors Michel Gondry & Alex & Martin before starting Three Foot Giant.

website: www.threefootgiant.com

Valerie Vanaman, Esq.
For four decades, Valerie Vanaman has represented people who need help obtaining services from private and governmental agencies, providing knowledgeable and compassionate legal representation to families with special situations.
Since entering private practice in 1980, Valerie has become an acknowledged leader in providing representation for individuals challenged with disabilities and for their families, securing for her clients a basic education, as well as their rights under such programs as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Social Security Act, Supplemental Security Income Act, Americans With Disabilities Act and the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act.
In addition to an impressive track record (with an overwhelming number of her cases falling into the "win" column), Ms. Vanaman’s credentials are equally strong. She is a member of the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and the Federal District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, as well as the California, Ohio and Massachusetts State Bars. Valerie received her undergraduate and law school education at Ohio State University. She served as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and as an attorney for such public interest organizations as the Children's Defense Fund.
website: www.navlaw.net

Cathee Weiss
has been a strategic communications consultant and producer in the nonprofit and political world for the last 2 decades. Through her company, REEL LIFE STORY she provides organizations with outreach campaigns designed to inspire and engage participation. Her background includes producing videos for well over 30 nonprofits as well as for the Democratic National Committee, including, "The Man From Hope" and five subsequent videos for the Clinton Administration. She is the mother of two children with autism.

David Wertheimer
was named President, Digital for Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX) in October 2011. In this role, Wertheimer is responsible for the network’s strategy, operations and ventures in digital entertainment and emerging media platforms, including audience engagement through social networks, online viewing, websites, apps, games and digital network incubation.

David’s career has revolved around producing content, developing new technologies, and managing organizations (ranging from start-ups to divisions within publicly traded companies) for over 15 years.
Prior to joining FOX, Wertheimer was the CEO & Executive Director of the Entertainment Technology Center at USC and was the first president of Paramount Digital Entertainment.

In addition, Wertheimer was previously the founder and CEO of WireBreak Entertainment, one of the first multi-platform content studios; Executive Director of the Institute for Creative Technologies; and worked with Steve Jobs at NeXT.

Steve Wright
is a senior visual effects compositing artist with over 20 years of production experience on over 70 feature films. Since 2005 He has been a master trainer traveling around the world conducting VFX compositing training for major studios such as Disney Feature Animation, Prime Focus, Reliance MediaWorks, Pixar Animation and many more. Steve has published two popular books on compositing that are available on Amazon.com and produces training programs and conducts classes and workshops both online and location based. He has also produced many Nuke tutorials for The Foundry’s website as well as Mocha for Imagineer Systems and Particular for Red Giant. His tutorials have won two Telly awards and he is a member of the Visual Effects Society (VES) and the Digital Cinema Society (DCS).
website: www.vfxio.com