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ernie merlan

Ernie Merlan, Executive Director

has over twenty years of experience in the entertainment industry. Twelve years working on Imagineering projects including Indiana Jones, Innoventions, and Tokyo Disney Seas. His television and motion picture projects include Pee Wee's Playhouse, the Mask of Zorro, Dance with Me and the Legend of Zorro. As CEO of Merlán Creative Studio, Ernie gathers top creative talent to produce content for clients like Disney, Universal, and ABC.“When I graduated from high school, my first gig was teaching special needs. I learned more life lessons from them than they could have possibly learned from me. It’s funny how life sometimes takes you full circle. Everyday I come in to the schooI am blown away by the unlimited potential of these Exceptional Minds!”

E-Mail: Ernie@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

Yudi Bennett, Director of Operations


is a Directors Guild of America Frank Capra Lifetime Achievement Award winner and a distinguished member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with credits in over 30 movies, including “Broadcast News” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” She holds a Masters degree in Communication and a certificate from the LEND Program (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) at USC/Children’s Hospital L.A. Yudi is a founding member and past president of Foothill Autism Alliance, Inc. (www.foothillautism.org) and currently serves on the FAA Board. Inspired by her son, Noah, a young filmmaker and animator who was diagnosed with ASD in 1997, she is a co-founder of Exceptional Minds and continues to be a driving force behind the school.

E-Mail: Yudi@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

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Susan Zwerman, Studio Executive Producer
Job Developer

Susan Zwerman is a highly respected Visual Effects Producer with an outstanding record of accomplishments in film production and visual effects. She began her career in film in New York, where she quickly rose through the ranks from Production Assistant to Assistant Director and Unit Production Manager in both films and commercials. She won a Grammy Award for "Best Concept Music Video" for producing the music video, I'm Fat, starring Weird Al Yankovic. Her credit has appeared on a succession of high-profile feature motion pictures such as Broken Arrow, Alien Resurrection, Men of Honor, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Guardian. She is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, and the Visual Effects Society. Over the past ten years she has planned and hosted numerous technology and visual effects seminars for these organizations and was honored with a DGA Frank Capra Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for her career and service to the industry and the DGA. She continues to share her knowledge by leading VFX seminars at universities and film schools, teaching visual effects techniques to young professionals just entering the entertainment industry.

E-Mail: Susan@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

 

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Jon Clark, Animation Studio Manager

Jon Clark is a visual artist, writer, and filmmaker with over 7 years of professional experience. His favorite film jobs include working on The Tim and Eric Awesome Show (Cartoon Network) and interning at Troma Entertainment. Jon’s short films and music videos have been screened in many festivals throughout the United States and abroad. The interdisciplinary and collaborative process involved in filmmaking very much informs Jon’s fine art practice.
 “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of my favorite artists and filmmakers in the world, but teaching at Exceptional Minds is the best job I’ve ever had.”

E-Mail: jon@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

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Howard Hoffman, Animation Creative Director / Animation Job Developer

Howard's involvement with Exceptional Minds combines a dual career in Education and the Arts (And his two degrees in Psychology and Fine Art!). Soon after receiving a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to bring animation to the public schools in Williamsburg, VA. Howie moved to New York to do artwork for the birth of Nickelodeon and the launch of MTV. Subsequent stints creating animated content included Art Director (and often Copywriter) for DFS/Saatchi & Saatchi ("Silly Rabbit..!"), Design Director (Nickelodeon's "Doug"), Director (“Action League Now!) and commercial Director (Warner Bros. Classic Animation for MCI, Wendy’s). On a vacation to his old summer camp (Camp Androscoggin), Howie started a program which for over a decade became the most visible animation workshop for kids in the country), as the kids animated for the likes of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and PBS.


E-Mail: howie@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

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Suzette Major, Finance and Benefits Manager

has an extensive record of accomplishment as a finance and accounting professional supporting the business efforts of companies in diverse industries, including real estate, film production, and financial services makes her a strong leader in her field. With extensive expertise in financial management, cost containment, internal controls, and process automation, Major founded The Lambert Paul Group, a successful consulting practice to help her clients establish and maintain effective operations.

Major completed her Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.  She resides in Glendale, California with her husband and two sons. Major was inspired to work at Exceptional Minds because her oldest son, Asher, has high-functioning Autism.

E-Mail: suzette@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

 

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Jennifer Giandalone, Studio Coordinator

Jennifer started working in television in New York for “Good Morning America” as a PA where she became a member of the Director’s Guild of America. After moving to LA she worked on “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” as a Script Supervisor and Associate Director for 13 years. Before coming to Exceptional Minds she also worked as an Associate Director on “Celebrity Name Game.”

E-Mail: jenn@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

Kenneth Au, Paint & Roto Supervisor

Kenneth has been working as a Visual Effects Compositor for over 15 years. LA has been his home base for the majority of time especially at Rhythm & Hues Studios. As the industry change so did Ken. Working as Lead Compositor, onset VFX Supervisor and even an indie Film Producer (Island Dreams 2014), Kenneth had traveled to various places in the world like Mexico City, Turkey, Beijing, Hong Kong and the Philippines. He gains additional skills in movie production from screen writing, casting, and budgeting to post-production in editing, color grading and sound design. Kenneth is very happy to return to LA, sharing his experiences and exchanging ideas for the staff of young artist.

E-Mail: auvisualeffects@gmail.com

 

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Immanuel Morris, Paint & Roto Supervisor

With a foundation in traditional art, and a background in 3D CG, Immanuel has been a professional artist over the past 5 years. As Immanuel brings experience, patience and dedication to the table, he’s constantly impressed with the growing abilities of the crew. Immanuel is proficient in After Effects, Nuke, SilhouetteFX & Maya.

E-Mail: Immanuel@exceptionalmindsstudio.org

 



  Production Team
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Nicolas Arredondo, Artist

Nicolas is a 2016 Exceptional Minds graduate. Certified in Adobe Flash, Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro. He is also gaining experience with mark-removal, rotoscoping and compositing in Nuke and Mocha. He also creates credits in Illustrator. He worked on “Benny’s Story” from Sesame Street (2015) and “A Perfect Day” for a children’s hospital (2015). Nicolas is fully bilingual (English-Spanish). He comes from Argentina and he has lived 6 years in United Kingdom and 5 in Spain. He enjoys cinema, video games, Lego, gym and hanging out with friends.

   
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Patrick Brady, Artist

Patrick is a 2014 Exceptional Minds graduate. He is certified in Adobe Flash, Photoshop, and Illustrator and regularly utilizes Nuke, After Effects, SilhouetteFX, and Mocha for his visual effects work. Since starting at Exceptional Minds, Patrick has worked on films such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Ant-Man (2015).

 

   
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Andrew Dugan, Artist

Andrew is a Class of 2016 Exceptional Minds graduate. He is certified in Adobe Flash, Photoshop and Premiere. He's also learning how to remove markers, composite, rotoscope and do split comps in Nuke. He has worked on "Benny's Story" for Sesame Street, Dr. Ben "A Perfect Day" and the Profectum Parent Toolbox videos for parents with a child on the Autism spectrum. Andrew likes photography, video games, working out, movies, and hanging out with friends.

 

   
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Tiana Fazio, Artist

Bio coming soon...

 

   
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Jacob Fenster, Artist

Jacob is a 2016 graduate of exceptional minds. He is certified in Flash, Photoshop, and premiere. He's also learning how to remove markers, composite, rotoscoping, do split comps in Nuke, Mocha and After Effects as well as end title credits in Illustrator. He has worked on "Benny's Story" for Sesame Street and Dr Ben "A Perfect Day" both in 2015. Jacob likes movies, video games, and hanging out with friends.

 

   
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Lloyd Hackl, Artist

Lloyd is a 2014 Exceptional Minds graduate; certified in Adobe Flash, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro. Lloyd is skilled at drawing, has an eye for fine detail (and has a surprisingly good singing voice). He enjoys PS3 gaming, laser tag, Disney research, and music. He has also volunteered at the LA Food Bank. Since starting at Exceptional Minds, Lloyd has worked on several films, including Lawless (2012), American Hustle (2013), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).

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Lauren Kato, Artist

Lauren graduated from Exceptional Minds in the Spring of 2015. She’s already one of our goto experts in titles, using her skills in Illustrator and Photoshop. Her other strengths lie in photography, video, editing and graphic design. Outside of work, Lauren likes to help others through volunteering. Lauren was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

 

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Eli Katz, Artist

Eli is a 2014 Exceptional Minds graduate. He is certified in Adobe Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator and adept in Nuke, After Effects, Silhouette, Mocha, Premiere, and Wordpress. Eli excels in procedural 2D work; honing his skills on several films including American Hustle (2013), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Ant-Man (2015).

 

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Jason Klavir, Artist

Bio coming soon...

 

   
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Alex Knight, Artist

Bio coming soon...

 

   
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David Miles, Artist

David is a graduated from Exceptional Minds Class of 2015. He is ACA certified in Adobe Flash, Premiere, Photoshop & Illustrator. Currently David is gaining experience in various digital visual effects work such as rig-removal, rotoscoping and compositing using Nuke, After Effects, Mocha and SilhouetteFX. Outside of work, David enjoys theatre arts and sketch comedy as well as writing and drawing.

 

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Jeremy Pollock, Artist

Jeremy is a 2015 Exceptional Minds graduate. He is certified in Adobe Flash, Photoshop, and Illustrator. He is also skilled in Maya, After Effects, Nuke, Mocha, SilhouetteFX, Audition, Premiere, and Microsoft Word. Jeremy has been playing the electric and acoustic guitar for ten years and he enjoys video games, building 3D models and classic cars.

 

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Erik Prothero, Artist

Erik is a 2015 Exceptional Minds graduate. He is certified in Adobe Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop. He is also skilled in Adobe Dreamweaver, After Effects, Autodesk Maya, and Autodesk 3DS Max. Since starting at Exceptional Minds, Erik has animated and edited various Profectum Conference projects, assisted in web design and development for various organizations, and participated in story development for Sesame Street. Recently employed by the Exceptional Minds Studio, Erik has become a wiz at doing title work for various television shows.

 

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Noah Schneider, Artist

Noah Schneider is a Character Designer and a Visual Development Artist who is 21 years old. He graduated from Glendale High School in 2014 and Exceptional Minds in 2016. He is currently working at Exceptional Minds Studio, a VFX Studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. Noah has taken art classes at Glendale High School, Art Center Saturday High, Art Center at Night, 3Kicks Art Studio, Concept Design Academy, and Gnoman School of Visual Effects. Noah's animated films have won awards at PTA Reflections Competition (2009, 2012), International Student Film Festival Hollywood (2008, 2009, 2010), Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust International Film Competition (2010), and FILMFEST 43 (2008).

 

   
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Adam Schuering, Artist

Bio coming soon...

 

   

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Mason Taylor, Artist

Mason Taylor is a Visual Effects Artist and 3-D modeler. He is a recent graduate of Exceptional Minds and earned Adobe accreditations in Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Premiere Pro. Currently employed by Exceptional Minds Studio doing visual effects work, Mason is known as “The Machine” and can crank out shot after shot at a rapid pace.