Kat holds an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, and she has 15 years of professional practice as a scenic artist and sculptor. She started working at Exceptional Minds in 2013 as an Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Animate teacher and in 2017 she became Principal. She has a great appreciation for the dedication and hard work that the staff and students of the Exceptional Minds community continually invest into this amazing organization.
A finance, strategy and business development executive with an MBA from USC Marshall School of Business, Dana has extensive experience in the media, entertainment and technology spaces overseeing all aspects of corporate development, HR and finance. Her financial background includes: P&L management, all transactions related to general ledger, expenses, receivables, payables, payroll, budgeting, reconciliation, financial reporting (monthly, quarterly, and annual) and forecasting.
Dana lives in Burbank with her husband Joel, three kids Alvin, Nathan, Nina, and dog Billie.
David Siegel is the Executive Director of California nonprofit of the year Exceptional Minds - an academy and studio preparing people with autism for careers in animation and the digital arts.
A former Disney cast member of nearly a decade where he led marketing for a key animation division, Siegel began his career in talent representation at the William Morris Agency before segueing to a production deal at a major studio.
Siegel also served as an advisor to world-class media companies having crafted branding, marketing, and new business strategies for a portfolio of clients that have included award winning marketing and licensing agencies, leading animation studios, Universities, and technology start-ups.
As an active philanthropist and social entrepreneur, Siegel in partnership with his author/philanthropist son Dylan, has raised $1.5 million and unprecedented global awareness toward eradicating a rare genetic disease that will now be cured in the next several years.
David lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three boys.
Genevieve came to Exceptional Minds with an impressive range of skills and non-profit experience. Tech savvy and adept at almost any office related function, Genevieve is an office administrator extraordinaire. Her skills in the workplace are only outshone by her generous spirit. Her desire to make our world a little better, to uplift and connect with others is what makes Genevieve the perfect fit for Exceptional Minds.
Rebecca comes to Exceptional Minds after having spent the last few years working in the Jewish nonprofit world providing direct services to those in need. A native San Diegan, Rebecca moved to Los Angeles in 2012. She completed her Master’s degree in Jewish Communal Service at American Jewish University in order to fulfill her desire to help others and contribute to the community at large.
In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys a good book or tv show, theatre, attending concerts with her parents and friends and monthly trips to Disneyland.
Morgan Chess joins Exceptional Minds as the Head of Marketing, where she will oversee all marketing initiatives for the academy and studio. Chess joins Exceptional Minds with over 15 years of entertainment marketing, start-up and consulting experience. As a digital marketing and e-commerce executive at 20th Century Fox and Paramount, she worked on campaigns such as Rio: The Movie and the Angry Birds App integration as well as Planet of The Apes, X-Men, Mission Impossible, Transformers, Star Trek, The Big Short and more. Beginning in digital media, Chess oversaw campaigns for Sony Pictures at UM, and has gained experience in strategy, creative direction, social marketing and analytics, and partnerships throughout her career. Morgan finds passion in helping animal and wildlife rescues, mental wellness causes, and has a love for real estate.
Originally from South Florida but grew up in San Diego, Scotty Peterson joins EM from a career across post and gaming studio leadership & production starting his career in education and athletics. He spent two decades in the video game industry and post production working for companies including Sony, Warner Bros., and Unity.
Elle Charles joins Exceptional Minds with an extensive fundraising background having most recently worked at the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus, a 40-acre sports and education complex in south Los Angeles. Prior to that, Elle worked at City Year, an education-based nonprofit where she built out the individual-giving program for the greater Los Angeles region. Before transitioning to fundraising, Elle began her career in Washington D.C. as an Educational Instructor for third-grade students and a Math Instructional Coach. Elle and her husband Brian live in Newport Beach, where she is an avid runner and sailor.
Jaera Wright joins Exceptional Minds as an HR Generalist from her former role as Human Resources Manager at Narrative creative agency. A graduate of USC with a Masters in Human Resources Management and Personnel Administration, Jaera oversees all aspects of HR. Jaera’s appreciation for the personal and human aspect of business has translated into her passion for HR. Her effective commutation skills, adaptability, originality and leadership qualities will help propel the field of Human Resources towards continued success and evolution. Jaera’s aptitude for success is governed by the attitude of "Never stop learning, never stop growing.”
Steff began her career in the film industry in Eastern Canada. After winning a National Apprenticeship for Film and Television award, she became a pioneer in the earliest years of animation in Nova Scotia, where she owned and operated a small, boutique studio and was showcased in MacLean's Magazine as one of Canada's top 100 Young Entrepreneurs.
Steff recognizes that embracing the journey is the key to following dreams!
With over 25 years of experience in the industry, she has enjoyed working in a variety of artistic, management and instructor roles, none more rewarding to her as working in education. Steff is passionate about animation and is dedicated to helping students find enjoyable and successful journeys of their own to pursue in this exciting field
Mister Hayz is a 20-year animation industry veteran, working for shows like King of the Hill, The Simpsons, and Mission Hill. He also has over 12 years of experience teaching and coaching young people. His hobbies include fatherhood, Dungeons and Dragons, and making Halloween pumpkins.
Uilani Elmer is a board-certified behavior analyst with ten years of clinical experiences ranging from teaching self-management of personal, professional, and social goals, to supporting independence in daily living skills across neurotypical and neurodivergent clients; as well as research experience with broader concepts of behavioral change procedures. Additionally, Uilani has served a population of neurodiverse children in collaboration with their foster families, teachers, and social workers, in a dynamic school-setting to increase academic performance and address behavioral concerns. She is passionate about researching and utilizing behavioral activation in conjunction with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to provide treatment to populations impacted by trauma, anxiety, and depression. Uilani graduated Magna Cum Laude from CSUN and also holds an M.S. from CSUN.
Timothy currently teaches classes at Exceptional Minds related to VFX and Motion Graphics. He comes from a background related to freelance and teaching. He’s previously worked for different companies across the LA area ranging from Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, Baked FX, to CBS Digital. In 2013 he received his MFA in Digital Art from The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. When he’s away from Exceptional Minds he teaches additional courses at various colleges across the LA area.E-Mail: email@example.com
Randi teaches 3D and visual effects at various colleges. Randi has worked as a digital artist and technical director for games and movie projects with Gizmo Games, RJB Enterprises and Sony Imageworks. Along with production work Randi is also a published author for the 3ds Max and Autodesk training manuals and works closely with Autodesk as an Autodesk Certified Instructor.
Alineh learned Adobe Flash at age 11 and started learning Maya at 12. Alineh's younger brother is moderately impacted with autism and has caused her to become very involved with the autism community at an early age. Parents of children with ASD would ask her to babysit because they trusted her ability to effectively deal with behavioral issues due to the ones her brother had and due to her involvement with other kids with ASD during community events.
Through a parent, she found out about Media Enrichment Academy. She started volunteering at Media Enrichment Academy at age 13. Volunteering there had a lot of meaning to her because it gave her hope that people like her brother could find an outlet for their feelings through artistic expression and that they could learn something that enriched their lives in some way. She volunteered at EM for two summers in 2012 and was hired as an Instructor 2013. She became proficient in Premiere, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Animate. Currently, Alineh is studying Film and Digital Media at University of California, Santa Cruz.
"Jess" is an animator, illustrator and visual artist with over 9 years of experience. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Media Arts in Animation at the Art Institute of California, Orange County and got her start in the game industry. She worked on game titles such as "Hunted: The Demon's Forge" and "Wasteland 2." She currently has an art wall at "The Hive Gallery" in downtown LA and joins in their art shows quite frequently.
Jon is an accomplished producer and VFX artist who has been involved in the film industry for more than a decade. After graduating from St. Olaf College with a degree in psychology, Jon received a second degree in visual effects at the Art Institute in Minneapolis. He spent eight years in LA working in visual effects and post production on projects including Captain America: The First Avenger and Titanic. In addition to working on VFX projects for major studios and producing feature films. He spent last summer in Minnesota producing the feature length psychological thriller Seed of Doubt which is now in post-production; he is currently living in California and working as as a teacher at Exceptional Minds Studios, where he mentors adults with autism for careers in the visual effects industry.
Stephen "Stevie" Larsen was born in Maryland and grew up into a nomadic lifestyle. From an early age, Stevie discovered two passions, video games and drawing. These passions influenced his career leading him to earn a Bachelor's of Science at Utah Valley University in Animation and Game Design. Since earning his degree, Stevie has worked for software companies and as an freelancer. He regularly attends game jams and is always looking to improve his craft.
Stevie has also worked specifically in game development education. He volunteered to tutor and teach students at the Utah Refugee Center for their game development workshop. When working in Huntsville, Alabama he tutored kids at the Video Game Design Club. For Stevie, teaching the 12 principles of Animation, drawing, and design is a fulfilling experience. And just this last summer, he taught a week long course in Maya at Digital Media Academy.
Stevie is excited to continue his journey and share his knowledge at Exceptional Minds and helping raise future artists and animators.
William is a 2015 Graduate from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art with an emphasis in Animation/Illustration and a Minor in Marketing. Since the age of 12, he has been educating himself in the field of computer graphics and video game design. He has attended various art-intensive workshop at Pepperdine University (2D Video Game Design), UCLA (3D Video Game), and Digipen University (3D Computer Animation). Has extensive knowledge in programs like Adobe's Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and Autodesk's Maya. He has been a Screen Actors Guild Member since 2003 and has extensive experience working in the professional production pipelines. William spends his spare time as an advocate and programs director for the Arthritis Foundation.
Marcel Valcarce is a creative director, educator, and devoted father. He brings together a deep connection with technology and a love for art, design, animation, and storytelling. Marcel’s early career spanned top Hollywood design and visual effects studios including Imaginary Forces, Rhythm & Hues Studios, R. Greenberg/Schluter, Creative Domain/Trailer Park, Pacific Title and Art Studios, and Kaleidoscope Films among others. In 2005 he co-founded inMotion Studios a boutique motion design and video production studio. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Hofstra University and an MFA in Film, Video and Computer Animation from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where he also currently teaches in the Animation and Film Production departments.
Alyssa Maxwell AKA Alymax is a graduate of the Scripps School of Communication at Ohio University, where they received a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a focus on games and animation. They have worked with Exceptional Minds since their 2016 internship. Alymax gained a passion for design after taking classes at the Cleveland Art Museum and the Cleveland Institute of Art as a child. They feel a strong connection to the autism community due to the relationships they've built with friends on the spectrum, and with the children they've worked with as a camp counselor and baby-sitter. Exceptional Minds has helped Alymax learn more about, and embrace, their own neurodivergent tendencies, and improve their artistic abilities.
Instructor Miles Horst is a graduate of Penn State University and a dynamic animation production professional with a successful 25-year track record in television, film and multimedia production. Miles is also an award winning having received many awards including an MTV Video Music Award for Best Musical Film for U2 3D and an Annie Award for Best Animated TV Commercial for Old Navy.
Sean Collins is a passionate environment artist for 3D and 2D games. He brings to his instruction, experience in Unity, Unity HDRP, UE4, Quixel Suite, Maya, Zbrush, Substance Painter, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Animate. Sean is an alumni of Ohio University, with a Bachelor of Science in communication for Games & Animation.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Experienced Teacher with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Skilled in 3d Modeling, Digital Sculpting, Character Rigging, Texturing, and Character Animation. Strong education professional with a Master of Arts (M.A.) focused in computer animation from Academy of Art University.
Scott is an Animation Director and has been in the animation business for over 20 years, working on Feature Film Productions, (Don Bluth Entertainment, Rich Animation, Warner Bros Animation), TV Animation Productions, (Warner Bros TV Animation, Hyperion Studios, Universal TV Animation) as well as a wide variety of freelance projects.
One of most memorable and rewarding jobs was storyboarding on the Warner Bros "Pinky and the Brain" TV Show. Scott has also produced several short comedy films for the "Whistling Moon Avengers" comedy series. one entitled "Great Explorations" was screened both in the Los Angeles film festival and short film category at Cannes, France. He is a graduate from Sheridan College, in Oakville Ontario and Columbia College in Chicago.E-Mail: email@example.com
David Wolgemuth joined Exceptional Minds as a VFX Supervisor in 2021. David is an award-winning VFX artist previously at Marvel, MPC, and Zoic with credits including The Good Place, Thor: Ragnarok, and The Walking Dead.
David has a BS in Film Animation from Full Sail where he also currently teaches.
Meridith joins Exceptional Minds as VFX Production Manager. A two-time Emmy Award winner, Meridith has over a decade of experience in production and management. Most recently Stokes held a position as Operations Manager at Pixelogic Media where she oversaw a team of over 65 editors, coordinators, and production managers/supervisors who created deliverables for high-profile streaming, theatrical, and television clients.
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).
Carter is an Exceptional Minds graduate who graduated in 2017. He is certified in Adobe Flash/Animate, Photoshop, After Effects, Maya and Premiere Pro. In the summer of 2017 he joined the Animation Studio. Carter created original characters for a mobile game called Tooth Hero and has worked on the Holiday Christmas Card for CBS, among other projects.
Dylan Carbonell is a 2018 graduate who started making stop-motion animated films at the age of 10, and has been drawing comics ever since. In his late teens he started doing storyboards and even directed live-action short films with motion graphics at Northern Virginia Community College. At Exceptional Minds, he animated for the 2015 “Momentous Insurance Holiday Card”, “LA Zoo 50th Anniversary”, “Barbar’s Bargains”, and “Morphing Time”. In the summer of 2017 he interned at Nickelodeon on the breakout hit animated series, The Loud House. He specializes in pushing the exaggeration of shapes and movements to absolute extremes, and stylizing designs in interesting and abstract ways.
Bio coming soon.
Bio coming soon.
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).
Thomas is a graduate of the Exceptional Minds class of 2018. He is a Visual Effects and End Titles artist that has worked on the credits for "Avengers: Infinity War", "Crazy Rich Asians", "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and more.
Bio coming soon.
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).
Annie is a 2017 Exceptional Minds Academy graduate. Certified in Adobe Flash and Photoshop. In Exceptional Minds VFX Studio, she is gaining experience with marker removal, rotoscoping, and compositing in Nuke and After Effects' Mocha. She worked on "A Perfect Day" (2015), Profectum Parent Toolbox (2015), and recently, Marvel Studio's Black Panther (2018). Annie loves animated media, animals, pencil drawing, reading, and hanging around with friends and family. She also loves making her own animations and check out her musical animashs posted on YouTube.
Jacob Lenard is a 2018 graduate of Exceptional Minds. He has a passion for creating original animated content and characters. He’s done several comedic on-going animated series on YouTube with a dedicated following over the years. Jacob is very proficient in Adobe Animate, Adobe Premiere and sound editing. He enjoys animating in a loose, abstract style with an emphasis on personality. Jacob’s work is very influenced by both traditional and digital animation of the 90’s and early 2000’s. So far, Jacob has worked on BJ Leiderman’s “Maizey’s Song” (2017) and interned at Warner Bros. Animation during the summer of 2018.
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.
Naseem Sabokpey is a graduated of Exceptional Minds class of 2018 who is now working as a designer at the Exceptional Minds animation studios. One of her goals are design her own stickers and sale them. Naseem biggest goal is to continue on her stories and put them into chapter books for older kids and younger adults like herself. Her hope is one day her stories would succeed and make money and become a designer for keychains, phone cases, and other souvenir.
Tony Saturno is a 2017 Exceptional Minds graduate. He is certified in Flash and Photoshop, and is additionally skilled in Premiere Pro, After Effects, Mocha, Nuke, and Maya. He is currently a Visual Effects Artist in the Exceptional Minds studio. His primary interests include music, movies and TV shows.
Adam graduated from Exceptional Minds in 2016 with certifications for various Adobe programs, including, but not limited to, Premiere Pro and Animate. During his education he contributed his artistic and technical skills to professional projects such as "Benny's Story" for Sesame Street (2015) and "Perfect Day" for Dr. Ben and Co. (2015) He brought this experience to bear when he moved into the Animation Studio immediately after graduation. There he worked on a wide variety of projects including the LA Zoo 50th Anniversary bumper (2017) and "Maizey's Song" for BJ Leiderman (2017). He is currently serving a full-time internship at Warner Bros. Animation.
Stephen is a graduate of Exceptional Minds class of 2018. He is certified in Adobe Animate and Adobe Photoshop. He now works as an artist in the EM Animation Studio. Outside of EM, Stephen has created his own 2D animated series called "Ethan, Nathan, Larry and Elmer". He has done professional art work for "Martin the Fartin Mummy" books 1 and 2. His character designs were also used in the Momentous Insurance company holiday card.
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.
Andrew Turney is a 2D character designer and cleanup animator. He has a huge interest in movies and cartoons. He worked on the animation for the Anti-Bully vine for Cartoon Network, The “LA Zoo 50th Anniversary” bumper and took part in tracing the backgrounds on "Maizy's Song" for BJ Leiderman. He graduated in 2018 and is currently employed at the Exceptional Minds Animation Studio.
Jack is a graduate of Exceptional Minds, class of 2018. He is certified in Adobe Photoshop. He currently works as an artist and rigger in the Studio. Using Spine software, he creates animation and rigging for mobile games.
Bio coming soon. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org