Four Young Adults with Autism Join Crew of AMERICAN HUSTLE to Learn Production

As part of their training at Exceptional Minds digital arts academy - a nonprofit vocational school for young adults with autism who are preparing for careers in post-production and the digital arts - three young men and one young woman with high-functioning autism joined the crew of the new film American Hustle, which opened in theaters nationwide this past weekend. Patrick Brady, Arielle Guthrie, Lloyd Hackl and Eli Katz - all in their 20s and on the spectrum - contributed highly detailed visual effects elements in the making of the film.

The work involved applying state-of-the-art compositing and pre-comp techniques for both simple and more complex 2D application, according to Robert Hackl, who subcontracted Exceptional Minds students as the supervising visual effects producer for the film. "They handled several shots in the movie that required rotoscoping, the painstaking process of outlining and isolating key elements or characters so that background or foreground details can be digitally manipulated or changed altogether. The fact that the work was performed at such a high professional standard by young autistic adults is, I believe, a win-win for everyone, including the studios," said Hackl, who has contracted the school on past films because of the quality of work, professionalism and competitive pricing.

Last year, Exceptional Minds students worked on the end credits for the major motion picture Lawless.

"This is something that they (students) have an eye for and also the patience for," commented Exceptional Minds Program Director Ernie Merlán. In addition to attention to detail, Exceptional Minds students demonstrate an extraordinary dedication to the work. "We have two students who have been here three years but have never missed a day," said Yudi Bennett, who helped co-found Exceptional Minds and is now the school's Director of Operations.

Bennett has a son enrolled in the school and is a former assistant director who started Exceptional Minds in 2011 along with other professionals in the movie industry to help young adults with autism transition from High School into meaningful careers. The school is unique in that it prepares students with autism for careers through professional accreditation and real work experience in the movie industry. "I knew I was different growing up and that I was good with art. But I didn't know that I could make it into a career until I found this program that gave me the experience and let me focus on what I needed to do to succeed," said Arielle Guthrie, who will complete her final year in the three-year Exceptional Minds program in the spring of 2014 along with Patrick, Lloyd and Eli.

The four will graduate the Exceptional Minds program with movie credit.

Exceptional Minds' lead instructor Josh Dagg, who helped the students fulfill the American Hustle work, said these types of contracts refine and test the school's program for effectiveness. "We know that the program is working because we've been able to teach them to deliver on a professional level - on a level that can be blown up to 30-60 feet high and shown globally," he said.

American Hustle was directed by David O. Russell and written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell. It was produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon.

About Exceptional Minds (

Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational center and working production studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. It was chartered in 2011 to provide the training necessary for creatively-gifted individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who may not otherwise be able to make the transition from High School to careers. Exceptional Minds offers technical proficiency and work readiness training that prepares students for careers in graphic arts, animation, web design, visual effects and rotoscoping. Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Exceptional Minds is both an instructional learning facility and a working studio with hands-on student involvement in production projects, many for the film industry.

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