In a little under four years, a pair of Exceptional Minds alumni have gone from students at the academy to working on some of the biggest summer blockbusters.
Isaiah Strum and Thomas Harmonson are just two of many artists who have flourished at the studio and academy. Based in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, Exceptional Minds prepares young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in animation and beyond. It is a not-for-profit professional training academy and studio that comprises three areas of focus: 2D animation and art, 3D assets and gaming. Strum and Harmonson have budding careers at the studio, working on projects for clients including Marvel, Disney and Nickelodeon.
For Strum, a junior lead VFX artist, the studio has afforded the opportunity to work on projects he never thought possible. His proudest visual effects shot to date? “‘Avengers: End Game,’” Strum says. “I removed a lighting rig from Tony’s porch.”
Harmonson, a junior lead-end titles artist, praises Exceptional Minds for not just opening doors but providing insight into his craft. “I learned so much more about VFX and art in the years I’ve been at Exceptional Minds than years of studying it beforehand was able to teach me,” he says.
Harmonson hopes his new position will lead to a job as an end titles supervisor or even land him a staff position at Marvel. For now, his work can be seen on the end credits of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “It was a lot of names and very challenging work,” he says. “But my team got the job done.