“It’s Like a Little Superpower With Me”

Jake Riess, Class of 2019 Graduation

Meet Jake Riess, a 2019 Exceptional Minds graduate and 3D artist and animator who has completed internships and apprenticeships with The Third Floor, Inc. and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“I know that some people see autism as a disability, but I think of it as an ability. I use it to help me out. It’s like a little superpower with me,” said Riess, who was diagnosed with autism at 8 years old. He describes himself as more visually and auditorily inclined than most of his neurotypical peers.

While a virtual intern for The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences' competitive Gold Program over a most unprecedented summer, he created an animated ‘germaphobe’ character as part of a team project that passed committee review with flying colors and could move forward into an animated short. “One creative director said he liked that character so much, he could just hug it! That is exactly what I was going for,” said Jake.   

Previously, he spent six weeks as an apprentice at The Third Floor where he worked on 3D animation and pre-visualization of shows such as The Mandalorian. “I got to hang out with really talented people and got to see how The Third Floor blows stuff up, how to animate a car properly, how to animate a person, and what you’d see on a day-to-day basis as a layout artist or previs,” he said.

“The last job I had before Exceptional Minds was at a moving company, and I wasn’t having fun,” he added.

To attend Exceptional Minds, he commuted 102 miles every day from Ventura to the Exceptional Minds campus in Los Angeles for three years. Jake earned his Associate’s degree in animation and game design from Santa Barbara City College before enrolling in Exceptional Minds, where he completed his education in visual effects and animation in 2019. “Exceptional Minds helped me out a lot with prepping for interviews and how to present myself,” said Riess.

He is currently working on several animation projects and likes to play the occasional game. Riess is an avid fan of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as other games that teach both the realistic and fictional ways to achieve goals.

Exceptional Minds is a professional training academy and working studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. We are a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles, CA, specializing in training young adults with autism spectrum disorder for meaningful careers in post-production and digital animation. Subscribe to our Newsletter here. To donate to our Scholarship Fund click here.

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