A Brainstorm and a Spectrum in Southern California: the official grand opening of Brainstorm Productions

By: Marlene Sharp

Marlene Sharp is the proud proprietor of Pink Poodle Productions. Previously, Marlene served as Director, Production at LEVEL-5 abby, home of YO-KAI WATCH and other hit video game-based franchises. Formerly, as Producer, TV Series, at Sega of America, Marlene worked on much more than the Teen Choice Award-nominated cartoon SONIC BOOM. For example, her Hedgehog duties took her to the heights of nerd-dom as an official San Diego Comic-Con 2017 panelist. As a freelance journalist, Marlene concentrates on popular entertainment for buzz-worthy online fan destinations, such as DOGTV, ToonBarn.com, and Geekified.net. As a short film auteur, she has snagged prizes at the Canine Film Festival, the San Luis Obispo Film Festival, and many more. As a screenwriter, her professional stamp is embedded in lots of merchandise-driven cartoons – such as SNACK WORLD – and in her original, award-winning creations, such as BORN IN LA, MASCOT MAYHEM, and THE GIRL WHO LOVED NOSES. She is the winner of 2019 LA Shorts International Film Fest Script Competition (an Oscar and BAFTA-qualifying fest), at which her backdoor sitcom pilot received a staged reading by The Groundlings. And as a human being, basically, she loves dogs. For proof of the aforementioned, please see her website www.pinkpoodleproductions.com.

On Friday, April 21, the Global Autism Month 2023 downwind wind-down blew a storm and a Spectrum into a tiny Southern California township. The ‘storm’ was (and is) the neurodiverse-artist-fueled Brainstorm Productions, sister animation studio of The Center for Learning Unlimited (CLU). The ‘Spectrum’ was (and is) synonymous with Charter Communications, media conglomerate and bestower of an $8,000 digital arts employment training grant upon Brainstorm. The hamlet’s mayor – George Chen of Torrance, CA – summarized the celebratory occasion in-person and with an emphasis on the unique pool of creatives. ‘You have talent!’ he proclaimed to a crowd overflowing with local luminaries, friends, families and cartoon fans.

Photo of Brainstorm Productions artists, instructors, advisors, and V.I.P. guests by Pablo Garrahan.

The one-hour program included a physically gigantic check presentation, a literal ribbon cutting ceremony, and remarks from Brainstorm staff artists/CLU alums Ramon Gonzalez and Brian Menjivar (alongside sign language interpreter Ajeet Singh). Also on hand for testimonials were Brainstorm collaborators Linda Malik, author and filmmaker behind festival darling WILLOW’S TALE, and Jane Kusch, author of THE SECRET LIFE OF SHEBA (featuring original Brainstorm Productions illustrations). Authors and illustrators signed their handiwork in a session that followed the official proceedings.

Clockwise from top left: Ajeet Singh, Brian Menjivar, Ramon Gonzalez, and CLU instructor Brooke Torres.

Live karaoke was the pot of gold at rainbow’s proverbial end. The Singing Machine Company set the stage with a complimentary sound system plus take-home Party Machine microphones for  each attendee.

Clockwise from left: Joshua Jo, Genna Rosenberg, Koby Aceves, Rachel Kopito, plus The Singing Machine Company’s permanent musical hardware contribution to Brainstorm. Photos by Genna Rosenberg and Pablo Garrahan.

Speaking of attendees, the luminescent minglers included these noteworthy names (in no particular order):

Stephanie Kaiser, exceptionally clever grant consultant who originally paired Brainstorm and Spectrum;

Sylvia Owens, inspiration for SECRET SYLVIA comics by CLU student Audrey Rodriguez;

SECRET Sylvia Owens highlights the creative workspace of Brainstorm artist Haileigh Tenney. Photo by Marlene Sharp.

Beth Maki, CLU art instructor, digital sculptor extraordinaire and unparalleled Barbie collector;

The author and sculptor Beth Maki. Photo by Marlene Sharp.

Genna Rosenberg of GennComm/The Singing Machine Company representative;

Pablo Garrahan, founder/executive producer of Fiction LA;

Bob Harper, co-founder (alongside business partner Dave “FULL HOUSE” Coulier) of Grilled Cheese Media;

Brian Wright, co-founder and principal of The Max Edwards Company;

Brian Wright and the author; photo by Brian Wright.

Frank Chindamo of Virtual Film School;

Entertainment lawyer Mia Howard and son Christopher Rubinstein;

Mia Howard, the author, and Christopher Rubinstein; photo by Mia Howard.

Leslie LaPage, founder of La Femme Film Festival;

Web designer with a purpose Ed Oyama of Edo Design Co.;

Web designer Ed Oyama is delighted with his Singing Machine Company SWAG. Photo by Genna Rosenberg.

Tom Tenney, president of BTEC Corporation and father of accomplished Brainstorm Productions animator and CLU graduate Haileigh Tenney;

Stephen D. Sawyer, Director of Government Affairs, Charter Communications;

Adrianne Sears, Government and Community Strategist, Charter Communications;

A contingent from the office of Patrick Ruppe, Director of Harbor Regional Center;

Minal Mondkar, Chair of the Board, Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce.

Spectrum News 1 and Torrance Citi Cable videographers recorded the entire event and interviewed Virginia Erxleben, Founder and Executive Director of CLU Transitions, DBA Brainstorm Productions.

“We are grateful to Spectrum for their generous grant, which will support our Digital Arts Employment Training Program and help prepare neurodiverse young adults for successful careers,” said Erxleben. “We look forward to working with Spectrum to promote digital literacy and inclusion in our community. We thank them for their dedication to supporting local initiatives that make a difference in the lives of neurodiverse individuals.”

From left: instructor Christine Andrade, Stephen D. Sawyer, Mayor George Chen, Virginia Erxleben, and Councilman Asam Sheikh cut the ribbon at opening festivities for Brainstorm Productions. Screen shot from footage by TorranceCitiCable’s TORRANCE TODAY.

In a post script regarding the memorable day, Brainstorm Productions artist and CLU alum Joshua Jo underscored Erxleben’s sentiments with this astute observation. “Like that one advertisement from the billboard says, “There is no diversity, equity and inclusion without disability.”

From this point forward, please keep eyes skyward for Brainstorm as it gathers strength and speed! Follow the cumulonimbus clouds here: linktr.ee/brainstorm.clu

TorranceCitiCable’s TORRANCE TODAY TV show covers Brainstorm Productions’ ribbon cutting ceremony: inside and out! Torrance Mayor George Chen talks with Brainstorm artist Joshua Jo at the Torrance, California-based facility. Screen shot from footage by TorranceCitiCable’s TORRANCE TODAY.

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