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Happy February everyone! Time is flying, and we’re already a month into 2024. Spec Labs has started the year off on a high note with our Music and Voiceover classes, which began this January. Now February is here, and we’re ready to get our Film & Acting classes up to bat!


Our 2024 Film & Acting department classes begin this month with selections in Short Film Production, On-Camera Acting, and Improv and Sketch Comedy!


Our Short Film Production class will be the first to start up again with the intro session taking place on February 20th. Enroll today if you’d like to help make amazing films like “The Benchwarm-Nerds!” and “Hands” with Spec Labs!



A new trailer for our geeky comedy short, “The Benchwarm-Nerds!”, which follows three outsiders as they find acceptance and friendship amongst themselves, is now available on YouTube! Get a glimpse of what our favorite nerds are getting up to in the trailer below. And watch the whole film on Spec Labs’ YouTube page at this link.



Our other short film, “Hands,” which we created in five days for the 2023 EasterSeals Disability Film Challenge, follows the complicated romance between two hands who meet and fall in love. This January 31st, “Hands” was screened at the HollyShorts Film Festival. The event was held at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and was attended by several Spec Labs students, along with co-founder and “Hands” director, Jason Weissbrod. Check out some of the pictures and clips from the screening below!





And watch “Hands” for yourself on YouTube!



We’re so excited about all the accomplishments of our two films, and hope there are many more to come. We can’t wait to make more amazing films with our students this year!


Help us create our next masterpiece and hone your creative skills in one of our fun-filled Film & Acting classes. Classes are filling up fast, so enroll now at speclabs.org to secure your spot!


We can’t wait to see you all back in class!

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Mark your calendars! This Friday night, December 22nd, Spec Labs’ brand-new short film, “The Benchwarm-Nerds!” makes its grand premiere! The live streaming event will be taking place on YouTube at 8 pm. Join the virtual screening and be one of the first to see this hilarious short!



“The Benchwarm-Nerds!” follows three outsiders, Max, Zeek, and Sophia, as they struggle to find acceptance amongst their peers for their “nerdy” traits. But when the three of them find each other, everything seems to fall into place. The film combines live action with colorful animation–courtesy of Spec Labs’ Head of Art & Design, Amos Stillwell–to create a funny, endearing film with characters you can’t help but root for.


A few weeks ago, we held a cast and crew screening of the film which was met with raucous laughter and applause. All of us on “The Benchwarm-Nerds!” team have been on the edge of our seats waiting for the film to be released to the public, and now the time is finally here!



Celebrate your nerdy side with us at this Friday's live premiere event! You can join the virtual screening here or by clicking the link at the top of the page. You can also access the screening on your Smart TV using the YouTube app. Head on over to Spec Labs' YouTube Channel and you will find the premiere video link under our Featured Videos playlist. The link to the film won't be available until the night of the screening, so don't worry if you can't access the link before then. The film and the link go live at 8 pm Friday--have your laptops and Smart Tvs ready!


If you haven't already, please consider donating to Spec Labs' 2023 Giving Campaign! With your help, we can continue to make inspiring films like this one with our talented autistic and neurodivergent artists!


Hope to “see” you Friday night!



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Updated: Dec 7, 2023



This Sunday December 10th, Spec Labs is bringing Christmas to town with a modern twist on a classic Holiday tale! Join us at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex in North Hollywood to enjoy the cheerful work of our brilliant puppeteers and a live band performing original songs and score. The production's original score features the work of several Spec Labs' musicians, including Atticus Jackson, Paul Christenson, Chris Acevedo, Jacob Lenard, and Noam Almog. The show will also feature set design by the talented Faith Butterfield, a Spec Labs artist who also created the poster art for A Specmas Carol!



A Specmas Carol was written by the show's director, Cathy McAuley, and long-time Spec Labs instructor, Olivia Brazill, who also co-wrote the music with Spec Labs' co-founder Garth Herberg. The show is based on Charles Dickens’ beloved novella, A Christmas Carol, which follows the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge as he’s forced to reckon with his own misdeeds via visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. A Specmas Carol pays faithful tribute to the heart of Dickens’ story, but amps up the excitement with a colorful cast of puppets, an updated technological twist, and heartfelt original songs.



Ebenezer Scrooge still takes center stage in A Specmas Carol, but this time he is accompanied by an absent father, a cheeky mother, and his neglected son, Ebbie. The Scrooges come from a long line of inventors, revolutionaries, and workaholic fathers that forget to pay attention to their kids. The strained relationship between Scrooge and his young son, Ebbie, is one of the main conflicts in the show, as well as the unintended effects of one of Scrooge’s inventions: Blindervision. Originally created as a gift from a never-present father to his melancholy son, these virtual reality specs take a toll on the Scrooges and the community they live in. The show mixes modern technology with classic themes of family and connection to create a festively fun Holiday musical!



At last week’s A Specmas Carol rehearsal, I stopped by to get the inside scoop on this very merry Christmas show. During rehearsal, director and Spec Labs’ Voiceover Department Head, Cathy McAuley, guided the actors and their puppet companions around the stage, helping each of them find their marks and their voices. Nearby, composer and band leader Garth Herberg sat at his piano ready to musically transition from scene to scene or kick off a puppeteer’s solo with some magical keys.



With everyone’s lines mostly down to a tee, the rehearsal focused on fine-tuning the puppeteers' emotional and physical performances and learning their musical cues. Melodic transitions allow the scene-setting slides to switch into place. They also give the actors a beat to set the tone for the next scene. In one such transition, Ebbie is in back-to-back scenes, one in his grandfather’s workshop and the other in his bedroom. This transition requires actor Jake Tashjian to stay on stage for the whole sequence. Instead of having him stand idly by as the music plays, McAuley uses the transitional tune as an acting tool. She works with Tashjian to convey meaning through the movements and expressions of both Tashjian and his puppet.



Making a puppet emote is no easy feat, but the Specmas Carol puppeteers get the job done jolly well. Combining the movements of both actor and puppet with just the right vocal intonations easily brings these three-dimensional characters to life. And when you mix stellar acting with some magical musical performances, Puppet and Puppeteer become one as they move across the stage in mimicked fashion.



Things really kick into high gear when the ghosts of Holiday past, present, and future appear and throw Scrooge’s life into perspective. A wizard, a robot, and a skeleton strike fear into Scrooge’s heart with memories, futures, and some catchy, foreboding tunes. A particularly fun duet between the Wizard and Scrooge kickstarts Scrooge’s journey of self-reflection. From wistful ballads to 80s synth tunes, A Specmas Carol has genre-spanning musical numbers that invite the audience to join this storybook wonderland.



Our Holiday spectacular was also featured in a segment on Spectrum One News this week. Check out what our show-stopping puppeteers had to say about Spec Labs and A Specmas Carol in the clip below!



A Specmas Carol will be a Holiday show for the ages and might just become your favorite adaptation of the classic Dickens tale. The amazing work of our Spec Labs’ Voiceover and Music students will undoubtedly make your Holiday season extra merry and bright!


Don’t be a Scrooge–make sure you’re there for this incredible night of music, puppets, and Specmas cheer! There are only seven tickets left for our 8:30 pm show and our 6:15 pm show is already sold out! Grab yours now before they’re gone at www.speclabs.org and fill your heart with Spec Labs’ Christmas joy! Thank you so much to everyone who has already bought a ticket--we can't wait to put on a great show for you!



If you haven’t already, please consider donating to Spec Labs’ 2023 Giving Campaign so that we can continue to make the Holidays, and every other day, filled with fun for our student artists!


We hope you’ll come have a jingle ball with us this Sunday!


-Michael Ware, Spectrum Laboratory


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