Nathan Stubbs

Lafayette gets Pixel Magic

by Nathan Stubbs

Pixel Magic, a leading 3D graphics and animation firm that works with top Hollywood film studios, is opening its first branch office outside of California in Lafayette. Gov. Bobby Jindal, City-Parish President Joey Durel, LITE CEO Henry Florsheim and Lafayette Economic Development Authority President Gregg Gothreaux were among the local and state officials on hand to make the announcement at a press conference this morning at LITE.

The office, to be located within LITE, will house 12 employees over the next year and add as many as 40 new jobs over the next three years. Pixel Magic Vice President and General Manager Ray Scalice cited Louisiana’s film industry tax credits and the growth of the film industry here as key factors in the decision to open an office in Lafayette. “We did our homework,” he said, noting that the company had explored other locations, including New Mexico and Canada.

Pixel Magic becomes the first tenant in a recently announced technology business accelerator at LITE, created in partnership with LEDA and UL Lafayette. The program, designed to assist local startups as well as recruit established businesses to the area, will provide Pixel with one year of free office space at LITE.

Pixel Magic was already in Lafayette doing work on the Disney Production Secretariat, currently being filmed at Evangeline Downs, when it officially decided to expand here. LITE CEO Henry Florsheim noted that Lafayette Entertainment Initiative Director Marcus Brown brought Pixel’s Visual Effects Supervisor, Raymond McIntyre, to LITE for a tour. “Long story short,” Florsheim said, “we’re here today because those introductions were made and we’re able to put together the infrastructure they need right here.”

Scalice credited the enthusiasm of state and local officials. “I saw positive energy and vision at every level and with everybody I met,” he said. He added he had already eaten alligator for the first time, “and it won’t be the last.”

Pixel has worked on dozens of major Hollywood films, creating the final battle scene in 300 and some of the high-flying effects seen in Spiderman and Spiderman 2. For Secretariat, it is responsible for transforming Evangeline Downs into four different racetracks where the thoroughbred ran his way into the history books, including Churchilll Downs, Saratoga and Belmont. Pixel Magic’s McIntyre noted that the first job the company will undertake in its new Lafayette office will be post-production on Secretariat.

Durel said that he saw today’s announcement as the convergence of three different initatives, including the state’s film and digital media tax credits, the Lafayette Entertainment Initiative, and Lafayette Utilities System’s fiber to the home project, which will enable Pixel employees to work from home and easily e-mail in the large data files they work with. “We can all talk a whole lot,” he added. “But now we have to deliver. If we can have these people be successful in Lafayette, then they become sort of an intangible and they become an ambassador for Lafayette and they go out to other areas and say Lafayette, Louisiana is a great place to be.”

Gov. Jindal began the press conference, exclaiming,“Today’s a great day for Lafayette, a great day for Acadiana, indeed for the entire state. Pixel Magic’s decision to locate in Louisiana will send a strong signal to Hollywood and to other leading digital-media companies that Louisiana is a major player in the digital-media industry.” Jindal stressed the priority his administration has placed on growing the state’s digital media industry, which is forecasted to have one of the highest job growth rates of in the nation over the next decade. “Getting these permanent facilities will give us the infrastructure we need to continue to outperform the southern and national economies. This win will help accelerate the development of Lafayette as a hub for digital media and film production, and of course it will help create more good jobs for our children so that they can pursue their dreams right here in Louisiana.”