Matt Roush

When it comes to Michigan's film and video production tax credits, most of the talk has been about movies like "Gran Torino" and celebrity sightings around the state.

But the credits have also spawned a growing video game and animation production industry here.

A perfect example is Pixofactor Entertainment, where six partners and an ever-changing cast of contractor animators and graphic artists work on a wide variety of projects.

Principal and president Sean Hurwitz, a serial entrepreneur and one of the six partners, said the company was created in 2007 and took its present form in September 2009, when it took on a couple of video game creators, Michael Bolden and Jeremiah Strackbein, who are graduates of Lawrence Technological University and the College for Creative Studies respectively. The two initially set up their company in Florida but returned to Michigan in 2008 to take advantage of those much-discussed state tax breaks for the movie and video industries.

Hurwitz said the company conducts three major kinds of work:

* Work for hire on projects, in both live action films and animation for video games. "We build pieces of both of them," Hurwitz said.
* Licensing of content and getting local investors to develop that content. Pixofactor is currently working with local angel investors on project development, including Farmington Hills-based Envy Capital.
* Creating its own content and trying to develop it into films or games.

"We've got this team of experts now and we're in a position of strength and opportunity," Hurwitz said.

Projects now under way include a TV series based on a graphic novel called 'The Hunter,' which shows the aftermath of a coordinated series of terrorist attacks on the United States, including an A-bomb explosion at LAX in Los Angeles, an oil refinery sabotage in Houston, a toxic chemical release at the New York Stock Exchange and a biowar release in Boston.

"It's in development now as a pilot," Hurwitz said. "The intention is to take the pilot to several interested networks prior to distributing across digital platforms."

Other conversions of graphic novels are also in the works.

The company has also attracted local video veterans like Gary May, who is the company's head of live production, and Chris Firestone, head of creative services, who brings 20 years of experience in digital production and who has developed relationships and alliances throughout the Hollywood entertainment and production industry. They have also attracted people back to Michigan like Nancy Kelley, Pixofactor's marketing and business development leader, who spent the past 10 years at several startups in the Silicon Valley.

The company is based in some very cool real estate on the fourth floor of a downtown Royal Oak building on West Fourth Street.

Whatever your opinion of the film tax incentives, Hurwitz wanted to make one thing clear.

"Without those incentives in Michigan, this doesn't happen," he said. "We wouldn't be hiring local talent. We wouldn't be leasing this building. We wouldn't be getting investor money."

More -- including some amazing and fun demo reels -- at Or join their Facebook page at


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