Laconia design firm now a force in film

Being associated with a highly publicized documentary film about Marilyn Monroe is a major coup for a small graphic design company, the small-business equivalent of making the Olympic team. But Lee Corsack, co-founder and the creative driving force at Pixel Force in Laconia, isn’t planning on many victory laps.

“It’s snowballed into something phenomenal,” says Corsack as he contemplates the many months of post-production editing he and his crew put into “Marilyn’s Man,” the story of Monroe’s first husband, which was released for national theatrical distribution this fall.

“When (director) Schani Krug came into the door, the film was a diamond in the rough, and we weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into,” says Corsack. But Corsack and his Pixel Force colleagues — which include his wife and company co-founder Kim, who oversees much of the non-creative side of the business — plunged right in, much as they have since the company began in 1993, when Lee, a trained commercial artist, began to teach himself the finer points of computer graphic design.

“It was wide open back then. The computers were pretty expensive, but anyone could get a computer and software and call themselves a graphic artist,” says Corsack, who originally made a name for himself in Laconia as a creator of greeting cards while he and his wife ran a picture-framing shop.

But not every self-taught savant survives, let alone thrives, and eventually ends up as a major contributor to a documentary film shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Pixel Force has emerged as one of the busier and most innovative graphic design shops in New England.

The firm began turning out simple logo and text designs more than a decade ago, but today the company’s seven employees reflect of the maturing software age: a small company with Mac and PC workstations with plenty of gigabytes to burn can do it all.

The staff handles print and Web site design, 3D design, animation, interactive media, broadcast video, television commercials and music videos.

“While ‘Marilyn’s Man’ shows the depth of our capabilities, most of our business is bread-and-butter stuff, helping businesses of different sizes get their message out. We are experts at keeping a company’s identity consistent, whether it be on their Web site or brochure or T-shirt,” Corsack says.

Pixel Force’s client list includes large and small companies, from national clients such as NAPA and Auto Zone to local firms like Granite State Glass and HK Powersports.

“We have clients in New Jersey, California, Nevada, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania and elsewhere,” Lee Corsack says. “All of our referrals outside of New Hampshire are word-of-mouth. We do trade shows and some placements but we don’t do much active marketing.” (It was their fire-engine-red, graphic-heavy van that caught the attention of “Marilyn’s Man” director Schani Krug and led to his approaching Corsack in a mall parking lot.)

While Pixel Force keeps up with the latest technological advances, Corsack says it’s the company’s creative sensibilities and fearless attitude to make the best product that separates them from their competition.

He says that when he saw the first cuts of “Marilyn’s Man,” he told Krug there were serious problems with the narrative structure. When a New Hampshire auto dealer approached Corsack to make a television commercial, he says he told the dealer “I don’t like auto commercials and I won’t do one like everyone else. Just because budgets are lower, they don’t have to be cheesy.”

The auto dealer agreed and Pixel Force had another client.
Kim Corsack, a former Siamese cat breeder, says the couple’s entrepreneurial zest is something they have shared since they married in 1987.

She cites their parents, who were self-employed business owners, as role models for their work ethics and gift for improvisation.

“It’s our customers who have pushed us to expand to do everything from business cards to Web design. It’s challenging to keep up, but we enjoy everything we do and our clients like working with us because they know we go the distance for them.”

The Corsacks appear to put the publicity generated by “Marilyn’s Man” into perspective. “It’s been a dream of ours to break into the entertainment business, but it’s an extension of what we do. Doing something for a movie is like a business,” Kim says.

Lee Corsack had one of his customers in mind when he watched a draft of the movie with Monroe’s first husband, Jim Dougherty.

“It’s important for me that Jim likes the movie,” he says.

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