Grand Rapids has an overwhelmingly talented and robust filmmaking community. Plenty of talented filmmakers emerge from and travel to Grand Rapids to be a part of this vibrant and growing group. We can credit this partially to the eight higher education programs in West and Central Michigan focused on filmmaking at:

To honor this community, Wyoming/Kentwood Television (WKTV) rolled out the red carpet for the sixth annual Eclipse Awards, a regional award ceremony honoring film, television, and online productions by local filmmaking professionals. Tom Norton, executive director of WKTV, created the Eclipse Awards not simply to lavish extravagance on the content creators, but to honor their work by offering exposure and public acknowledgment.

Audience at the 2017 Eclipse Awards
Attendees await the announcement of the 2017 Hyperion Award winner. Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Film Festival

Attendees included over 150 regional filmmaking industry professionals whose work was nominated for an Eclipse Award. These award nominees had been selected by a group of judges from a collection of filmmakers’ submissions. This year’s competition received 122 unique entries. From those entries, judges narrowed it down to 92 nominations for roughly 60 individuals.

Though some regional filmmakers passed on the opportunity to enter the competition, those who participate are rewarded for their work with A-list star treatment. Nominees and guests dressed to the nines as they filled the elegantly decorated ballroom. Imagine the Oscars but in West Michigan.

John Harper Philbin accepting awared at the 2017 Eclipse Awards
GVSU professor John Harper Philbin accepts the award for Best Screenplay. Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Film Festival.

Among the 2017 stars were some regional industry staples like John Harper Philbin of GVSU fame. Professor Philbin champions the GVSU Summer Film Project, which produces a web series called Lucky Jay. The second season was nominated for four Eclipse Awards and won Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Morlan Higgins.

The star of Lucky Jay, Michael McCallum, a Lansing native, owns Rebel Pictures, whose projects Confidence of a Tall Man and Wake were nominated for awards. Actress Laura Walczak won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for her work in Wake, which was produced as part of a workshop for the 2014 Grand Rapids Film Festival (GRFF).

Michael McCallum and Laura Walczak at the 2017 Eclipse Awards
Michael McCallum and Laura Walczak celebrate a win. Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Film Festival

The awards ceremony also greeted a few new faces to the filmmaking community. Dennis Nagelkirk’s debut short documentary A Welcoming Space: The Story of Room for All is a challenging piece chronicling the Christian Reformed Church's response to marriage equality.

Kyle Misak, a Kalamazoo resident, received a tie win for Best Director in a Feature for his short film Crazy Carl, featuring actor Creed Bratton from The Office fame. Crazy Carl tied with Hold On, a student work by Andrew Behm from GVSU. The film depicts a couple working through a trying time in their relationship. Nathan Roels, another student winner, received Best Documentary Short for his Calvin College piece, Renardo. In this film, a murderer finds redemption from an unexpected source.

Crazy Carl film movie poster
Spot a familiar face in Kyle Misak's Crazy Carl. Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Film Festival

The call for entries for the 2018 Eclipse Awards opens in October, and the coming year will likely yield an entirely different cast of filmmakers. Nominees from past years form the panel of judges who watch and score the submissions. This community of filmmakers has grown to include more than 300 voting members. View the full photo gallery from Eclipse Awards events for a glimpse of this community.  

For a full list of Eclipse Awards categories and winners as well as more information about the ceremony, see a recap of the event here. Looking for film events in the area? Check out the Experience Grand Rapids event calendar for all upcoming events.