And the winner is: 2016 Eclipse Awards

The Eclipse Award winners take one final photo together after Thursday's gala.
The Eclipse Award winners take one final photo together after Thursday’s gala. Center, in a blue shirt, is Hyperion Award recipient David Lowing.

It was a night of glam and posh as nominees for the 2016 Eclipse Awards entered the ballroom of Grand Rapids’ City Flats Hotel on Thursday, April 28.


The annual awards are designed to celebrate West Michigan filmmakers and the films they create. A call for entries was made at the end of 2015 with judges from around the globe narrowing the record number of entries down to nominees. Past Eclipse winners were selected to place their votes for winners in each category with those winners being announced last night.


It was a packed house as more than 200 people came to recognize friends, colleagues, and newcomers of the West Michigan film industry, and it was a newcomer whose film garnered the most awards.


Producer DJ Viernes’s film “shehimher,” a seven-minute piece about the blooming relationship between two woman – one who has a son -made his mark on the judges and the West Michigan film community.


Heather Baker-Jason, John Hanson, DJ Viernes, and Jodi Morton from the film "shehimher."
Heather Baker-Jason, John Hanson, DJ Viernes, and Jodi Morton from the film “shehimher.”

“Wow, you know who I am,” Viernes said from the stage as he accepted The Eclipse Award for Best Director. After the event, Viernes said he has mostly been working independently with this being his first time entering The Eclipse Awards.


“John [Hanson] was the one who said ‘hey, there is this local films awards’ and maybe we should enter,” Viernes said. “We had previewed the film at UICA’s Open Projector Night and won that.”


Set all to music, with no dialog, “sheherhim” not only garnered Best Director for Viernes but also Best Original Score for Theo Ndawillie II and Best Narrative Short with Viernes saying, “I dedicate this film to the LGBT community and to those who want to start families.”


Other big winners were Kyle Misak whose film “The Million Dollar Nickel” bought home two awards Best Editing and Best Writing in Produced Content; and Brett Deacon and Evan Hollingsworth won for Best Animation and Best Cinema Trailer.


Alex Bolen and Sophie Bolen. Alex was the presenter for Best Actor which went to his sister, Sophie.
Alex Bolen and Sophie Bolen. Alex was the presenter for Best Actor which went to his sister, Sophie.

The “awww” moment came when Alex Bolen, who won for Best Cinematography and Videography last year, announced this year’s Best Actor winner, his sister Sophie Bolen for “Rodeo Girl.” At 16, Bolen is the youngest to receive an Eclipse Award.


“I was really super surprised,” Alex Bolen said after the event. “I do not think they even knew she was my sister when they asked me to present for that category.”


A special tribute was given to Chuck Peterson who had been the station manager at GRTV and was a freelancer within the film community. Peterson, who was known for his passion for free speech, lost his battle to cancer last June. Local band Soil & Sun performed while images of Peterson appeared on the screen.


This year’s Hyperion Award for Outstanding Leadership in Film, Television, and Production Community recipient was David Lowing, owner of Lowing Light & Grip. Lowing has been involved in the local film industry for about 30 years serving as a leader and mentor to filmmakers and content creators across a wide range of disciplines and formats. He said he was surprised when he first learned he would be receiving the award, which recognizes the contributions of an individual in the  West Michigan film industry, and was honored to have been chosen.


Here is a complete rundown of the winners:


Best Writing in Produced Content
Kyle Misak and Jesse Charles – “The Million Dollar Nickel”


Best Cinematographer
Steve Steketee – “Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park: A Grand Rapids Treasure”


Best Editor
Kyle Misak – “The Million Dollar Nickel”


Best Original Score
Theo Ndawillie II – “shehimher”


Best Narrative Short
DJ Viernes – “shehimher”


Best in Local and Regional Segments and Promotional Pieces
Mallory Patterson and Randy Strobl – “Meet Maren”


Best in Online Programs, Segments and Promotional Pieces
Brian Gotberg and Harper Philbin  – “Lucky Jay”


Best Director
DJ Viernes – “shehimher”


Best Documentary
Josh Reed – “My Personal Pink Time”


Best Animation
Brett Deacon and Evan Hollingsworth – “Project Liberation”


Best Cinema Trailer
Brett Deacon and Evan Hollingsworth – “Project Liberation”


Best in Local TV and Cable
Noah DeSmit – “Cooking with Angus: Mozzarella”


Best Actor
Sophie Bolen – “Rodeo Girl”


Best Music Video of an Original Performance
Tyler Wiewiora – Brian’s Song


Sponsors of the event included WKTV Digital Media, Ferris State University’s TV & Digital Production, West Michigan Film Office, West Michigan Film Alliance, Compass College of Cinematic Arts, and Grand Valley State University’s Film and Video Production. The Eclipse Awards Film Festival featuring films from this year’s event will air later this year in the fall. For more information, visit