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There's a lot of love for Virginia in Albemarle native Ryan Cudahy's new Virginia-based romantic dramedy

In “Written by Mike,” two couples explore the rewards and challenges of love. The romantic dramedy’s creator hopes it will inspire other filmmakers to fall in love with Virginia as a setting for their films.

“I always want to demonstrate why Virginia is a great place to make a film,” filmmaker Ryan Cudahy told The Daily Progress. “We show how beautiful Virginia is in all our films.”

Cudahy is a native of Albemarle County and now lives in Spotsylvania.

While the lives of the characters and the paths of their relationships unfold on the screen in “Written by Mike,” many Virginians will recognize locations in Fredericksburg, Stafford and Culpeper. Virginia mountain scenery also served as a silent character of sorts in Cudahy’s 2019 thriller “Mount Skylight,” which he also launched in Charlottesville.

A screening event for “Written by Mike” is set for 7:30 p.m. April 18 at Alamo Drafthouse Charlottesville, and the Albemarle High School alumnus will be on hand for a question-and-answer session after the screening. Charlotte Wood, who was Cudahy’s film teacher at AHS, also will participate. Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit Region Ten Community Services Board, a Charlottesville-based statewide network of mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse programs.

“I always said I wrote this because my therapist told me to,” Cudahy said with a chuckle. “I was struggling in my life, and my therapist said, ‘You’re a screenwriter. Write about it.’ I wrote the first draft of the script in two days. It wasn’t an easy script to write, but it was a lot of fun.”

If You Go"Written by Mike" Screening and Q&A 7:30 p.m. April 18 Alamo Drafthouse Charlottesville $10; part of proceeds will benefit Region Ten Community Services Board

Although the script got off to a rapid start, the film itself has taken almost five years to get to the screen. Cudahy filmed one couple’s story first and then the second pair’s journey. Taking time helped him stay true to the characters’ stories, instead of rushing the process.

Cudahy said viewers will see the characters, played by Maggie Gough, Matthew Malito, Noah Peterson and Miranda Newman, grow first as individuals and then as romantic partners.

“I really want people to believe in the characters,” Cudahy said. “This story doesn’t work without believable characters. It will make people more empathetic. Is loving someone enough in a relationship to make it work?”

Cudahy calls his film a “romantic dramedy,” but he said there’s plenty of humor in it as well. As he watched a recent preview screening, he was pleased to see audience members become emotionally invested in the characters.

“One scene is with the four characters at a dinner, and it was very cathartic and entertaining to see people [in the audience] crack up,” Cudahy said. “There’s one moment that’s not ‘supposed’ to be funny, and people laughed at it. Once [the scene] got dramatic, they totally bought into it.”

Diners may recognize Grill 309 in Culpeper as the location for some restaurant scenes, and its owner, James Laughorn, long has been a believer in Cudahy’s vision for the project. Cudahy has worked for Laughorn there, and the restaurateur’s support “is a favor I’ll never be able to repay,” the filmmaker said.

Another valued supporter of the new film was longtime friend Kestrel Aceto, who served as producer of “Mount Skylight.” Before Aceto died in 2019, shortly before the debut screening of “Mount Skylight,” she was one of the first people to read Cudahy’s draft script for “Written by Mike,” and he said she encouraged him to push forward and capture the story on film.

“It was five years in the making, if you count now, putting it out,” Cudahy said. “It was a long process, but I believed in this.”


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