WINCHESTER — A team of independent filmmakers plans to shoot a thriller in Winchester and Frederick County next fall.

The movie, “Mount Skylight,” will be shot and produced entirely in Virginia. Award-winning producer Ryan Cudahy describes the feature film as a “character-driven thriller” that follows a group of recovering addicts who, after returning from a hike in the Shenandoah Valley, discover that everyone in their town has disappeared. They have to figure out what happened, as well as how to survive.

Most of the filming will take place in October in Winchester-Frederick County. The film is slated to be released in October 2021.

Cudahy said in a phone interview that “Mount Skylight” will be “a 100% Virginia film,” with a Virginia cast, crew and locations. He called Winchester-Frederick County “an area of breathtaking beauty” and said it has exactly what his production team wants.

The team hopes “Mount Skylight” attracts more movie production to Virginia.

“We are psyched to shoot in this area, and we cannot wait to get it done,” Cudahy said.

Filming will take two to four weeks.

Right now, team members are trying to raise $75,000 to make the movie. They are talking with investors and holding fundraisers. On March 13, there will be a fundraiser at Escutcheon Brewing in Winchester.

The team has already received a grant from the Magic Lantern Theater, a Winchester-based nonprofit that provides film experiences in the community.

“Mount Skylight” will be directed by James Madison University graduate Taylor McNelis, who is the co-writer along with Tristan Schuler, a University of Arizona graduate student. McNelis is the owner of Wild Lion Productions.

The film’s cast includes Morgan Flanagan, Brendan Gaffey and Mathew Sharpe. Throughout the film, the main characters combat their own struggles with addiction and mental illness. Cudahy said the filmmakers want the characters to be flawed but also to connect with the audience. According to the movie’s synopsis, viewers will leave the theater asking themselves, “What does it mean to be a good person?”

“We felt it was an important story to tell,” Cudahy said. “We all have family members and friends that struggle with addiction, which is why we wanted to really tell this story from that perspective. And hopefully our film will serve as a piece about abandonment that addicts face during recovery.”

For more about the film, visit

— Contact Josh Janney at

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