March 24, 2020
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Photo: Justin Shipley ’11 reviews a Wrecked script with actors Brian Sacca and Zach Cregger while filming in Puerto Rico in February. (Photo courtesy of TBS)
The Hollywood producer asked Justin Shipley ’11 and his brother Jordan to write “something that’s big and crazy and un-produce-able” — and after they wrote Wrecked, he asked them to produce it.
“It’s a big, crazy show,” Shipley said. “To TBS’s credit, we put a lot in the pilot that we thought: They’ll have us change this or change that because there’s no way they’ll pay for that. And they didn’t have us change anything.”
The first episode of Wrecked airs on TBS Tuesday, June 14, at 10 p.m., with a second episode following at 10:30 p.m. The comedy about survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island is partly a satire of the iconic show Lost, which ran for six seasons in the 2000s.
“Kenyon helped shape my trajectory by encouraging me to take comedy seriously,” Shipley said. “I think a lot of students entered the drama department wanting to really study classic, serious drama, and I was kind of more on the raunchy jokes end of the spectrum. And rather than beating that out of me and replacing it with Chekhov or something, they really encouraged that sensibility.”
During his junior year, Kenyon gave him a semester’s worth of credit to study with the Second City improv comedy troupe in Chicago. He called his senior thesis “Pretentious Senior Thesis” and invited Jonathan Tazewell ’84 P’15, the Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama, and Ben Viccellio ’98, assistant professor of drama, to play themselves in the show. “Looking back on it, the fact that they were so game to do that, it’s pretty cool, and it definitely shaped what I pursued after leaving Kenyon,” Shipley said.
After graduation, he worked as an assistant to actor and director Josh Radnor ’96 on the set of Radnor’s movie Liberal Arts, shot in Gambier. That’s where he met Jesse Hara, one of the film’s producers, who took on Shipley and his brother as clients. After they wrote Wrecked for him, Hara convinced TBS to order a pilot episode. Shipley and his brother were on set to shape the filming of the pilot in Puerto Rico in early 2015, and after seeing it, TBS ordered 10 more episodes.
“We were involved with everything,” including the writing of scripts with a team of four other writers, Shipley said. “Everyone there had more experience than we did. It was a lot less of us leading and more of us learning from these very talented people.”
Now they wait for reviews and ratings to see if TBS orders a second season. Meanwhile, they have signed a deal with TBS to develop other shows, and they are writing a screenplay for a movie.
“We got really lucky, because the goal for a writer really is TV. In TV, the writer is king,” Shipley said. “Of course, we would love to do both [TV and feature movies]. The landscape really has changed. It used to be that writing for features and writing for television were separate. Now everybody is doing everything.”