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WRECK | Horror-comedy series to hit screens filmed at former Michelin factory in Ballymena

Wreck, a horror-comedy series filmed 'onboard' an especially-built cruiseship set at the former Michelin factory in Ballymena, is set to hit tv screens this month.

Word that the location was being used by a production crew of a different kind came to light back at the beginning of this year during a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Direct Services Committee, when the borrowing of equipment was discussed.

The series, was commissioned in 2021 by the BBC and written by up-and-coming writer Ryan J. Brown, follows nineteen-year-old new recruit, Jamie, as he joins the crew in search of his missing sister.

She was working aboard the same vessel on a previous tour and never made it home. Jamie is initiated into cruise life and gets a crash course on the teen tribes within the staff: the theatre kids, the drop-outs, the low-paid workers from developing nations.

For this overworked and underpaid crew, life below deck is an odyssey of partying and excess… and they remain oblivious to the bloodthirsty murders taking place on board. Jamie is forced to turn detective and uncover the sinister truth that runs as wide and deep as the ocean he’s trapped on.

Filming took place in the cold expanse of the former tyre production plant in the town during last winter, as well as at the Waterfront Hall and on the SS Nomadic, part of the Titanic Museum in Belfast.

Asked how he came to film in a disused tyre factory, show writer Ryan Brown said:

"We explored filming on board a cruise ship but building sets meant we had complete creative control, designed by the amazing John Leslie, which we wouldn’t have had on an actual cruise ship. What our director Chris Baugh has managed to do is insane, let alone during a pandemic. I don’t think I’ve seen a BBC Three show like it before."

“Love being on set” - social media post from Wreck creator Ryan J Brown on 28 January 2022, filming at the height of the pandemic and in the cold of winter.

Talking about this journey with 'Wreck', Ryan shared:

"I don’t think anyone has tried to tackle a slasher series on UK TV. With Wreck, I wanted to create a loud, proud monster that didn’t compromise. A show that was inspired by the horror films I love, whilst also carving out its own identity.

"When I pitched a horror-comedy set on an international cruise ship …oh, and a series that would open with a killer dressed as a duck…I never expected anyone to jump at the idea. But Euston Films, led by Noemi Spanos, jumped in head first. And then I met director Chris Baugh - we were both big fans of the genre and had an immediate creative shorthand. Chris is a crazy talented director and we had a shared vision from the off.

"Our leads Oscar Kennedy (Jamie) and Thaddea Graham (Vivian) then attached and the stars had officially aligned. I can't say enough amazing things about our team and in particular Oscar and Thaddea. Both of them are so comedically excellent but also emotionally resonant in such a thrilling way. Jamie and Vivian’s friendship is so special to watch - a male and female allegiance we rarely see. The bond they form is the heart of our show. Both characters have run away from home and found each other at a crucial coming-of-age time. They are found family."

Lead actress Thaddea Graham, who hails from Northern Ireland, said she couldn't put the script down

"A lot of the time, scripts start strongly then the momentum dips. Wreck comes in at 10, then goes to 12, down to 11, up to 14… I couldn’t put it down," Thaddea said.

"My friend was auditioning before I knew about it and asked me to help with the Irish accent, so we read the first episode and it was amazing! He told me it was shooting in Northern Ireland and they were looking for a Chinese Mancunian, but I had faith in my agent and after a couple of days she sent me the breakdown just as I was sending a message to her about it.

"What I love about this show is that you come as you are. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what walk of life or whether you’ve been on a cruise before, the characters take you at face value because none of that other stuff matters in the middle of the ocean – I’d never really seen that before. Plus, I’d never seen a killer duck."

Speaking about the filming set, Thaddea added:

"We were shooting in an abandoned tyre factory in Ballymena in Northern Ireland during the winter, so it was cold!

"We also went on location which was bizarre, having grown up in a lot of the places that we ended up shooting in. It was my dream to be on stage at the Waterfront Hall, a big concert venue where I used to see shows when I was little, and sure enough we shot on it. We also shot on the Nomadic, a tender that used to take people out to the Titanic. The company who built it tried to make it look really glamorous, so we filmed on there for a lot of the deck scenes – that was a real honour."

Writer Ryan Brown concluded:

"I want Wreck to be enjoyed in different ways; as a piece of genre entertainment, a love letter to horror and as a rallying cry. 

"Wreck explores the displacement many young people feel regarding their place in life, sold down the river, especially post-pandemic, whilst also taking aim at the farcical nature of elitist industries and the partying rich exploiting the poor. By the end of the series, our gang realise they’re part of something bigger than themselves, something adults always struggle to see, and in that moment, something beautiful happens.

"Our central message is about the power of oppressed people uniting, and in particular young people being a force to be reckoned with."

Wreck premieres on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from October 9 at 10pm.


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