The role of a producer can be a strange one. You begin, as R.W. “Bob” Goodwin did, in the mailroom. You work your way up. You look back at each rung, and see that you have created a ladder that leads into clouds. You keep climbing until you’ve reached some vague sense of the top. But for Goodwin, that linear progression toward some Hollywood Vallhalla wasn’t in those clouds at the top rung — Bellingham was. Goodwin had produced Inside Moves, written by Barry Levinson and directed by Richard Donner. He had produced Star Trek: Phase II. He had also produced a lovely madefor-television movie called The Girl Who Spelled Freedom about a Cambodian refugee in the 1970s who went from knowing zero English to winning the national spelling bee. That was Goodwin’s first shoot in Vancouver, where he saw a lot of possibility for filmmakers long before Vancouver became Hollywood North.
With The X-Files recent revival series, it’s hard not to think of our local connection to the groundbreaking show — Goodwin is best known for producing, directing, and writing for the show. But it was hardly a sure bet for him. Goodwin left the smog and glamour of Los Angeles for Bellingham in 1993. He and his wife, actress Sheila Larken (who played Mulder’s mother on The X-Files, settled here and have grown deep roots in our area ever since.
At the time, their move seemed pretty eccentric to their Hollywood connections. “I had told everyone we were leaving L.A., and everyone — my agent, my lawyer, my friends — thought I’d never work again.” Shortly after his move north, he and Larken were on vacation in London when he got the call from Fox about a new series. He couldn’t refuse. He crafted a very specific aesthetic for the show, with inspiration from the painter Caravaggio, whose painting The Calling of Saint Matthew is the driving aesthetic force behind the unique look of The X-Files. And it was Goodwin’s. “That painting is what I showed the cast, the production designer, the cinematographer, everyone.” The first season was rough. “We had a different director for each episode, and I had to follow them, re-shoot what they messed up and shoot what they missed.” It was an exhausting first season, but Goodwin stuck with the show, and with his vision. “It’s like doing a major movie every eight days.”
When outlining the recipe for the success that The X-Files followed, Goodwin points to one underlying theme: talent. He is proud of the great actors, great directors, and a great script with a talented, energetic writer attached to it that created The X-Files world. Chris Carter and Goodwin interacted well, despite what sounds like some pretty heavy tension — Chris Carter would dream up wild scenarios involving large equipment like nuclear submarines or trains, and Goodwin would have to make it happen without being able to rely on special effects. The crew built everything, from box cars to submarines. “A director was in the script room one time, and he asked Chris, ‘But how are you going to do that in three days?’ Chris answered, ‘Oh, don’t worry. Bob will figure it out.’” Only once did Goodwin have to say no to Carter’s wild vision. The two worked well together, and though Goodwin doesn’t miss the stress of running multiple film crews and puzzling through how to make a submarine break through a polar ice cap, he does miss the people. “I miss the camaraderie of working with everyone.”
After he left The X-Files, he took an offer from his friend Jim Swift to direct Alien Trespass. Swift is the owner of Acme Farms, Rocket Donuts, and Fat Pie Pizza. A fun throwback to sci-fi B movies, Alien Trespass stars Jenni Baird, who has worked in film and television, and Erick McCormack of Will & Grace fame. “I told Jim that people were going to laugh. He said that was okay, so I agreed to do it with him.” But that appears to be Goodwin’s last big cinematic venture. “I never say never,” he said. “But yeah, it’s too stressful.”
Through The X-Files and all the work he’s done since 1993, Goodwin has also worked hard for the community. He has taught filmmaking and television production at Western Washington University. He served as the executive director of the Northwest Discovery Project, which was founded in 1992 to create and promote educational opportunities in the area of environmental stewardship. The centerpiece of their mission was the TerrAquarium, a high-concept facility that would give the public access to marine life, both actual and virtual. The giant Orca Auditorium would be a massive virtual display that would immerse visitors in Orca habitat. He is currently on the board of the Bellingham Festival of Music. He is particularly proud of the Festival, and the quality of the musicians that it attracts every year. “Sheila and I have been going since it started in 1993. The first time we went, we couldn’t believe it. Our jaws dropped.” The key ingredient, again, is talent. “Michael Palmer is just so talented, and his orchestra is the cream of the crop. There isn’t a weak link in the group.” His dream is to market the Bellingham Festival of Music to a national — or even international — audience. “We want to build it and create it as a destination event.” Whatever becomes of it, with Goodwin on the team, it’s sure to succeed. He’s brilliant at taking the raw materials and scattered pieces and building something lasting and meaningful.