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Lynn native Chris Goodwin’s screenplay about Vanilla Ice named to Black List


Chris Goodwin, who grew up in Lynn, works in the film industry in Los Angeles. His screenplay,"To the Extreme," a biopic of rapper Vanilla Ice, was named to the influential Black List.

Vanilla Ice

Rapper Vanilla Ice is the subject of "To the Extreme," a screenplay by Lynn native Chris Goodwin that was named to the prestigious Black List.

“Ice Ice Baby” has helped make Chris Goodwin white-hot in the film industry.

Goodwin, who grew up in Lynn, recently found out that his screenplay for “To the Extreme,” a biopic about rapper Vanilla Ice, made the prestigious Black List, an annual tally of the favorite unproduced scripts in Hollywood. More than 300 film executives were asked for the 10 favorite scripts they had received in 2018. “To the Extreme,” co-written with Goodwin’s business partner Phillip Van, was one of 73 projects that made the list.

More than 250 films that have appeared on the Black List have been made into films, including “Manchester by the Sea,” “The Social Network,” “I,  Tonya,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Films produced from Black List scripts since 2005 have received 241 Academy Award nominations.

Goodwin said he was “surprised, shocked” by the Black List nod. “We didn’t expect it. We felt great for a couple of days. … then realized we had to figure out what’s next. We’ll see what happens.

“My family and friends in Lynn are excited. They want me to be happy, to have a stable life in an unstable industry. There are a lot of people here from Boston and Marblehead and Peabody in the film industry. We help and support each other.”

Goodwin is reluctant to talk about “To the Extreme,” worried that too much information might jeopardize its chances of getting made. But numerous media sources have reported that Dave Franco (“21 Jump Street”) is slated to star once a director is selected.

For Goodwin, who has been fighting the good fight in L.A. for more than 10 years, this recognition is the reward for perseverance and hard work.

“My friends in comedy tell me it takes 10 years to get good at stand-up and that writing is the same. It’s a process, a long journey. They tell me to be patient.”

Goodwin got his start at the Item, writing obituaries and covering Marblehead. “That was the first professional writing job I had. Writing obits helped when I started writing screenplays. An obituary made me look at and focus on a person. When it came to character development, there was no better training.

“My mom, I think, was upset when I left the Item to go to film school,” said Goodwin. “I got to write one film review a week for the Item. I was 20 years old and I was going to movies at the Copley cinema, sitting next to Jay Carr of the Globe and James Verniere of the Herald.”

Goodwin graduated from English High and Salem State College, and grew up on Essex Street and Melvin Street in Lynn. Goodwin’s dad, Roy, owned a diner on Lewis Street and a catering company. His mom, Linda, is retired head clerk in the city of Lynn’s Parking Department. At age 10, Chris started busing and washing dishes at the diner.

“In my downtime at the diner, I would read film reviews. My mom gave me a subscription to Premiere magazine, and that really got me into movies.”

Goodwin’s parents frequently took him to movie theaters throughout the North Shore. He watched tons of videocassettes from Photographics in Vinnin Square and Blockbuster on Highland Avenue in Salem. His mom would drive him, and he’d spend an hour and a half talking to the staff about movies.

At age 22, Goodwin moved cross-country, enrolling in Chapman University film school in Orange, Calif., about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. “It was tough, being so far from home, but I’m glad I followed my dream. It took longer for things to happen than I expected, but it worked out.”

He wrote and made a bunch of short films at school, then got an internship at DreamWorks Animation and Amblin Entertainment, both founded by Steven Spielberg. He moved to L.A. His job of development assistant involved reading lots of books in manuscript form and sharing his opinion with decision-makers.

“Our office was next to Spielberg’s. Stars like Tom Cruise would always be walking around. Talk about culture shock. It was great, and a bunch of us watched the Red Sox 2007 World Series in (Spielberg’s) office,” said Goodwin.

“I would make the phone calls for my boss, and I’d get to listen in and hear producers and filmmakers and others talk about a movie and ways to make it work. It was invaluable. But I wanted to be a writer and not an executive.”

He stayed busy and “bopped around” on various writing jobs, until 2015 when he got into comedy writing for animated series “Lucas Bros. Moving Co.” on Fox and “China, IL” on Adult Swim.

A script agent put him in touch with Phillip Van, an award-winning writer-director, and the two teamed up on the Vanilla Ice biopic. The duo is working on a new project, a dramatic comedy.

Goodwin said he gets home for Christmas and a few days every summer. “I miss Lynn. I miss Boston. I miss my sister, niece, brother-in-law, mom and dad. I miss the snow. Since I’ve been away I’ve missed four World Series, and the Patriots and the Celtics.

“When I left Lynn for film school, there was no film industry in Boston. Today it’s flourishing. I’ve often thought, if I was growing up today I might not have had to move out of Massachusetts. But then I think of all the experiences I would have missed.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done. It took longer to sell a script than I thought, but I’m proud I stuck with it. My family and friends are all about hard work, and I have that work ethic, too. There were days when I had 40 bucks in my bank account and would get discouraged. But I know I can write and I have a great support system and a nice team of people around me. My girlfriend, Lisa, is a programmer of short films for Sundance. We support each other as well. I’m in the right place.”

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