There’s no logic to a career in showbiz, but some paths are more surprising than others. Lesley Paterson, one of the screenwriters of the German-language film “All Quiet on the Western Front”, is a world champion triathlete, born and raised in Scotland.
Paterson – who competed for 15 years as a professional and a five-time world champion – says her career makes more sense than it seems.
“I grew as an athlete and an artist at the same time,” she says. “Screenwriting is an exercise in discipline and dealing with failure. Success in sports and in film comes if you focus on the craft, not necessarily the result.
In both areas, “self-analysis is essential to success; it is casting and craftsmanship. Being a triathlete is a form of meditation: you spend hours alone. A lot of my creative juices came from those hours.
“Western Front” is Germany’s international entry to the Oscars; it’s also buzzing in other categories, including the screenplay adaptation by Paterson, Ian Stokell and director Edward Berger, from the Erich Maria Remarque classic.
In 2006, Paterson and Stokell read the novel and thought it was ripe for modern interpretation, following the Oscar-winning 1930 film and a 1979 American television version.
They were stunned to find that no one owned the rights, since Universal had let them expire.
The duo pitched their ideas to the Estate of Remarque in 2006. They spent 16 years trying to get it off the ground; “It’s hard to be on the outside, when you’re no-name writers,” Paterson says.
She and her husband Simon Marshall, a neuroscientist then based in San Diego, “mortgaged our house and borrowed thousands of dollars to tell this story. So many writers and producers give up. But you just carry on.
This is another case where endurance training paid off.
“We went through a lot of different directors and actors, and it was finance/no finance; we were a little at the end of our tether. However, the script reached German director Berger, who was enthusiastic. Berger liked their angle.
Paterson says: “It’s very much about the futility of war, of course, and the betrayal of the younger generation, with a historical context where you look at the powers that pull all the strings.
“The book is written like excerpts from a diary and we felt that dramatic tension was needed.” So they introduced the idea of a countdown for the last six hours of the war.
Berger streamlined their work “and added a German perspective, to lend authenticity.
“We have decided to present this film as a German-language film at the Berlin Film Market in 2020,” she says. “Everybody wanted him” because of Berger’s reputation.
Her athletic background also prepared her for the male-dominated international film industry; in her youth, she was the only girl in a 250-member rugby club.
Paterson and her husband Marshall wrote a book together in 2017, “The Brave Athlete,” about brain training for athletes, but it clearly has lessons for others, including screenwriters. Both careers are about “dealing with constant failures”. She and Marshall now produce films together.
Paterson likes his manager. “He elevated our script, which is always your hope as a writer. I think we were blown away by the beauty of the film. We were very happy with the result. »