Lesley Paterson occasionally finds that her two careers coincide in a convenient way while she runs in the hills and moors of her home country of Scotland.
Paterson, a professional triathlete and screenwriter, has long lived two lives that appear to be worlds apart. However, the occasional burst of inspiration can serve as the foundation for her best film script ideas during the quiet moments of a windswept run or a long bike ride.
She includes those opening scenes in the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 anti-war novel of the same name, “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
The majority of the action takes place in the film’s opening scenes in the First World War’s trenches before we are swiftly transported to a German provincial town. There, Paul Bäumer, the story’s protagonist and a young army recruit, notices that the name tag on his new uniform belongs to another soldier.
The soldier appears to have been killed in the war and his uniform has been recycled, unbeknownst to Bäumer, who is awkwardly informed that the clothes were too small for their intended recipient.
Paterson tells CNN Sport, “It really sort of encapsulates the entire message of the film – that the uniform is more important than the man.”
“It’s one of those times when you know it’s good and think, ” Where did this come from, oh my god?’ It makes you feel so fortunate that you thought of it.
Prescient was the scene, which was first imagined while running in the Scottish Highlands. Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine complained last year that they didn’t have enough basic equipment and had to buy their own uniforms.
According to Paterson, “if we can hold up a mirror to what’s going on to try to prevent more from happening, that truly is my goal as a storyteller – to effect change.”
“All Quiet,” which first appeared on screen nearly a century ago in a beloved Hollywood film, eschews any notions of heroism or adventure in favor of the tragedy and destruction of war.
The option to the rights was granted to Paterson and his co-writer Ian Stokell in 2006. However, it would not be until 2020 before Netflix ordered the film in German.
The final product, which features a brand-new narrative arc centered on the Armistice Talks between German and French officials, vividly depicts the agony and bloodshed of the first mechanized war in history.
It has received nine Oscar nominations, including one for best adaptation of a screenplay, and a record-breaking fourteen BAFTA nominations.
The Oscars will be held on March 13 and the BAFTA awards ceremony will be held on Sunday. These two events will bring an end to years of hard work, stress, and stubborn determination for Paterson.
She was a five-time world champion in two off-road triathlon formats. When it came time to renew the option contract each year, she relied on her sporting career as a source of income, even to the point where she forced herself to race despite suffering from acute pain and injury.
That was in 2016, when Paterson broke her shoulder the day before she was to compete in Costa Rica after falling off her bike. She began looking for a solution, overwhelmed by pain and partially devastated by the thought of not racing.
She was able to ride her bike with her arm propped on the handlebars with the assistance of her husband and her physiotherapist, leaving only the mile-long sea swim to consider.
“I do a ton of one-arm drills,” says Paterson. ” I have a very powerful leg kick and have always been very good at it. I was like, “I practiced in the ocean.” I can do it with one arm, so let’s try it.
Paterson took the lead on the 10-kilometer run after making up ground on the 40-kilometer mountain bike section after finishing the swim 15 minutes behind the rest of the field.
She says, “I just kind of kept going.” It was merely a test of perseverance and creative thinking when I fled into the forest. I had to finish something.
The experience, which could have been the subject of a movie, was representative of Paterson’s approach to triathlon throughout her life.
She states, “I don’t know if that’s the kind of Scottish underdog mentality or if it’s just really that I’m driven by a joy and passion and not so worried about outcomes.” I’m an athlete with a lot of heart and passion.
Paterson has primarily competed in the XTERRA cross-triathlon series, which she describes as “all off-road, muddy, gritty, and out in nature.” At the beginning of her career, she and Great Britain failed to qualify for the Olympics.
Competing in races and winning them became a welcome financial boost for her when she moved to California in her twenties to pursue film studies, especially as she tried to get “All Quiet” off the ground.
According to Paterson, “every year we had to weigh the option payment was incredibly stressful because it’s a lot of money.”
“Being successful in racing was a big part of that because you could get a lump sum of money that you weren’t expecting,” I said. We funded the film in large part through my racing success. It was a tremendous motivator.
Paterson has seen her two careers become curiously intertwined over the years. She claims that her love for her work and obsessive attention to detail have motivated her to channel the same amount of enthusiasm and energy into both fields.
“I’ve always had these two passions at the same time: the athlete and artist in me,” states Paterson.
People often think they are very different, but in reality, they are very, very similar in terms of the skills you develop and use and the ways in which one can assist the other. I would say that I truly am the athlete and artist I am because I am both athletes.
Paterson says that she frequently “looks for the biggest challenge and just kind of jumps in,” whether she’s writing scripts or playing sports.
She chose to tackle “All Quiet” at a time when war films were out of style in the industry, which may be explained by the fact that she played rugby until the age of 12 as the only girl in a team of boys.
With the release of Sam Mendes’ “1917” four years ago, particularly, the tide has slowly turned in her favor on that front.
Furthermore, in light of the increasing popularity of foreign-language films, producers Malte Grunert and Edward Berger suggested promoting “All Quiet” in German rather than English.
“There’s a validness – it’s their story, it’s their public novel, it’s as it should be that it’s in German,” says Paterson.
Especially now that Paterson is 42 and her racing career is almost over, the popularity of “All Quiet” may change her life. She continues to coach triathlon, but she plans to spend more time making movies in the future.
Paterson will continue to be guided by the same straightforward philosophy no matter what she does next.
She states, “It’s focusing on the mastery of the craft rather than the outcomes – that was a huge learning curve for me.”
“The beauty comes from being in the present with where you are at, as long as you have incredible passion and focus and stop thinking about where you want to be.”