Fortunately for fans of the book, Paterson couldn't be bought by the promise of big dollars or lured by glitzy A-list names: "I wasn't about to give up the heart of this story for easy money—it was more important to me to honor the book and my mother's genius, and also my best friend Lisa Hill—what she gave us was a true gift." Besides, Paterson points out, "I have the ministry sensibility in my blood and we're a patient people."
Now, with positive reviews pouring in from critics around the country, it looks like his patience is finally paying off for both him and the company that finally agreed to make the movie his way, Walden Media.
"One of the reasons it took me 17 years to make it is because I had to wait for Walden to become a company," Paterson enthuses, "Their mantra is to protect the original source material—not just protect it but promote it. They actually want to make movies to get children to read, something a Hollywood executive would never do."
But even with Walden on board, Paterson was careful that the book's narrative be followed to the letter. "I was a Tasmanian devil," he laughs, "so no--there were no changes." Knowing that his now 74-year-old mother would eventually see the final product helped keep him on track: "Had I messed it up I think the family holidays would be fairly uncomfortable," he laughs, "But honestly the story is so good, I wasn't as concerned with my adaptation as with what the studio would do with it. Hollywood has a reputation of interpreting books rather than adapting them. The real issue is if you have a good story you'll probably have a good story on screen."
Asked if he will continue to work as screenwriter or return to his day job as a fire fighter, Paterson expresses uncertainty: "Look, I don't need anything from the entertainment industry. I go to L.A. for meetings, but I find it far more amusing that intimidating. I know in some of these meetings people are lying, and I don't call them on it. I just note it and move along."
Either way, he wryly jokes, "I'm sure down the road there will be some stories in Hollywood about that nasty little ferret David Paterson."
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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