How I Survived, Then Thrived: Debs Paterson, Willow Director: THE BIG SWING PODCAST

How I Survived, Then Thrived: Debs Paterson, Willow Director: THE BIG SWING PODCAST
Debs Paterson is now one of the UK's most prominent female drama directors

The FIVE most brilliant quotes from our brand new podcast episode

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Listen to our remarkable conversation in full here

Debs Paterson is a multi-award-winning director of premier drama shows - especially fantasy and sci-fi - for the likes of Netflix, Showtime and now Disney+.

Check out her work helming the resurrection of the Willow saga.

But her journey to the top required exceptional levels of resilience, persistence and positivity.

Debs had to recover from a near-death experience and rebuild her career from scratch; not once, but twice.

Even then, the success she wanted nearly eluded her.

If you need to listen to an inspiring story of possibility in the face of adversity, then this is the one for you.

Debs was raised by parents who were missionaries, so it was when she was at a friend's house as a teenager that she saw the film that changed her destiny:

So like watching Orlando, I didn't really know what it was, but I was blown away because the main character was like this woman who then was jumping into another life and she was a man... and then it got to the end and a girl's name had directed it. I was like, Oh, oh, cool. All right. Well, that's what I want to do

But Debs' life changed dramatically on a dark night in November:

I was 25. I was driving a friend home from a conference in Derbyshire.  Evidently we had this head on collision that neither of us remember... Woke up two days later in intensive care. My last memory is turning off the M1, which is an hour away from where the crash happened...  All I know is next thing was I was inside a dream and in like, a corridor in my head. And there were loads of doors. And I knew I was in a dream because, like, if I went through the doors, it wasn't like a hotel room or something on the other side. It was like a world, you know, like a forest with some kind of weird element to it.

Debs' life was saved by an amazing team of medics, but her recovery was slow and hard. But she managed to find positives, even from the visible scarring on her face:

That.. relates to perfectionism as well.  The Leonard Cohen line, there's cracks and everything. That's where the light gets in. It was just trying to understand the imperfections of the things that make things brilliant. Like like flow is what you need, not perfection, you know? Right. And I don't think I'd understood that before... The thrill of wearing your story in such a way that people can ask about it rather than not knowing that it's there. Like it just flipped it completely in my head.

It took years for Debs to heal, and then she decided to follow her dream and made a short drama about a shooting at a school in Rwanda. But with no distribution, she had to improvise to get it onto the big screen:

My sister just ran round screening houses until somebody at BAFTA said, Oh yeah, you can screen it here, we won't charge you any money. So we did a full-on BAFTA screening, and that was the moment of realising like, this does work and it's having an effect on people. And some producers came to that and then said, We want to do more stuff

Debs' career moved into another gear, directing her first full feature film, AFRICA UNITED, and then directing multiple TV dramas. But the work dried up, and aged 39, Debs was asked if she wanted to direct a behind-the-scenes documentary on the set of the upcoming Star Wars movie for J.J Abrams:

I asked around about JJ and everybody said he's one of the really good ones.  And I don't know, the idea of like being around somebody who is a really good human being and doing massive stuff... I was like, I can't not do this. And who am I kidding? Like Star Wars, man? Star Wars. They're going to pay me to be on a Star Wars set for seven months. Are you joking?

To hear what happened next, you'll have to listen to the full episode.

I really loved speaking with Debs about her astonishing story. She is a brilliant example of what you can achieve if you never give up.

Please give the episode a listen on THE BIG SWING PODCAST

And if you like it, why not share it with a friend?

Thanks so much 🥰

Sam Barcroft

Sam Barcroft

Creative entrepreneur and strategist with over 30 years experience of building media businesses