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Movie Deals and Memoir Magic with Kathleen Black

Hiking the El Camino

When award-winning film director M. Douglas Silverstein reached out to Kathleen Black with the intention of turning her memoir Relentless to Rise into a documentary, she initially dismissed it as a mere chance encounter. Never did she imagine she’d walk away with one of those lucrative movie deals.

“I thought he was just saying hi or hitting on me,” Kathleen laughed. “I thought it was just some LA guy doing his shtick.”

For many authors, it’s a dream to have their books secure movie deals and take a trip to Tinseltown, having some big-shot Hollywood producer turn it into a movie on the silver screen. Sure, it’s nice to say your book is now a major picture, but a book-turned-movie can lead to the expansion of an author’s platform, which can lead to more opportunities such as speaking engagements, more clients, and an expanded business. 

It was somewhere along Kathleen’s pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in 2019 when the ideas to write a memoir finally fell into place. Many regard the Camino pilgrimage as a transformative journey, sought by many for its purification properties. Pilgrims undertake the arduous trek as an act of penance and purification, seeking to cleanse themselves of past sins and burdens. 

A Cathartic Journey

“I realized it was literally the heroine’s journey,” she said of the Camino, inspiring her to write of her own past traumas, including surviving physical and emotional abuse, witnessing parental domestic abuse, and becoming homeless at fifteen.

The act of writing a memoir necessitated a similar pilgrimage within herself as she revisited painful memories and embarked on a path of self-reflection and healing. In both cases, the objective was purification—a journey of letting go, processing, and ultimately liberating oneself from the weight of the past. 

So when it came time to put pen to paper, she returned to Difference Press, with whom she published her first bestselling book, The Top 1% Life

Movie Deals and Book Number Two

“Writing the book, Relentless to Rise, was really hard,” she said. “I feel like I had a lot of writer’s block because I just had trouble getting to the core of the story.” 

The key, though, as Dr. Angela Lauria teaches through the Difference Press writing process, is to not simply tell your story, as some might think; rather, the goal is to write your story as it relates to one specific reader’s struggles. Doing so not only allows you to share your story in a more focused and intentional way, but it also allows you to connect with more readers. 

But even after Kathleen realized the director, M., was serious when he asked to turn Relentless to Rise into a documentary, Kathleen was still in disbelief that she scored one of those movie deals others always talk about. She was unsure if the book would ever work as a movie—part due to the complexities of the varying storylines, part because of how deeply personal and traumatic those storylines were for Kathleen. 

M.Douglass with Kathleen Black

“I think M. was looking for one storyline and found nine storylines and then said what do I do with this,” Kathleen said, explaining that the more they talked and explored the idea, the more she realized the project would require collaboration and trust. “I realized I’m not the director, so I had to trust him… The process required a lot of integrity, always asking, ‘Is it honest? Does it have appeal to the masses?’ But also, is it still authentic?”

And just like with writing the book, Kathleen committed to vulnerability.

“If I wasn’t going to be honest and share the hard stuff, I wasn’t going to write the book.” 

Speaking to Your Audience, Inspiring Change

The joy of creating a documentary, though, is that you work with a team that can extract the best of you, ensuring that the final product will, just like a book, speak directly to the audience in a way that inspires change. Kathleen recalled a promotional interview she participated in where the interviewer explained just how much the documentary inspired him. 

“He said, ‘Kathleen, I watch a ton of documentaries, and I have to tell you, there are tons of inspirational documentaries. The difference with yours is that it’s also aspirational. You make me feel like, yeah, why wouldn’t I do something?’”

The impact of the documentary, titled The Relentless One, is clearly vast. 

The Relentless One

“It hasn’t debuted in Canada yet,” Kathleen said, noting that the film has only screened in select countries. “And now it’s been touring film festivals for over a year. It’s got like twenty awards now and even two Emmy nominations. It’s traveled all over Europe, all over North America.”

Bigger Than She Expected

Even better, all of the work put into the documentary has helped Kathleen with her bigger goals: to help people on a larger scale. 

“I always say when your ship comes into harbor, get on the ship because if you don’t it will go on to another harbor. Getting on the “book ship” led to the documentary, and the documentary led to a new keynote.” 

The new keynote, entitled Shift,” helps businesses move to collaborative, conscious leadership and away from hierarchical leadership.

“This keynote isn’t a talk, and it’s not a training,” Kathleen explained. “It’s an experience. It’s literally being able to experience something with an audience of a couple thousand people where they’re able to do the work together, which I used to only get with one-on-one coaching clients. So I mean, that’s my biggest work, having a much bigger impact.”

Kathleen Black

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Case Study: Navigating the Business of Writing

Explore Sophia’s fascinating journey from
couch surfing to 2 bestselling books

By opting in, you’re joining our vibrant community! Expect 2-3 weekly newsletters packed with curated content, exclusive updates, and valuable insights to fuel your journey. Welcome to the conversation!

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