The Secrets of Lasting Love

The Secrets of Lasting Love

Byline: Cody Holt

Karen Inwood Somers has learned a thing or two about love and relationships in the last 10 years.

After she divorced her first husband in 1993, Somers says she entered a dark period when she questioned whether she would ever maintain another long-term relationship. After a couple years of soul-searching, three important people entered her life. The first was the man who would answer many of her questions about lasting love, and the other two were renowned animation artist Martha Siegel and her husband Sol. Together, the Siegels supported the emotions that Somers had rediscovered.

“I had fallen in love again, and [the Siegels] were very encouraging,” Somers says. “They said, ‘You can do this. We’ve done it for 35 years.’ Then they proceeded to give me a laundry list of their secrets.”

This list got Somers thinking. She conceived of a project in which she would interview couples who have been together more than 25 years and get them to share the secrets of their longevity on camera. Somers has spent the last two years working on the project, a one-hour documentary called Lasting Love, which will air on PBS during the week of Valentine’s Day.

“It’s definitely a personal project. I’ve been able to put the secrets I learned to use in my own marriage,” says Somers, president of Madison, Inc., the Los Angeles-based boutique production company she founded in 1995 – the same year she met her future husband, whom she married on Oct. 28, 2000. “But while it was very personal for me, the mass appeal is tremendous because everybody has these questions. They want to know how to turn the love of their life into a lasting relationship.”

In addition to candid conversations with the Siegels, the documentary features interviews with one of President Kennedy’s Army intelligence agents and his wife, a gay couple together more than 35 years, a married team of Cuban attorneys, and actor Charlton Heston and his wife Lydia. Somers says she considered 150 couples before deciding who to feature. She also spoke with best-selling author and love/marriage expert Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washing-ton’s Gottman Institute.

Although the project had a small budget – less than $250,000, much of which was funded by American Greetings – Somers wanted the documentary to have the look of film. She decided to use Panasonic’s AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera, which replicates many of the key features of film-based image acquisition, including 24-frame progressive scan images, time-lapse recording, and a wide range of variable frame rates for overcranked and undercranked off-speed, in-camera effects.

“We loved the results, especially the warm, buttery flesh tones,” says Somers, adding that B-Roll footage was captured on Digital Betacam and with Sony’s DSR-PD150. “We certainly achieved the feel of film. In short, we met our visual objectives while working within the constraints of a television budget.”

The documentary was shot on location in several cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Dallas, from July 2001 to August 2002. During that time, Somers rented the HD camera from Bexel’s Burbank and Dallas offices.

In post, the high-definition masters were downconverted to standard-def and then input to a Sonic Foundry Vegas Video NLE system. Accustomed to using Avid editing systems, Somers says this project was the first time she had used a PC-based editor.

“I was very nervous going in, but in the end I was thrilled,” she says. “The whole process worked out wonderfully. We transferred the footage to DigiBeta for PBS, and the transfer looks like it was taken from film to DigiBeta.”

Here’s to happy endings.

Cody Holt is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. Email him at

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