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The Secrets of Lasting Love

Set to premiere around Valentine’s Day on PBS, LastingLove is more than just another project for its creator, KarenInwood Somers. It’s her desire for the future.

Charlton and Lydia Heston are one of nine couples who Somersfeatures in her documentary exploring the secrets of successful,enduring relationships.

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

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

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

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

“It’s definitely a personal project. I’ve been able to put thesecrets I learned to use in my own marriage,” says Somers,president of Madison, Inc., the Los Angeles-based boutique productioncompany she founded in 1995 — the same year she met her futurehusband, whom she married on Oct. 28, 2000. “But while it wasvery personal for me, the mass appeal is tremendous because everybodyhas these questions. They want to know how to turn the love of theirlife into a lasting relationship.”

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

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

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

The documentary was shot on location in several cities, includingLos Angeles, Miami, New York, and Dallas, from July 2001 to August2002. During that time, Somers rented the HD camera from Bexel’sBurbank and Dallas offices.

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

“I was very nervous going in, but in the end I wasthrilled,” she says. “The whole process worked outwonderfully. We transferred the footage to DigiBeta for PBS, and thetransfer 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