“It wanted to keep the film light, yet informative,” she says, during an interview while in Florida to promote the film. “I wanted to have fun doing it, but I also wanted the viewer to be engaged as they watched it. I wanted them to walk away knowing they had learned something.”
With clips from such famous TV shows as Leave It To Beaver, to others that were known to depict marriage as a fantasyland, Secrets is enjoyable and helpful without making us feel as if we were reading from a textbook about marriage.
Born and raised in Georgia, and after spending quite a bit of time living in Alaska, Donahue graduated from a California college with a degree in journalism and now calls Sacramento, California her home. Along the way in making the film, she met former Mrs. Mike Tyson, Robin Givens, and Dr. John Gray, the author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, as well as some other important and influential experts from the relationship/marriage arena.
As for being called the “Love Doctor,” and answering questions about love from friends, Donahue is quick to say, “I get a kick out of it; I don’t mind at all,” laughs the daughter of a pilot and a retired teacher, who had a great marriage.
Here’s a closer look at Donahue and the film which is sure to become a staple for married couples, as well as singles.
Q: Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
A: I didn't have a goal to be a filmmaker. I knew I loved film, but I kind of stumbled into it through friends.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I started out as an assistant casting director and then I became a producer for short films and it progressed from there. I went back to school to get my journalism degree because I knew I had a special passion for educational film.
Q: Did you have any unusual difficulties during filming?
A: Funding is particularly difficult when it is your first full length feature documentary at the helm.
Q: What lessons did you learn as a filmmaker and what advice do you have for first-time filmmakers?
A: Don't be afraid to surround yourself by people who are better than you. I found that hiring people who have been in the industry longer and with more experience challenged me to grow in ways that I never expected. I believe in using everyone's expertise to their fullest and by doing that, you can make a much better film.
Q: Will winning an award help your career and help promote your film?
A: Yes, winning an award has already helped me get distribution.
Q: Tell us about how it is being distributed and by whom?
A: This is still not solidified because there are several offers on the table.
Q: What's your next project?
A: That is a secret. Although, I have pitched a film that will be funded in the next few weeks and it is very exciting.
Q: Were the couples in the film personal friends?
A: No. I never met the couples prior to filming them. I didn't have a large budget where I could have a day to test what they would be like on camera so; it was very exciting to have it all work out!
Q: How did you go about choosing them?
A: I found the couples through word-of-mouth. I wanted couples that went through some really tough times and made it through those tough times, so I could see how they accomplished what I didn't.
Q: Do any of the women resemble you?
A: No. I think they all have certain difficulties that I can relate to, but they don't resemble me.
Q: How long did it take to make the film?
A: About 2 1/2 years from conception through filming.
Q: How much money did it cost?
Q: Where was it shot?
A: Denver and California
Q: What was the best part of making it?
A: Seeing something you envision come to fruition.
Q: The most challenging?
A: Funding ... always a challenge.
Q: Did it turn out the way you envisioned it?
A: Yes and no. I had some other ideas that I wanted to do with the film but because I didn't have more money; I just couldn't make it happen.
Q: Are you more informed now about love and relationships?
A: Yes. This film has really changed my life. I can now really weed through those that I date much more effectively than I could before.
Q: Is there a main message or a lesson to be learned from this film that viewers should take with them?
A: Yes! Marriage education is an important part of having a good successful relationship that can last.
Q: What is your personal background?
A: I was a stay-at-home mother until I went through a divorce which forced me into the workplace. I followed my passion which was film and the desire to change lives through film that can make a difference.
Q: Do you have a full time job?
A: Promoting this film and doing PR work
Q: Is Robin Givens a friend? How did you land her for the film?
A: She has become a friend. When I read her book Grace will Lead Me Home, I thought it correlated perfectly with what I was trying to convey in film about how the brain is affected by our parental relationships. She comes from three generations of women in her family who were abused and that is because of how brain patterns affect our relationship choices.
Q: How is this film different than others on the same topic?
A: I haven't seen many films on this exact topic.
Q: The film had a happy ending?
A: Yes. The couples all got back together, and viewers learned more about how relationships work through communication.
Q: Are you in touch with any of these couples now and how are they doing?
A: I haven't spoken to them in several months, but when I did, they were still going through life's problems yet very much in love.
Q: Are you dating now?
A: Yes, and it is much easier for me now to weed people out.