The pandemic had us glued to our screens and now, evidently, more content is being churned out for OTT platforms where the options are plenty and the restrictions fewer. The violence got gorier, the sex got steamier and the eyeballs were higher. Every other show or movie has an intimate scene between the actors. A sex scene is something you can watch alone but that awkwardness is high when watching that scene with your family., with everyone reaching out for the remote in an attempt to change the channel or the topic. Now imagine how awkward it might get for actors while actually filming it, given that such scenes are inevitable in their profession. However seasoned the actor is, an intimate scene is one of the toughest acts to perform with so many people on set. That’s where intimacy coordinators come into the picture.
A job that made its debut around 2016, intimacy coordinators work with the actors and actresses to help them get comfortable while filming sex scenes, scenes with nudity or scenes featuring other sensitive content. They help actors to let go of their inhibitions before the scene is filmed, so the end result is more natural and organic. Their job involves creating a safe space for the actors but it also goes beyond that. They bring in a host of movement tools that will really help the actors and support them in helping them make that distinction between character and actor. They choreograph their actions more attractively and aesthetically by familiarising and sensitising the actors’ bodies on how to engage with one another during the scene. One of the most important parts of the job is watching an actor’s body language on set to see whether they’re truly comfortable and addressing it if things seem off. Intimacy coordinators work closely with the director to bring these scenes to life.
While the concept is quite common in the west and became an essential role following the #MeToo movement, it is great to see that even Indian shows are acknowledging their importance and introducing intimacy coordinators on set. Their presence not only makes actors comfortable but also helps them act in that scene the best.
Here are some of the shows and films that have brought in intimacy coordinators on board.
The recent Amazon Prime Video film brought back the conversation of the need for intimacy coordinators in the film fraternity as it had not one, but three people on set–Indian-Ukrainian screenwriter and film director Dar Gai, India’s first intimacy coordinator Aastha Khanna and intimacy coach Neha Vyas working alongside the director Shakun Batra. In an interview, Deepika Padukone stated that doing intimate scenes is not easy. “I don’t think it would be possible without the comfort that Shakun has given all of us. You feel you are working in an extremely safe and secure environment because intimacy is not easy,” she shared.
2. Cobalt Blue
Aastha Khanna was the intimacy coordinator for this film that revolves around a love triangle between characters played by Prateek Babbar, Anjali Sivaraman and Neelay Mehendale. The movie is set to release soon.
Outlander’s current and sixth seasons were released earlier this month. But you’ll be surprised to learn that the production employed an intimacy coordinator only this season. Vanessa Coffey came on board to help evolve the creation of the show’s steamy moments, which resulted in a safer work environment for not just the series leads Heughan and Caitriona Balfe but also for the younger supporting cast.
4. Sex Education
Ita O’Brien was employed as the intimacy coordinator for the Netflix teen show that follows the journey of Otis Milbourne (Asa Butterfield) portraying himself to be a sex therapist, who helps his fellow schoolmates navigate their sex issues. Each episode takes on a different issue on sex or sexuality with positivity and compassion in an attempt to normalise it. In an interview, Emma Mackey (who plays Maeve Riley) shares that the cast had a big conversation with the directors and producers about intimate scenes and the fears or worries with respect to it. “The most important thing is physical consent,” she explained. “So it’s like a dance. We learn a dance. My scenes with Kedar (Williams-Stirling), who plays Jackson, for example — we would have Ita talk us through it, and then when we were on set we would put a dance together and we would talk about it with Ben (Taylor, the director) and we would be like, ‘Right, so we’re gonna kiss for three beats, and then you’re gonna put me against the wall, and you can touch me here, and then we’re gonna make out more and then you’ll lift me after four.’” The point of this is to demystify sex scenes and not sound sexy, which makes them more practical and fun.
5. I May Destroy You
This was one of Ita’s recent and most intense projects wherein she worked with Michaela Coel, the writer, director and star of the show. I May Destroy You revolves around how Arabella, a young writer from London struggles to rebuild her life after she is sexually assaulted when someone spikes her drink. The series questions the nature of consent and explores scenes that you often don’t see on screen–an assault involving two men, an assault involving the removal of a condom mid-intercourse, and period sex are a few examples. As the intimacy coordinator on set, Ita was responsible for bringing these scenes to life, and worked with the cast to create that safe space.
Of course, you watch Bridgerton for all the drama and their gorgeous Regency-era costumes, but admit it, you love those steamy sex scenes, don’t you? Elizabeth Talbot is the intimacy coordinator to bring those flawless intimate scenes to life on screen. But this has been one of her challenging projects. Apparently, that famous three-minute sex montage between Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page took months to nail as it demanded filming it in various locations. Since the show is set in a historical era, actors would always have to take care of the costumes and wigs. In fact the curators of the show had to be present on the set to ensure none of the historical objects were damaged.
Amanda Blumenthal was present during all the physical and steamy scenes of Euphoria. While Jacob Elordi initially struggled as he thought it killed the spontaneity of the scene, he admitted that working with her on the second season was a treat. His co-actor Sydney Sweeney also said that Amanda’s presence made her experience safe and comfortable.
If you’re on the hunt for new shows and films to watch this March, check out the story here.