To prevent harassment on TV and film sets, production houses are hiring so-called intimacy coordinators to oversee sex scenes. NPR's Michel Martin speaks with Ita O'Brien, who serves that role on Netflix's Sex Education.
They range from a boy who does creative things with a warm melon and a girl who vomits on her boyfriend’s penis, to a teenager with rampant pubic hair (“I’m like a wolverine”) and a virgin who writes a sci-fi comic whose heroine goes “on a quest for an alien dick to deflower her”. All of adolescent carnality is there in Sex Education, the super-stylised Netflix comedy that has seized the imagination like no British school series since Skins and which the streaming service claims has been watched by 40 million households around the world.
If you’re a member of the twentysomething cast, how do you prepare for such a kaleidoscopic bombardment of rumpy pumpy? Well, as the Bloodhound Gang once sang: “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals/ So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” Yes, before shooting started, the actors took part in an animal-inspired shagging workshop.
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Aimee-Lou Wood: We had an intimacy coordinator there all the time – she was so helpful. And there were conversations going on for weeks, so you were kind of ready for it when it happened. It was well prepared, those scenes felt the most cathartic and the most rewarding. I was probably more prepared for the sex scenes than I was for any other scenes. It was harder to do just talking..
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“I believe there is always another way to do a scene where no one is vulnerable, so I tell them their ‘no’ is a gift.” . . .
To do so, Netflix relies on a crew of writers, directors and producers who’ve brought a keen sense of fluid, inclusive teenage sexuality to a series about a 16-year-old son of a sex therapist, Otis (Asa Butterfield), and his enterprising friend Maeve (Emma Mackey). Together they team up to give sex advice to their perpetually inflamed cohort at Moordale Secondary School. (Ncuti Gatwa and Gillian Anderson round out the show’s stellar leading cast.)
But scenes like the one between Hewkin and Newmark unravel seamlessly, thanks particularly to the show’s intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien, who works with the actors before, during and after their sex scenes to ensure that standards of safety are met and that the delightfully complicated choreography is performed efficiently.
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There’s so much repressed aggression released in their hookup scene that it begins as a literal, physical fight. How did you and Connor Swindells approach filming that? Also, I have to ask, did you actually spit in each other’s faces?
No. [Laughs.] We blocked that really carefully and mimed the spitting, then we’d cut and add artificial spit to our cheeks. It does look real, but we were very cautious of trying to be as respectful of each other as possible. On Sex Education, we had an intimacy director, Ita O’Brien, who was there to give us guidance with those scenes. Before we started filming, we had an intimacy workshop. The whole cast and crew was there. Everybody gave examples of sex scenes they’d done before and we had great conversations about how those made them feel. We had conversations about consent and feeling comfortable with your sex scenes. Then we moved on to [laughs] emulating the mating rhythms of snails, lions, dogs, and more. It was very physical work!
We all got to know each other very quickly in that workshop, but it was great because it meant that by the time we got to shooting that scene, the walls had already been broken down. Ita was also on set for it and every sex scene. Before the scene, we choreographed it. It’s literally like a dance. We’d agree between us about where we could touch, how long we’d kiss, and then have those counts in our head when we filmed it. We felt very taken-care-of, so shooting that scene became like another day at the office.
Franceinfo- "Sex Education", "The Deuce"... Comment les "coordinatrices d'intimité" révolutionnent le tournage des scènes de sexe à l'ère de #MeToo
Click h"On avait littéralement une chorégraphie. On chronométrait. 'Tu fais ça pendant sept secondes. Ensuite ça...' C'était comme une danse." Réalistes, fluides, parfois drôles : les scènes de sexe de la série Sex Education, visible sur Netflix depuis le 11 janvier, ont été saluées par la critique et les spectateurs. Elles occupent une place importante dans cette série où un lycéen, inexpérimenté mais fils d'une sexologue, guide ses camarades dans la découverte de la sexualité. Leur réussite tient en partie à la "chorégraphie", que décrit l'actrice Emma Mackey, issue du travail avec une coach au rôle presque inédit : une "coordinatrice d'intimité".ere to edit. . .
The New York Times - How to Make Sex Scenes Natural and Nonthreatening? Cue the ‘Intimacy Coordinator’