W radio (colombia) - The secrets of Ita O 'Brien, coordinator of intimacy and sexual movements in the cinema
On this big episode of the Spotlight Podcast, we discuss safety, harassment and bullying in our industry. Joining us, we have Maureen Beattie, performer and President of Equity, Wendy Spon, CDG and former Head of Casting for the National Theatre, and Ita O'Brien, Intimacy and Movement Coordinator who has recently worked on Gentleman Jack and Sex Education for Netflix.
Intimate scenes should serve the content of the text, the director's vision, the character and the relationship with the opponent. The intimacy must feel genuine. . .
Nihal Arthanayake interviews Ita O'Brien on her work as an Intimacy Coordinator.
Ita O’Brien is sitting in an office chair, her hands resting on its arms, leaning slightly forward, her expression rapt and panting like a dog. “Huh, huh, huh! OK, now you’ve got the wild cats,” she cries, beginning to wiggle while softly wailing. “Eeh, oowah, ooow. OK. And now let’s gently allow that to become human.” O’Brien exhales, one could say orgasmically. “Er, aah.”
O’Brien is a pioneer, Britain’s first intimacy co-ordinator, a woman who choreographs sex scenes and — through exercises such as the animal ones she is demonstrating — teaches actors how to be comfortable rolling about virtually naked, apparently in the throes of sexual ecstasy, in front of a film crew.
The growing use of intimacy directors in the industry is a sign of progress, according to Gentleman Jack executive producer Faith Penhale.
Talking at a screening of Sally Wainwright’s BBC1 period drama last week, Penhale said the #metoo movement had led to the creation of a role in an area of drama that had previously been overlooked.
“We were all very conscious going into this that a huge part of Anne Lister’s life was her sex life,” said Penhale. “She was very sexually active, and she loved having sex with other women. In all areas of drama, you need to consider how you are going to take care of people playing this out for us.”
Penhale said working with intimacy director Ita O’Brien was “terrific” and said seeing her in action was a really interesting process.
“O’Brien worked very closely with Sally and the cast, including Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle. We had lots of conversations that I do not think we would have had otherwise,” said Penhale.
It was Gentleman Jack creator, writer and director Wainwright who originally called for an intimacy director after hearing O’Brien on Radio 4.
“I had never directed a sex scene before and I thought it was important to do these scenes responsibly,” said Wainwright. “If female directors cannot do it responsibly, then who else can?”
Interview with Helena Whitbread and Ita O'Brien on Anne Lister and the making of Gentleman Jack.
Creator Sally Wainwright brought an intimacy coordinator on board to choreograph the (many) sex scenes on the series. And it shows.
What we may now call a butch lesbian, Anne Lister ‘wanted to deny her own femininity and didn’t want to show her own breasts and wanted to give pleasure to her partners,’ intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien tells GSN.
‘We just looked at someone coming from that place of empowerment and coming from that more masculine point of view and just took that into the dynamic of the intimacy.’
O’Brien has spent years developing the best practice when working with intimacy, scenes with sexual content, and nudity in film, TV, and theatre.
If you had no idea such a role existed, you’re not alone. The profession is brand new and it’s a positive consequence of the MeToo movement.
It all comes down to safety and consent. If it’s common practice to have a fight coordinator on set to plan a duel scene, why can’t you have an expert working through a sex scene with the actors to make sure it feels natural and everyone is comfortable with it?
‘The intimate content in our lives is natural and so it should be in our storytelling,’ O’Brien continues.
‘It should be dealt with in an adult, open and actual way. It should be dealt with in the same way as any other part of the script or play is dealt with.’
An intimacy coordinator talks the actors through the quality of a sex scene, including the positions and the lead-up to it.
She is known as Britain’s first modern lesbian: a 19th-century Yorkshire landowner who chronicled her passionate sexual encounters with women in code in her voluminous diaries.
When the code is deciphered for viewers of BBC One’s much-anticipated new drama about the life of Anne Lister, they can be sure of one thing: the sex scenes were sensitively filmed.
That is because Gentleman Jack, starring Suranne Jones as Lister, is one of the first major BBC series to employ an intimacy co-ordinator, a role that has come to prominence in Hollywood in response to the MeToo scandal.
Intimacy co-ordinators are hired to guarantee the wellbeing of actors taking part in sex scenes, making sure that they are comfortable with everything they are asked to do.