“Somehow, everybody can understand an actor’s acting in all other realms of human expression, apart from the sex scene,” concurs movement director and intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien. “It’s that thing of ‘oh, how can it look sexy if they’re acting it’ but the sex scene is still acting—it’s not real life.” O’Brien has been developing ways to keep actors in safe in these scenarios since 2015. Through first engineering her own drama, writing a theatre piece focused around abuse, she began to examine the dynamic between the perpetrator and the victim, which led to broader thinking about the blind spot for potential abuse within the industry.
As she explains by phone, “I was aware I needed to put in place a clear practice and a process to help my actors stay safe.” The Intimacy on Set guidelines—which range from excluding sex scenes from screen tests to identifying specific body parts that can be touched—were born from this initial momentum, coupled with the work of a colleague at the Central School of Speech and Drama: Vanessa Ewan, a senior movement tutor who had noted the time and space afforded fight directors to create their sequences and suggested sex scenes and those with intimate content should be done the same way.
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.
more . . .