Too many film and television bosses still do not understand the value of intimacy coordinators and hire them purely as a box-ticking exercise, one of the industry’s leading figures has said.
Ita O’Brien was celebrated on Sunday by the actor and writer Michaela Coel, who dedicated her best actress Bafta to the “essential” work she did on I May Destroy You. Coel spoke powerfully of the “internal devastation” she had felt working on shows that had no intimacy coordinator.
It was a description O’Brien was familiar with. “It is so fantastic that she put it like that because that is absolutely what happens,” O’Brien told the Guardian. “In every single workshop I do, everyone will have a story.”
After the Harvey Weinstein revelations and the #MeToo movement, demand for O’Brien’s services increased from 2018. But she said she had been hired for productions where the director did not want her involved.
“Really I was just a box-ticking exercise for the producers. I was told check in with the actors … and then do nothing,” she said. Was that still the case? “Yes, yes, yes … absolutely.”
O’Brien recalled one production where she asked for gender parity in the crew filming a sex scene, which otherwise would be almost all men. “I got told ‘don’t ask for that. What you’re doing is now impacting on the production adversely and we’ll have none of it.’ There have been many times I’ve walked away from sets and it has so been hard and I’m feeling: can I keep doing this?”
She said there had also been shows where the experience was a positive one, including Sex Education, It’s a Sin, Normal People and, of course, I May Destroy You, which was the standout show at Sunday’s Baftas.
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