The first TV adaptation of Rooney’s work marked a huge departure for sex scenes on Irish and international television and in so many ways, it paved the way for more honest, raw storytelling around relationships. Conversations with Friends hit the ground running by hiring the Normal People intimacy coach, Ita O’Brien. While a whole host of film sets pre-dating the #MeToo era have been mired in controversy regarding sexual misconduct, Oliver says that this set was very professional and that she felt “100% safe at all times.”
Not only did O’Brien pioneer the role of intimacy coordinator on film and television sets, she also established a set of best practice guidelines for practitioners in the industry and introduced genital-shielding props to film sets. So, what exactly does an intimacy coordinator do? According to Oliver, there’s a lot of discussion around consent and expectations before any touching ever happens and to ensure that nothing touches anything it shouldn’t.
“Once you meet her, you’ll talk in depth about scenes that have an intimate nature and why we’re doing them. She’ll talk a lot about the quality of intimacy and the kind of story we’re trying to tell with this intimacy, which I think is really important. It’s very much about storytelling rather than showing – it’s very narrative-driven.” O’Brien looks at the beats of the scene says Oliver, and the “shapes you make to tell that story,” settling on a set of pre-agreed movements that look and feel authentic to the action and allow the actors to feel safe.
“By the time you actually do the scene, you’ve choreographed it so much and you feel the most safe you can. There’s such a respect and it’s handled in such a brilliant way.”
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