The training sector must embrace the important role of the intimacy director. Like fight directors, choreographers or stunt co-ordinators, this role focuses on the need to remove risk and ensure the highest possible standards of safety on film and theatre sets as well as in the TV studio.
Excellent work is being done in this area by organisations such as Intimacy on Set which offers a range of training packages as well as advice on ensuring safe working practices and protocols.
Ita O’Brien, the organisation’s founder, stresses the importance of establishing a safe working environment:
An injury can go from purely physical, to emotional and psychological – when someone’s body has been handled and touched in a way that is not suitable for that person … intimacy coordination work is about everybody being in agreement and consent … and about absolutely every detail serving character, serving story telling.
Referring to her work as Intimacy Coordinator on the BBC/Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney’s award winning novel, Normal People, O’Brien points to the vulnerability of the drama’s young leading actors (Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal) and offers an insight into how she approached early rehearsals.
Actors want to give their best. They want to say yes, but we had to create an atmosphere where they didn’t just say yes because they felt like they needed to …Everyone had the novel, so they knew what was required, but were they happy with it?
In my first rehearsal with director Lenny Abrahamson, and leading actors Daisy and Paul, I gave a presentation and showed all of them our intimacy guidelines. Then we worked on a scene that felt like a body dance. When we were done, everybody left knowing that everything would be handled in a professional way.
Locally, actor Michala Banas is working behind the scenes at Melbourne Theatre Company as an intimacy coordinator and cites O'Brien as a mentor.
If we are to guarantee the physical, emotional and psychological safety of our students during rehearsals and performances, then the guidance of an Intimacy Director is no longer an optional extra, but an absolute necessity.
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