As trauma reverberates through these characters’ lives, it’s important that the actors portraying them are psychologically safe and supported. That’s why Ita O’Brien, a U.K.-based intimacy coordinator, was vital to the construction of these intimate moments, choreographing each move, or “beat” as O’Brien calls it, to create a seamless structure of intimacy and realism between the actors.
To ensure this realism is enacted safely, each beat is composed down to the placement of hands or a certain number of thrusts in order to protect the actors’ emotional and physical boundaries. As the architect of safe spaces on set, O’Brien worked closely with the artist well-being practitioner, Louise Platt, a qualified psychotherapist, who was on call to provide emotional and psychological support for the actors while they performed sensitive content.
This integrated approach of therapeutic support feels quite revolutionary, as Platt mentioned on Twitter and unfortunately is a practice that, until the Me Too movement, wasn’t always followed. The infamous sex scene in Blue Is the Warmest Colour is a prominent example where actors found a sequence distressing to perform; leads Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux described the 10 grueling days of filming as “horrible” and “really suffering.” After Hollywood's awakening, O’Brien pioneered the role of intimacy coordinator and developed the Intimacy on Set guidelines to ensure that scenes of nudity, intimacy, and simulated sex are performed safely without compromising the actors’ personal boundaries.
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