Sex in movies is always a complicated topic. While the way that Hollywood depicts sex and nudity on screen is frequently discussed in the industry, it's not as complicated as the actual production of such scenes. We've heard countless actors discuss the sometimes difficult, sometimes embarrassing, and occasionally ridiculous ways they have felt while filming sex scenes, but now the Screen Actors Guild has instituted a set of rules to help protect the actors who need to film these sensitive moments.
SAG-AFTRA, the union of screen performers, has officially unveiled its “Standards and Protocols for the Use of Intimacy Coordinators.” The new guidelines are primarily focused on the use of a relatively new position on film sets, that of an "Intimacy Coordinator." This person would be responsible for helping productions navigate simulated sex and nudity scenes in a way that helps to protect the actors but also to make everybody, all the cast and crew on the set, comfortable with what they are doing.
While it certainly makes sense to have people making sure that actors are protected, as sex scenes clearly put them in vulnerable situations, that's not all the intimacy coordinators will be responsible for doing. In a video related to the new guidelines, SAG-AFTRA President President Gabrielle Carteris compared what the people in these roles will be doing to that of a movement coach or even a choreographer, so these coordinators will have a hand in the way the sex scenes are actually produced, not simply how the on set atmosphere is handled.
Having said that, protecting the actors is the primary concern of these new guidelines. Preventing sexual harassment is a big part of why these new standards and protocols were believed to be needed. In recent years we've seen very specific examples of how actors have been exploited and taken advantage of by people in positions of authority.
While these new guidelines would standardize the role of the intimacy coordinator, the role isn't a new one. The position has existed previously for productions that wanted to use them. The most recent James Bond movie reportedly did and HBO has also used them for its shows in the past.
This certainly seems like a solid path forward considering the problems that the industry has had, as this will give the performers an advocate on set, but will also provide somebody who can help ensure that the production still meets the vision of the filmmakers. Depending on the story being told, a sex scene can be as important a part of the storytelling of a movie as any exchange of dialogue. The scenes can be vital, not simply titillating, but it's also important that everybody involved in them feels comfortable and safe.
By coming up with a set of guidelines and standardizing this set position and how it works, it should made film productions more comfortable with having the intimacy coordinator on set. One hopes that eventually they will just feel like another member of the crew that's necessary in making any film or television series.
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