Intimacy on set – why Intimacy Co-ordinators are in demand

The role of an Intimacy Co-ordinator is relatively new within the TV, film and theatre industry and one that is in high demand since the #MeToo movement. Intimacy Co-ordinators have transformed the way intimate scenes are managed on both stage and screen. You could look at them as choreographers of the bedroom! 

It’s extremely common for productions to bring in choreographers and stunt professions for dance and fight scenes, so why not have one for the intimate sequences? Intimacy Co-ordinators are coaches to production companies, encouraging clear boundaries that enable cast and crew to work professionally and safely. Some directors are embarrassed to be involved in this aspect of the performance and don’t have the necessary conversations, such as negotiating actors’ boundaries and what they do and don’t feel comfortable with. This constant dialogue with Intimacy Co-ordinators helps to create a trusted, safe and protected workspace. Without these conversations individuals can be left vulnerable and exposed to emotional distress or even injury.

For someone to feel happy and comfortable in their scene you need agreement, consent and constant communication. Sex scenes can be awkward for any actor, no matter how long they have been in the industry. Actors need to have that open dialogue and transparency. This way of working leads to co-ordinated way of working yet also a great performance which can also enhance the show’s characters.

Ita O’Brien, has forged the way of Intimacy Co-ordinators over the last few years. She, alongside her team at ‘Intimacy on Set’, have developed a ‘rule book’ when working with 'intimacy, simulated sex scenes and nudity’. This best practice guide - the first of its kind in the UK - has been taken on board by huge production companies including BBC and Netflix.

More directors are becoming respondent and more receptive to using an Intimacy Co-ordinator as they can see the advantages and positivity this role brings to their cast and crew. In addition to Ita working on
TV shows such as ‘Gentleman Jack’ with Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle, ‘Sex Education’ and ‘Gangs of London’, she has more recently worked on the BBC/Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney’s hit novel ‘Normal People’. Have you been watching it?

She carefully planned all the intimate scenes to reflect the characters’ sexuality, desire, experience etc, from the awkward fumbling at the start of their love affair, which showed Marianne and Connell’s vulnerability, to their later and more experienced encounters. Her sequences were choreographed down to the smallest of details such as a gaze, connection or a touch, which certainly added to the narrative, beauty and intensity of the scenes.

Ita said in a recent interview: “There’s a pressure for two co-stars to have chemistry.” Some might say though that chemistry isn’t always necessary for believable onscreen intimacy. However, it is all about communication and the truth of the relationship as Ita makes clear. “All of it is just a continuation of the communication between characters, be it in the text or in physical dance.” She says.

Ita trained as a dancer and later an actor, so she has the ability and knowledge on how to bring the director’s vision to life through her skill of choreography. I think this is such an interesting and incredible role that is paramount today. From an actor’s point of view, to know that they have this level of support, the continuous communication, and a safe space for it all to happen, would take a lot of pressure away from them. This approach would allow them to focus on their acting, their characters and the all-important story telling.

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal who play Marianne and Connell in “Normal People” are outstanding actors, and what they and the Intimacy Co-ordination have created is a truly magical and beautiful piece of work.

Have you had experience with an Intimacy Co-ordinator? 

Is this something you’ll look into for your next project?

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