Article by Thembi Zikalala
There is a fine line between being open or being vulnerable, the shift can happen in a moment. There must be a safety net for actors on every set, a contact and conduct that is placed in case borders have been crossed and you need someone to report/talk to.
Below are a 5 Guidelines on “How to Prepare Safely for Intimate Scenes” and avoid getting yourself into compromising positions :
- Be open and prepared – not vulnerable !
Your agent calls up and tells you, “you’ve been offered the part ! “ You read the script, and it is a great script with intimacy, nudity and sex to amplify the story.
If intimacy is required, then prepare. If you are asked to work with a partner for the scene, make sure you’re on the same page in agreeing on the physicality of how you will interpret the scene, agree on areas of touch and gaining consent.
Approach these scenes professionally, avoiding euphemisms or slang terms. Have the conversation with your agent early and make sure proper conduct is put in place before accepting the role. If the director hasn’t brought up the intimate and sexual content in the script , ask to have THAT conversation. This is cultivating a space in which the work can take place safely.
Ask the director for their vision of the intimate content, and their method of working. If the intimacy or nudity required does not sit well with you, or with how the director wants to work with you, you can make an informed decision to accept, or say no to the job.
- Practice and CRAFT the moments …
Expect the director to be clear on the vision of the scene. Specify where you’re comfortable being physically touched and exposed on camera. For instance “I’m comfortable showing my side breast and no nipples showing” these are pre-contractual statements that must be made before a contract is signed.
It is highly important to shoot these scenes in a controlled environment. Having an intimacy coordinator on set is necessary as they facilitate the storytelling right through. Intimacy coordinators serve as choreographers for scenes that involve nudity, simulated sex or sexual content. They also assist in monitoring closed sets and working with costumes on modesty garments during these scenes. Integrating physical actions and emotional content for a seamless scene is key.
You must be at a well practiced level to perform intimate scenes authentically, but still keeping physical boundaries.
- Rehearse and Block The Scenes
As soon as two actors are in a space alone, the boundaries between professional and private selves can be blurred. Make sure you keep it professional by asking to have the assistant director, intimate coordinator, stage manager, or stage manager with you.
A good warm up supports you in connecting, engaging with your physicality, and being present in the moment. Building chemistry with your co-actor and CONSENT work is very important in giving the best authentic performance. “Are you okay with me giving you a kiss ? Okay, let’s practice.” Work closely together and get research on how to best bring on intimacy scenes from script to life.
Agreement should be re-established each and every time when working with intimate scenes.
Do you feel safe in the space, do you have scheduled “check-in” sessions with your Director/ Intimate coordinator that follows up with you after a couple of days to make sure you’re good and comfortable with those scenes ?
These are more notes to take into consideration when you how to prepare safely for Intimate scenes.
- Red Flags ? Spot them
“Hey make this sexier”
“Don’t be difficult to work with”
What you should be hearing is…. “Hey, can we slow that down a little bit, can we use more heavy breathwork here, what if you arch your back a little more here” – This is a better direction you should be hearing on set.
If you feel uncomfortable and spot red flags, ADDRESS them! Make sure your emotional health is not being compromised for “intimacy work”, harassment and sexual trauma can have a long negative effect that may even lead to an actor leaving the industry. These are things we need to avoid.
There must be a safety net for actors on every set, a contact and conduct that is placed in case borders have been crossed and you need someone to report/talk to.
Your agent and the intimacy coordinator or director are usually the first people to approach.
- Help for Actors to feel less “exposed”
Check with the director about the nudity boundaries and consider what degree of nudity you are comfortable with, again have this specified in your contract.
There should be a closed set whenever intimate scenes are being shot. Nudity is from “action to cut” and at all other times wardrobe must be on standby to provide you with a dressing gown or suitable covering between takes.
To help actors feel less “exposed”, the wardrobe department should also provide you with ‘modesty/ nudity garments’ that usually come as patches and pouches and lastly bare genitals should never touch.
Over and above, actors go through a lot. Use these guidelines to assist you in being confident and comfortable in tackling these intimate scenes without feeling violated. Serve the character, storyline, and the emotional journey and remember to STEP – OUT of the character (develop a de-rolling technique) to come back to yourself.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: South African Protocols for Intimate content in TV, film & Stage Productions that every actor should know