Intimacy on set – choreographing sex scenes

I had an opportunity to attend Ita O’Brien’s Intimacy on Set training in association with Screen Skills Ireland at the beginning of this year and I have to say I felt relieved. Let me explain..

When it comes to performing stunts- there is a stunt coordinator, who makes sure no one gets physically hurt. What about the mental damage? Imagine filming a rape scene?

Well, as a matter of fact, I did just that, last year. I directed a short film called “Hear a No” last year, that had a rough intimate scene in it. When I was preparing for rehearsals, I was researching how it must be done, in order to make it as comfortable as possible for everyone involved. I wanted to make sure I do right by both cast and crew. At the time, unfortunately, I haven’t come across Ita O’Brien’s technique. Most I got, was that it was meant to be a closed set. OK, but how do I approach rehearsals? And the shoot?

Luckily, at the time, I was participating in an acting class led by Terry McMahon, who is an amazing actor-writer-director himself. I turned to Terry for advise, as I knew he had nailed great intimate scenes in his films. Terry was very kind to help me out and shared how he approached rehearsing and filming intimate scenes. With his advice, I was able to make actors as comfortable with the scene as I could and the shoot went smoothly.

Back to Ita.. It’s absolutely amazing to see the extent of work Ita has put into creating the guidelines that everyone in the industry can follow on set while filming intimate scenes. Ita has developed a very thorough process and technique that she teaches. She also works as an intimacy coordinator and movement director. Ita has coordinated such major productions like Netflix’es “Sex Education” and BBC’s “Gentleman Jack” to name a few. HERE IS a short video of Ita talking a little bit about choreographing sex scenes.

Few takeaways from both Terry’s and Ita’s advice:

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  • Agree on level of nudity, discuss and rehearse the scene prior to shoot. Sign those forms.
  • Speak with each actor in private first, to establish their boundaries. Check past trauma to make sure it doesn’t get triggered. Know that consent can change from yes to no and another way around at the rehearsals or on set.
  • No objectifying. Use proper language to describe body parts, movements etc.
  • Agree physical touch. At rehearsals make sure each body part that is being touched/kissed is discussed and agreed upon.
  • Have a timeout sign which actors can use to stop the scene if at any time they feel uncomfortable.
  • Ask actors not to involve any emotions at the rehearsals stage. Use it purely for blocking. This will ensure that actors don’t give “their all” to a performance before camera can capture it.
  • As mentioned before- it’s a closed set for the whole duration of the shoot for the intimate scene (and not just for the takes). Phones and monitors are to be switched off, only those who absolutely need to be there present.
  • Schedule intimate scenes for the morning and discuss hygiene, make sure actors come in showered.
  • Get actors to try on bits of intimate wardrobe (like genital covers) before the shoot to make sure they fit.
  • Nudity is only from “action” to “cut” – get actors covered straight away after the “cut” and keep them covered until just before “action”.
  • And finally, have actors do some movement routine to get out of the character and back into their own selves after the shoot.

Ok, here it is, I hope you find it useful. I would strongly recommend attending Ita’s workshop. Also, having an intimacy coordinator on set for them scenes, if the budget allows. Take these scenes seriously and prepare appropriately. I believe we really need to take care of our emotions as much as we take care of ourselves physically.

I will leave Ita’s website here, it’s www.itaobrien.com you can find a lot of useful information about intimacy guidelines and upcoming workshops there. And here is a summary of Ita’s guidelines.

Here is another website with information about intimacy coordinators Intimacy on Set.

Picture in this article was captured by Jaro Waldeck @jarucube www.jarowaldeck.com

Learning about screenwriting and finding motivation

PSX_20180504_122835Confucius once said “A man should practice what he preaches, but a man should also preach what he practices”.

I’m taking the liberty to amend the quote slightly, to include all genders. So, it would go like this:

“A person should practice what it preaches, but a person should also preach what it practices”.

How about this now? I personally like it better and will be able apply it to myself with this post. Because… I’ve been one serious book worm for about a month now. Well, a writing maniac at first, and then a book worm. I’ll explain..

Thing is, I’ve started writing my first feature film screenplay! Exciting! Right?

Also, a lot of work… I was dreading it for a long while, as my attention span is like… Well.. Short.. Can I consider myself a millennial if I’m 33 and I reach for my phone every time it vibrates with a notification? Switch the sound off already and concentrate Lina! Anyway, you see what I mean when I mention my attention span.. I’ve already deviated, haven’t I? Which proves that I’m a millennial, my theory is rock solid!

Writing and re-writing and re-writing is the key, I’m being told by some knowledgeable people.

Don’t take that first draft as a precious document. Work and re-work and rework it until.. Well until I can say that I’m proud of it, and, I guess, get others to agree. And by others I mean industry professionals, not my mum.. Just wanted to clarify that. It’d be nice if she liked it too..

PSX_20180504_154150__01I was very fortunate to have some established industry professionals read my treatment and 25 pages of the sample script.

The verdict?

I need to learn more about screen writing and fail better next time (plugging in another quote here). But some feedback was very thorough and super motivating. So here I am, surrounded by books on writing, and being an enthusiastic book worm. Thought I’d quote some of the advices I have received here, maybe you’ll find them helpful (I certainly did):

  • everything that’s in the screenplay has to have meaning, every single little detail. In other words, if there is a gun on the shelf, then by the end of the screenplay it needs to fire
  • there is no writer’s block, there is only lack of a deadline

  • get into your zone to create something authentic (here the reviewer mentioned my first film “If I would have been back home” as an example and I cannot explain how much this statement has meant to me)

With that feature screenplay and treatment, I was pushing toward a deadline to apply for funding. Doing 14-hour days. And I think at some point in that chase I got disconnected from my zone, that authentic place from where great work can be created. So, what I’ve taken from this experience, is that deadline is great, it keeps me motivated, but if it’s too tight, look for another one and give myself time and some breather space to write from the zone.

During this past month, I was resorting to a book called “Immortal Words” by Terry Breverton for some inspiration and motivation, that’s where I found Confucius quote. I have to say I found the practice of reading great quotes daily amazing.

It gave me a kick up my backside, to put it simply.

So, I thought I’d share a quote that had struck a chord with me and solidify its meaning into my life and my routine..