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‘Intimacy co-ordinators’: The new Hollywood job birthed out of the #MeToo movement

Having an “intimacy coordinator” on set is making sex scenes safer for actors – and possibly sexier for viewers, too.

Intimacy coordinators serve as mediators on film and TV sets. They advocate for actor rights and ensure that everyone feels safe and as comfortable as possible while sex scenes are being filmed.

On the back of the #MeToo movement, harassment and sexual safety are at the forefront of public attention, especially in Hollywood.

Introducing intimacy coordinators to work on scripts with simulated sex is one way productions are trying to ensure that actors aren’t exploited. So far, the move has been well received by actors and producers alike.

Thanks to actress Emily Meade who worked on The Deuce, HBO was one of the first to introduce the intimacy coordinator position.

Amidst the initial tumult of the #MeToo movement, Meade decided that she’d had enough of feeling uncomfortable during sex scenes.

Being exposed – both emotionally and physically – was taking its toll, so she told the executives it was time for a change.

Enter Alicia Rodis, a New York-based intimacy coordinator, director and actor.

Rodis is co-founder of Intimacy Directors International, a nonprofit started in 2016 to spark change in the industry.

The role has been a long time coming for actors and is providing an essential service in the industry.

“Even I didn’t understand the scope of just how much this had been ignored, and for how long,” Rodis said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

“There is such a power dynamic on sets, so much pressure and this sense that [as an actor] you just suck it up and do it.”

It’s a huge change for actors to have someone on set to look out for their best interests rather than purely concentrating on the creative direction.

It’s not the things [Rodis does] that are so radical,” Meade said. “It’s just having someone other than yourself to think about it.”

“It shouldn’t be a radical concept to give someone something to cover their private parts. But to have someone do it at all — the gesture of it — it helps.”

Rodis’s role is certainly more than a “gesture”, however. It’s the intimacy coordinators job to make sure everyone on set – from actors to directors to crew – is fully informed and consenting.

The coordinator also drives conversation around sex that film culture has never been comfortable having.

“With intimate moments, from kissing to intense sex scenes, it’s been the practice [for directors] to just say ‘whatever you’re comfortable with, just go for it’,’” Rodis said.

Just like real sex, however, sex scenes are better for everyone (and carry less potential for abuse) when there’s conversation, compassion and consent.

“She understands how to help us choreograph things to make them look more real than they are, by actually doing something less real,” Meade said.

“Left to your own devices you’re just sort of doing what you do in real life. And that’s a problem if you don’t want it to feel like real life.”

HBO has announced that intimacy coordinators will now be present on every set where sex scenes take place. With HBO behind huge hits like Game of Thrones and Westworld, there’s a growing pressure on the industry for other companies to follow suit.

Rodis will be working on the upcoming Watchmen series Crashing and the Deadwood movie while she trains other coordinators to work on crime drama Jett and high school series Euphoria.

According to Rodis, “If your set doesn’t have an intimacy coordinator, at best, you might not be able to tell the story you wanted to tell. At worst, you have actors who are being physically assaulted.”

I know what I’d choose.

[Lead image credit: HBO]

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