About Intimacy Coordination

What is an intimacy coordinator?  

An intimacy coordinator choreographs and oversees scenes with intimacy, nudity and simulated sex in film and tv.  An intimacy coordinator for film and television works slightly differently from an intimacy coordinator for theatre (AKA intimacy director) - however fundamentally they serve the same purpose - to work with the whole production, assisting in the facilitation of a scene or scenes that have intimate content. or nudity.  Sometimes they're on board right from the start of a project, through until wrap - they'll meet with the production team and department heads - give briefings, share knowledge and introduce the various industry guidelines and be with you on set every day there's an intimate scene, or they may come in and run a workshop with the actors and director, or sometimes they're invited on set or into rehearsals for one or two specific scenes that may be causing concern. 

Coordinator is an important part of the title, as coordination is a key part of the role - facilitating the difficult conversations, bouncing between, directors, actors, wardrobe and production.  ICs can act as advocates for actors or other members of the team, voicing their concerns and reservations and helping to find solutions to problems as they occur.  They can assist the director with choreography, work with physical consent with the actors, and help with the blocking of a scene working with modesty garments.

Coordinators are trained to be flexible and will assist the production in line with the requirements of the production itself, while making sure the actors voices are heard and they're working within the parameters that they have agreed and in a way that is respectful of their boundaries, while still staying true to the director's/writer's vision.

Why do we need Intimacy Coordinators?

Historically intimacy and nudity was handled by the director, or perhaps a choreographer. The quality of these processes varied from director to director, but it should be noted, that some directors are known and respected for their professional handling of intimate scenes, always working with transparency and offering a clear structure and blocking to the intimate content. However, the role of .Intimacy coordinator as a credited member of crew is a fairly new concept., 

The work however has been developing in the background for many years. Various practitioners, both from stage and screen; movement directors, actors, fight directors and choreographers were observing that there seemed to be similarities between fight scenes and intimate scenes: 

The action is part of the story telling, something has happened to bring us to a physical event, there is the simulation of a violent/sexual act, there has been choreography/blocking applied to the action, it should be repeatable and it absolutely should not injure the performer. However they also noticed that intimate scenes were often not given the time and the space to be rehearsed or discussed, in the same way as is now standard practice with stunts, and on occasion even left in the hands of the performers with the perhaps the vague direction to, 'just go for it', or to work it out on their own, Everyone knew that an actor would not be told to punch another actor in the face, so that begged the question, 'Why are they being asked to simulate sexual acts without proper direction, and all the while expecting the scene to continue to tell the story?'

As a result of this, various practitioners globally started to create guidelines and came up with working methodologies for handling challenging content, and started to develop the notion of what best practice looked like at all stages, from audition through to performance. They used fight choreography as a spring board for intimate choreography. However, it was only in the wake of #metoo that these practitioners started being invited on to set, and given the opportunity to practice the work they'd been developing.

Producers and the industry finally accepted that there had been systemic bad practice that was potentially damaging to both the actors involved and the production as a whole, and thus Intimacy Coordinators are now employed to mitigate this risk. Our mission at Safe Sets, is to do exactly that - keep Sets Safe for all.

What are the five pillars of intimacy coordination?

The five pillars of intimacy coordination were developed by the American intimacy coordination organisation Intimacy Directors International (IDI), who are now called Intimacy Directors and Coordinators (IDC).  The five pillars are 'Context, Consent, Communication, Choreography and Closure'.  At Safe Sets we believe in the value of the five pillars and apply them to our work.

Do I have to use an Intimacy Coordinator?

At the present time there's no legal obligation to use an intimacy coordinator in South Africa, or in fact most countries in the world.  However SAG-AFTRA in the US has just ratified an agreement that ensures Intimacy Coordinators are used on all productions with SAG-AFTRA actors plus an increasing number of production companies, TV channels and funding bodies are insisting on it.  If you're unsure, do get in touch and we can help you decide what level of assistance you might need.

Are Intimacy Coaches and Intimacy Coordinators the same thing?

Intimacy coordinators specialize in choreographing and coordinating scenes of simulated sex and nudity for film and tv.  Intimacy coaches offer therapy to couples to look at their private intimate relationships.  Sometimes on set Intimacy Coordinators are called Intimacy Coaches, like movement and dialect coaches.  However, due to the complex nature of the role which includes inter departmental liaison as well as having robust reporting and risk assessing strategies in place, intimacy coordinator rather than intimacy coach is the correct term.

Protocols for Working with Intimate Content - South Africa

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, Kate and Sara have worked with the organisation IPSA (Intimacy Practitioners South Africa) and the rest of the South African Film Industry on creating the 'Protocols for Working with Intimate Content in TV, Film and Associated Media - South Africa'.

The Protocols give detailed guidance on how to work with intimate content, considerations to be made, and at what points you should consider chatting to an intimacy coordinator about your project.  

They also provide a checklist for producers, a template for nudity riders and other useful tools to make Safe Sets whatever the budget.