Intimacy on Set Guidelines

Best practice when working with intimacy, simulated sex scenes, and nudity

  1. Producers to Identify whether a production may include scenes of intimacy and sexual content as part of the risk assessment; ensure that relevant departments are informed and necessary measures put in place:
    a. Put in place wardrobe – appropriate covering for genitalia  
    b. crew required for a closed set 
    C. consideration of, and budget for, an Intimacy Coordinator.
  2. No initial auditions or screen tests are to include sex scenes or to involve nudity. Where, in exceptional circumstances, nudity or semi-nudity is required in a recall, the actor must be informed in advance and provided with the script. All material recorded must be protected and be destroyed once the role has been cast.
    a. The actor to sign a written agreement with the Casting Director that any recording of a nude or semi-nude audition will be confidential.
    b. The actor may be asked to audition in specific clothing (e.g. swimwear) required for a commercial but will be informed in advance.
    c. If an actor is nude or semi-nude in a recall, they may bring a support person to be with them throughout the shoot.
    d. The only other people allowed to be present in the audition room will be the Casting Director and/or Director/Producer, and the Reader.
  3. At point of contract all scenes involving nudity, intimacy, or simulated sex to be discussed with the actor and representative/agent, so that agreement is made with full disclosure.
    a. The standard Equity contract for screen productions allows the actor to agree, or disagree, to performing nude and to performing simulated sex and to choose the type of nudity the actor is willing to do (e.g. buttocks only, or full frontal).
    b. Actors sometimes accept a role in which their character will be semi-nude, only to find later that additional scenes have been written into the script which include full frontal nudity and simulated sex. Actors should not sign a contract for full frontal nudity and simulated sex if only prepared to go semi-nude.
  4. Directors to plainly describe and discuss with the relevant actors all scenes involving intimacy, simulated sex, and nudity at the appropriate times in the creative process:
    a. Before signing the contract
    b. Throughout the rehearsal process
    c. And into performance
  5. Agreement and consent by the actor, and actors’ representative, to be given each and every time when working with intimacy, simulated sex scenes, and nudity.
  6. Establish boundaries around areas of concern, including an agreed strategy to halt the action where necessary, in rehearsals and filming on set,  such as ‘time out’.
  7. When sculpting intimacy or a simulated sex scene, for the actor and director, or the actor and director in conjunction with an Intimacy Coordinator, to follow the Intimacy On Set Guidelines as standard practice, 
        a. To always have a third party present, keeping the work professional, not private
        b. Identify the blocking of the scene
        c. Agree areas of physical touch
        d. Sculpt the physical actions using plain words
        e. Separately identify the emotional content of the scene
        f. Integrate the physical actions and emotional content, creating a seamless intimate scene
  8. On stage, when the rehearsal includes a simulated sex scene, or nudity, to ensure the use of a closed set.
  9. On stage, when the performance includes a simulated sex scene, for an intimacy call to be held before each performance. It is imperative the actors continue to rehearse, so they don’t become careless and to ensure everyone feels secure and respected both onstage and off. The intimacy call is an opportunity to:
        a. Check in with the actors to ask how they think the intimacy and simulated sex scene went during the previous performance. 
        b. Agreement and consent given for areas of physical touch before each performance, allowing for possible adaptations to be accommodated 
        c. Sculpting the physical actions using plain words, to be gone through at least twice.
  10. On set, to employ a Closet Set as standard when filming simulated sex and nudity, following the Closed Set Protocols, giving consideration to gender parity of the crew (i.e. female vulnerability in a hetrosexual or lesbian intimate scene with an all male crew.) 
  11. Nudity. Any actor who has consented to nudity must make sure that their agent knows the actor wants a discussion about every nude scene and a summary of agreed scenes in writing. When working with nudity, for the director to discuss the detail of every nude scene with the relevant actors, writing down the proposed shots and getting the actor’s consent in writing.  When working with nudity on set:
        a. Pre-agree times when nudity will be used
        b. It is imperative to employ a closed set as standard when working with nudity
        c. Nudity only from action to cut, and at all other times, the actor should be covered
        d. No nudity with genitals touching. Always use patches or modesty barrier
  12. When kissing, no use of tongues as standard practice. However, should the director feel it would serve the scene better to use tongues, then there must be agreement and consent from both of the actors. When rehearsing a stage/screen kiss, 
        a. Start off with the actors giving and receiving a peck when agreeing physical touch, and sculpting the physical actions, using plain words,
        b. Then exploring the quality of the kiss when identifying the emotional content of the scene, and integrating the physical actions and emotional content
  13. Actors should not override the guidelines independently. Any new proposal is to be discussed with other actors and director.
  14. Consider the use of a suitably trained Intimacy Coordinator in scenes with simulated sexual content.
  15. Scenes with simulated sex into abusive/violence simulated sexual content, consider the use of an Intimacy Coordinator in conjunction with a Fight Director/Stunt Coordinator.
Ita O’Brien
These guidelines would not have been possible without the work of Vanessa Ewan, Senior Lecturer and Course Leader in Movement at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, in particular chapter 9 of her book “Actor Movement: Expression of the Physical Being” (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), and her support in developing this approach. I am grateful to Meredith Dufton, head of movement at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, who invited me to teach the work to Mountview students since the Summer Term of 2015, which was instrumental in honing the guidelines. I would also like to thank Jennifer Ward-Lealand, President of New Zealand Equity, who were the first industry organization to adopt guidelines in this area; and Michael Hurst for sharing his working practice.