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TORONTO – Intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien, who is known for her work on shows featuring powerful sexual content like “I May Destroy You,” “Sex Education” and “Normal People,” says Key ‘a believable sex scene is the preparation and makes sure that the actors involved feel safe on set.

“The day of filming is just the tip of the iceberg, and in fact, what makes the day of filming go well is all this preparation,” O’Brien said at a conference. virtual this weekend as part of the Bell Digital Talks program at the Toronto International Film Festival.

O’Brien said the intimate scenes have the potential to create a deeper understanding of the characters in the film and “enrich the storytelling” when they involve more than just the physical reality of the moment.

“Sure, it’s going to pretend, that’s what we do, and so there are techniques to teach you how to make it safe, but believable and exciting,” O’Brien told the host, actress and director Madeleine. Sims-Less.

Since 2014, O’Brien has been developing best practices for working with intimate moments, scenes with sexual content and nudity in film, television and theater. These are known as the “Privacy on the Set” guidelines. They are widely used by major film production houses including HBO and Netflix.

“The privacy guidelines give us a structure through which we can all work openly and professionally with intimate content, allowing you to bring all of our skills as an actor to the intimate scenes,” she said. .

O’Brien, who pioneered the role of intimacy coordinator, says the job is different from that of a coach. While an acting coach would work with an actor one-on-one, O’Brien said an intimacy coordinator works with the entire production of a scene to make sure everything the world – from the crew to the cast and director – is on the same page.

“We do the exact same for intimate content as a stunt coordinator,” O’Brien explained.

O’Brien says there are three priority tenants to his privacy guidelines. The first being “open communication and transparency”.

O’Brien said it’s important for the cast and crew to prepare weeks in advance and talk about what everyone needs before a sex scene, like modest clothes from the custody department – dress or heated production tent if the stage is outside. .

She said directors should check with actors to express their vision and also ask them what their nudity requirements are and if they have any sexual limits.

“You have that open communication and then the agreement and the consent,” she said.

O’Brien said communication is especially important when it comes to portraying scenes of violence or sexual abuse to ensure actors always feel safe while exploring a “consent withdrawn to” situation. someone”.

Regarding the actual details of physical movement, O’Brien says that “clear choreography” is needed. She added that the scene should be choreographed like that of a fight or a dance. Then the movements need to be repeated a few times before the camera rolls to make sure everyone feels comfortable with what is portrayed, she said.

“What you are looking for is to allow the actor to know what storytelling is, how that moment moves the storytelling forward, what he tells you about each character and about each character’s relationship, ”O’Brien said.

Whether during rehearsals or during filming, O’Brien said intimacy coordinators also implement timeouts, which give actors the autonomy to stop the scene if they start to. feeling uncomfortable, like a director calling “cut”.

Finally, O’Brien says the intimate scene should function as a “closed set,” meaning the shoot only includes those cast and crew members who are directly involved. Additionally, she stated that all other monitors outside of the set should be turned off during the scene to avoid a “free gaze”.

For the selected crew members involved in the scene, O’Brien said the director should consider early on if they can bring more gender parity to the set.

For example, if this is a heterosexual sex scene, O’Brien said that there might only be one actress working with a male actor, surrounded by a team of men.

O’Brien said that just swapping a few male team members with women can help create a more comfortable working environment for actresses.

However, being a privacy coordinator isn’t just about keeping people safe.

O’Brien said his work is integral to creating intimate “valuable” scenes for a film that helps audiences better understand themselves in their sexual expression.

By creating a “clear and professional structure” for intimate scenes, O’Brien said that film productions are able to normalize the sexual content in the film without making the actors or the audience feel vulnerable.


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