Intimacy coordinators pioneering ethical approach to filming intimate scenes in Hollywood

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Thursday, February 2, 2023
An ethical, safe approach to filming intimate scenes in Hollywood
The Me Too Movement prompted many of Hollywood's standards and practices to be questioned and revised, prompting a need for intimacy coordinators. Sandy Kenyon has the story.

The Me Too Movement prompted many of Hollywood's standards and practices to be questioned and revised-especially when it comes to the filming of intimate scenes.

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing actors issued formal guidelines for such work and recommends hiring an intimacy coordinator, "for scenes involving nudity and/or simulate sex."

Previously, actors filming while nude had to depend on a costume designer to hand them a robe and count on an assistant director to clear the set of anyone except essential crew members.

There were few rules, but now that's all changed.

Catherine Haena Kim and Milo Ventimiglia are starring in a new ABC series premiering February 19 called "The Company You Keep," and while playing a CIA agent and a con man, the two share plenty of steamy scenes.

"You make it look as real as possible," Ventimiglia said. "You make it feel as real as possible."

Trusting each other is the key the two told me, but both welcome the presence on set of an intimacy coordinator.

"I think it's really helpful just to have that middle person," Kim said. "To make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and everyone feels safe."

They're talking about a profession that didn't even exist just a few years ago, and it's one a former performer named Brooke Haney has embraced.

"When the Me Too Movement hit, it became clearer that we needed a particular person responsible for this, and that's when we started to get paid for it," Haney said.

She has long been interested in how sex is portrayed on film and saw an opportunity to help her fellow performers navigate intimate scenes.

"Everything is fake, so we use modesty garments to help take care of the actors," Haney said.

Her big black bag contains everything she needs on set, where Haney is a constant presence.

"You have an intimacy coordinator for the same reasons you would have a stunt coordinator," producer Crissy Brookshire said.

She is part of a team making an upcoming movie called "Birder"-an LGBTQ+ project.

Director Nate Dushku said an intimacy coordinator is especially important on a project such as this.

"When you do a film like this, an erotic thriller or a psycho sexual thriller, we need to ensure the well being of the talent," Dushku said.

The coordinator's job doesn't necessarily end when filming stops.

During post production on "Birder," Haney sat next to Dushku and the film's writer, Ammon Lourie, who calls this a "new frontier" in filmmaking.

"We haven't ever had to tell stories, make movies, do television with these kinds of rules and eyes of the world on the industry the way it is now. You need pioneers." Lourie said.

Pioneers like Brooke Haney.