How Ita O’Brien, intimacy co-ordinator pioneer, ensures a safe environment for actors on set


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TORONTO — Intimacy co-ordinator Ita O’Brien, known for her work on a series of powerful sexual content like “I May Destroy You,” “Sex Education” and “Normal People,” says the key to a reliable sex Preparing the scene and making sure the actors involved feel safe on the sets.

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During a virtual conversation over the weekend during the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Digital Talks event, O’Brien said, “The day on set is just the tip of the iceberg, and really what makes the day well prepared on set is Everything is ready.”

O’Brien said that intimate scenes have the potential to evoke a deeper understanding of the film’s characters and “enrich the storytelling” when they involve more than just the physicality of the moment.


O’Brien told the moderator, actor and director Madeleine, “Of course it’ll be pretend, that’s what we’re in the business for, and so there are techniques to teach you so that it’s safe, but believable and exciting.” Sims-less.

Since 2014, O’Brien has been developing best practices when dealing with intimate moments, scenes with sexual content, and nudity in film, TV and theatre. These are known as ‘‘Guidelines on intimacy’ set. These are widely used by major film production houses including HBO and Netflix.

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“The intimacy guidelines give us the structure by which we can work with intimate material openly and professionally, allowing you to bring all of your skills as an actor to intimate scenes,” he said.

O’Brien, who pioneered the role of an intimacy co-ordinator, says the job is different from that of a coach. While an acting coach will work face-to-face with an actor, O’Brien said an intimacy coordinator works with the entire production of a scene to ensure everyone — from the crew to the actors and director — is on the same page.

“We’re literally doing the same thing for intimate material as a stunt coordinator,” O’Brien explained.

O’Brien says he has three overriding tenants for his intimacy guidelines. The first, “open communication and transparency.”

O’Brien said it’s important for the cast and crew to prepare weeks ahead of time and talk about what everyone needs before a sex scene, such as modest clothing in the wardrobe department or set production. From a warming tent if the view is outside.

He said directors need to check in with actors to express their vision and also ask what their nudity requirements are and whether they have any sexual boundaries.

“You have that open communication and then there’s agreement and consent,” she said.

O’Brien said that communication is especially important when it comes to depicting scenes of sexual violence or abuse to ensure that “consent is being taken from someone” when exploring the situation. The actors still feel safe.

When it comes to the actual details of physical motion, O’Brien says, “clear choreography” is essential. He said that the scene should be choreographed like a fight or a dance. Then, the moves should be rehearsed several times before the camera rolls to make sure everyone feels comfortable with what’s being photographed, she said.

O’Brien said, “What you’re looking for is allowing the actor to be perfect in the way the story is told, how the moment moves the story, it gives you a sense of each character and each character’s relationship.” What does it tell about?

At rehearsals or during filming, O’Brien noted that intimacy coordinators also enforce timeouts, which give actors the autonomy to pause the scene should they begin to feel uncomfortable, as opposed to what the director calls a “cut”. is similar to.

Ultimately, O’Brien says that the intimate scene should serve as a “closed set,” meaning that only those cast and crew members are directly involved in filming. Also, she said that all other monitors outside the set should be turned off during the scene to avoid “sneaking eyes”.

As for those select crew members involved in the scene, O’Brien said the director should consider early on whether they can bring more gender equality to the set.

For example, if it’s a heterosexual sex scene, O’Brien said that there can only be one female actor working with a male actor, surrounded by a crew of men.

O’Brien said swapping some male crew members with women could help create a more comfortable work environment for female actors.

However, being an intimacy co-ordinator doesn’t just mean keeping people safe.

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

By creating a “clear, professional structure” for intimate scenes, O’Brien said filmmakers are able to normalize sexual material in film without making actors or audiences feel unsafe.


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