Two years ago, intimacy coordinators on a film or TV set wouldn’t have been taken seriously. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement, they are very much needed to make all participants feel safe and represented.
HBO led the pack when the network hired Alicia Rodis to be on set for the new season of “The Deuce,” a show about the sex industry set in the 1970s, after the show’s star, James Franco, was accused of pressuring young actors in his acting class to perform nude or semi-nude scenes that made them feel uncomfortable.
Franco said the claims are “not accurate” and his job on the drama series was up in the air for a period of time.
HBO and the show’s producers ultimately moved forward with Franco still attached to filming the show because they “felt comfortable” after investigating the claims.
The show’s other star, Emily Meade, wasn’t sure how she felt about the scenario because allowing an actor or crew member back on set essentially “means that you’re technically supporting someone,” she told Vanity Fair.
So, that’s when she pitched the idea of an intimacy coordinator to HBO. And her advocacy had a profound effect on the industry.
“HBO implemented a policy that would require an intimacy coordinator on all programming that features adult content,” according to the magazine. And streaming service, Netflix, was soon to follow suit.
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris told the magazine the organization is currently working on standardizing guidelines for intimacy coordinators and having them accepted into the guild, similar to a stunt coordinator.
“Look at television now, versus 20 years ago,” Carteris said. “I mean, it’s so sexually explicit now…. Think about before I began [acting]; we had to sleep in separate beds, and you couldn’t show a woman being pregnant. Now it’s everything.”
“Even a kiss is different [now],” she added. “When I first began in the business, I remember being told, You can’t touch that person here when you are kissing. Now, it’s like: How hot can you make it? How sexy can it be?”
Ita O’Brien, who was an intimacy coordinator for Netflix’s “Sex Education,” said, “It’s so amazing to see how quickly the industry has shifted and changed” and hopes there’s someone helping with sexually explicit content on every single set in the near future.
She described a recent event on a set.
“I had a situation the other day when we were checking out a kiss. And so the actor’s going, Oh, can I put my hand on your cheek? And then he says, ‘Can I put my hands on your ears?’ And she didn’t even know that it was a ‘no’ for her.”
She watched as the woman tensed up when the actor touched her ear and stepped in to say that was off-limits in the future.
“The main thing,” O’Brien said, “is open communication and transparency with this work.”