Protecting Actors in Intimate Situations

Film set with cameras in the foreground and clothed actors in the background

Debbie says:

I have been an avid theatregoer all my life, and have just come (very cautiously) back to our local theater in 2022. One of the plays I saw there credited an “intimacy coordinator,” a role I wasn’t aware of. So Mai Yoshikawa’s article in Kyodo News about Chiho Asada, a Japanese intimacy coordinator, caught my eye.

I did a little research on intimacy coordination. According to Wikipedia, “an intimacy coordinator is a staff member who ensures the well-being of actors who participate in sex scenes or other intimate scenes in theater, film and television production.” The profession has been around for a while in a small way, but really found traction in about 2017, following the upsurge of the Me Too movement and the revealed Harvey Weinstein abuse ring. Very mainstream media producers such as HBO require intimacy coordinators for all films and TV shows where the issues arise, and Netflix also hired someone to do intimace coordination for its show Sex Education (which I just finished watching, without ever thinking once about the issue). The professional association is Intimacy Directors International, which relies on these five excellent pillars:  consent, communication, context, choreography, and closure.

While it’s easy to imagine teen-aged style snickering and eye-rolling, both on set and off, this is obviously a hugely needed role in so many contexts. Just knowing that these people exist, that they are being employed in major productions, and that they have thought through the issues, is a relief to me in places I didn’t know were tense.

In that context, I’m especially interested to read about Ms. Asada, who is only one of two certified intimacy coordinators in Japan, and who spoke to Kyodo Times about the specific issues she faces.

Asada often facilitates difficult conversations between the cast, the director, wardrobe and production.

Some of the ways she advocates for the cast are by requiring erotic scenes be shot on a closed set with as few crew as possible, making sure actors are given modesty patches to cover their private parts, and ensuring there are no surprises while the camera is rolling.

Her training was “an intense 75-plus-hour course,” around the time that Netflix released its first Japanese show crediting an intimacy coordinator.

In both Japan and America, the boom has come with growing pains, with skeptical creators and crew members viewing intimacy coordinators as on-set buzzkills and an unnecessary luxury.

“As with any new role it comes with challenges. My presence on set is not always welcome at the beginning, and it’s a surprise for many that it’s a creative opportunity. The safer the actors feel, the better work they do,” Asada said.

Proudly, she adds that many people who initially resisted the idea of having an intimacy coordinator on set changed their minds by the end of production.

The United States, Europe, India, and everywhere else movies and TV are filmed all face comparable challenges to Japan’s, each with their own cultural specificities. I believe, with Asada, that ” I want intimacy coordinators to be as normalized as stunt choreographers.”

It’s about time.


Link from Feminist Giant‘s global roundup, which is curated by Samiha Hossain

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