Consent and harassment on set: how can Intimacy Coordinators help?

21 May 2021

Due to the #MeToo movement, HBO studios together with specialist practitioners (such as Alicia Rodis) established a new role: the intimacy coordinator. The role migrated from the USA into the UK, EU and worldwide. Slowly more shows have started hiring such specialists to oversee consent and to offer safer practices which include how to prepare, rehearse, block and perform intimacy.

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What do these specialists do? 

Although every intimacy coordinator will have their own style and toolkit, below are the fundamental aspects of the role:   

Liaison, Consultation & Coordination: 

The intimacy coordinator will be brought in ideally in the prep stage and be part of the production meetings in parity with a HOD. This allows them to consult and brainstorm with all the departments regarding the necessities of scenes with intimacy and how these can be approached safely. 

Some intimacy coordinators may also offer LGBTQIA+ Consultancy or Transgender Consultancy depending on their services and their professional experience as activists and educators in such topics. 

Advocacy & Allyship

Intimacy coordinators are there to advocate for the artist and crew regarding anything containing intimacy. In addition they can offer advocacy for diversity and inclusion on set. 

Overseeing Informed, Specific & Continued Consent:

It is very difficult for an artist to give a wholehearted “yes” to intimacy actions or nudity levels that they know very little about. The intimacy coordinator is there as a specialist to converse with the director and actors, ask questions, offer suggestions and coordinate information so the artist can consent after being informed as much as possible. During the rehearsals, blocking and shooting, the intimacy coordinator checks-in with the artist to assess their levels of agreement and consent. Thus if artists want to add or withdraw levels of nudity or add or withdraw intimate action, there is a nominated professional to assess their continued and specific consent. 

Facilitation And Choreography:

The intimacy coordinator helps to facilitate action performed by the artist. A trained intimacy coordinator can facilitate intimate action such as contact kissing, physical touch, simulated sex and much more. Facilitation will include overseeing consent and offering best practices on set. On some occasions, the facilitation may have a choreography element to it so artists know how to position their bodies so that modesty garments are masked from camera. Action can also be adjusted to suit camera shots & angles, costume, set, a particular style of sensuality or movement language or to suit a particular narrative. 

Offering Closure On Set:

Intimacy coordinators should be mental health first aiders and have an understanding of how to create a more trauma informed practice. They are therefore a first point of support should the artist or crew feel emotionally unregulated on set during scenes with intimacy. They can offer the artist some support, if they wish, on how to de-role from the character and action. This can support their mental health and ongoing resilience on set. It is important to remember that the intimacy coordinator is not a trained therapist, and so further support off set may be necessary in order to offer more care to both artists and crew alike. 

Sexual harassment and scenes of intimacy:

Hiring an intimacy coordinator will not stop the possibility of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment from happening on set. To prevent harassment across the board we must cultivate a cultural and educational change. 

Facilitating education on bullying and forms of harassment to all production personnel, cast and crew as a prerequisite to working on set, will help raise awareness and hopefully create a more consent based culture. 

Bullying, emotional manipulation and sexual harassment have a higher risk in scenes with intimacy. Lack of preparation, rehearsals and transparency can raise the possibility of misunderstandings, assumptions and miscommunications. These leave artists and crew vulnerable to misuse of power, disrespectful behaviours and non-consensual actions. An intimacy coordinator can reduce the likelihood of these from happening in scenes of intimacy. Once there is a specialist overseeing intimate action, consent and care, they can work with the director, the first AD and the producer, to mitigate such risks. An intimacy coordinator is an additional level of personnel that enhances an employer’s duty of care. 

For more information on the role in the UK please contact the Bectu Intimacy Coordinator’s Branch:

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