What intimacy coords do and why sexual predators still lurk in SA film industry
- Intimacy coordination is a relatively new profession that has taken off along with the #MeToo movement
- Along with choreographing sex scenes, intimacy coordinators look after the safety of the performers says Safe Sets founder Sara Blecher
- Blecher says known sexual predators are still active in the local film scene preying particularly on female actors
Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators is a South African company offering local intimacy coordinators for film, television and theatre.
It also has coordinators and collaborators in a number of English-speaking countries.
On Weekend Breakfast Safe Sets founder Sara Blecher explains that the job of an intimacy coordinator is very much like that of a stunt coordinator on a film set.
When you do stunts in a movie... you need somebody there to help coordinate it and make it look like it's real, but also to make it safe for the actors and crew on set.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
An intimacy coordinator is exactly the same thing, but for intimate scenes in movies and television and in theatre as well. There are a lot of words - there's intimacy coach, there's intimacy coordinator, intimacy choreographer, and it's pretty much the same thing.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
The sex scenes obviously aren't real... The actors are made to look as though they are having sex with each other, so the intimacy coordinator is the person who choreographs that scene to camera so that it looks as though it's real...Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
Does that mean that literally every move the actors make has been pre-arranged?
Improvisation does come into it says Blecher and this where the intimacy coordinator sometimes has to step in.
[Like] 'show us what you did last night with your boyfriend and that will be fairly convincing'. But that's where the problem comes in.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
Because you are also looking after the safety of the performers you really protect the performers from themselves... The sexuality of the character is very different from the sexuality of the person... What kind of sex is going on between those two characters in the moment that you're watching them in the film...Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
Blecher affirms that she has seen directors trying to push performers to go further with a scene than they are comfortable with.
The intimacy coordinator has to advocate for the performers she says, but at the same time has to understand the director's vision.
A director... wants an actor to do things that serve the story, without thinking of the implications on that person's life. You know when an actor agrees to act they don't agree to put their marriage under threat. They don't agree to be ashamed in front of their children...Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
So what intimacy coordinating does, is create a safe space for actors to be able to act through these scenes without threatening or causing damage to their personal lives in any way.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
Once you understand what the director wants from the scene you then coordinate between the actors, getting consent from each of them... Once a scene is choreographed... then you bring the emotion in... You get to know what their boundaries are... and then you work within those guidelines.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
You make sure that both the actors know what those actions will be and have consented to them so there are no sudden surprises. I can't tell you how many times an actor will tell you a story of how they were abused in the middle of a take! That's no longer acceptable.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
Blecher explains when and why she would call a halt to scene so that an aroused actor can take a break before resuming filming.
The seasoned director and producer says while budgets in SA don't always allow for hiring an extra person, a set of protocols around working with intimate scenes has been adopted across the industry.
Launching today! Protocols for Working with Intimate Content in TV, Film and Associated Media - South Africahttps://t.co/LgVoqGaBDx and on the websites @Iproducersorg @SAGActors @swift_safrica @ThePMA_SA @SASFEDinfo @editorsguildsa @Writersguild_sa @IBFCSA pic.twitter.com/0mrtlcexiO— Intimacy Practitioners South Africa (@IntimacyAfrica) April 14, 2021
She affirms that that there are sexual predators and "repeat offenders" working in the local industry.
Everybody knows them in the industry... A lot of the work we did at Swift (Sisters Working in Film & TV) was trying to work against those particularly repeat offenders. It's incredibly difficult - for an actor to come forward and say 'I've been abused by this person' means that you're not going to get a job with that person...Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
... because your job is so dependent on you not saying anything about anybody it is very difficult to build cases against these people.Sara Blecher, Safe Sets Intimacy Coordinators
Intimacy coordination is becoming more and more the norm in the industry across the world she says, with Netflix for instance starting to use coordinators across their productions.
Scroll to the top of the article for the audio to listen to the enlightening interview
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