Sunday, June 13

Sex in the cinema wants to be like a choreography | Culture

Ita O'Brien (left), coordinates a sex sequence in a training workshop.
Ita O’Brien (left), coordinates a sex sequence in a training workshop.THE COUNTRY

No one on the team knew her. Nor did they understand exactly why he had appeared on set. They had not signed her as a filmmaker, an actress, or a technician. What was painting there Amanda Blumenthal? She explained it herself, with a talk before the whole team. “Our job is to ensure that there is safety and respect in the sequences of nude, sex or intimacy; and, at the same time, help the director to achieve his creative vision ”, he sums it up now. But then, back in 2018, the figure of the privacy coordinator was just beginning to be a profession. So much so that some approached him to tell him about the problems they had at home with their relationships.

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“It still happens. But very little, ”he laughs. Because in three years there has been a revolution in movies and series. His professional figure, already common in the theater, is today almost omnipresent in Hollywood shootings. On the wave of the Me Too movement, companies have sprung up to this and training schools, as well as working side-by-side with the US Interpreters Union. The series The Deuce, from HBO, was the first to recruit these professionals in 2017. But Euphoria, Sex Education, Normal people, It’s a Sin, It could destroy you and even less sex-centric works like Watchmen, Succession or the latest James Bond film have followed the same path. Virtually all major platforms, from Netflix to Amazon Prime Video, have them in their filming. And, now that the filming is back on its usual path after the pandemic stops, the privacy coordinators seek to make the final leap: normalization. Of cinematographic sex as agreed and prepared choreography that does not bother the person who performs it. And of his fixed presence on any set. Blumenthal he estimates that perhaps in five or six years it will even be mandatory. Although in Spain and in almost all of Europe, except in the United Kingdom, there are hardly any traces of them.

Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in 'Euphoria'.
Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in ‘Euphoria’.HBO / THE COUNTRY

“Much of the work is prior. For one, talk to the director about his idea for the sequence. And, on the other, understand the concerns of the actors: ‘This kiss seems good to you, where is your limit’. A ‘maybe’ is a ‘no’. And you have to know it clearly because that way you can trust the yeses. Then a kind of dance of the body is built, with its rhythm and the guidelines of how and where to play. When everyone is happy, the team enters. Although if there are nudes, it is important that it be a private space “, he explains Ita O’Brien, one of the main British promoters of privacy coordination. In addition, they memorize contracts and their clauses so that they are fulfilled and no one overdoes it, they study clothing and stratagems to keep private parts covered and away, mediate in the case of discrepancies, listen to doubts and insecurities from the interpreters and seek satisfactory solutions also for the filmmakers. O’Brien compares it to the coordination of specialists in action sequences or combat: “It becomes something like any other from work to do it as well as possible.”

The concrete examples, after three years of full activity, are multiplying. Blumenthal recalls an actress who had accepted a simulated sex sequence where her buttocks were seen. But, once on set, it turned out that it included a wide shot with fingering and full nudity. The interpreter transferred her fear to the privacy coordinator, who agreed with the director to film that image under the sheets. Y Meleza Morris, who has been practicing for just two months, after receiving training from Blumenthal, cites another case: “In a short a father had to spank a girl. Neither of them had ever acted and suddenly they had to act out a sequence of violence, so the director asked me to be present. ” Eventually, the girl wore protected pants, like skating pants, and they found a way that the man would never touch her, Morris recalls. And it suggests that their presence could also be extended in the future to fashion shows or pornographic shootings.

Olly Alexander (center), in a still from 'It's a Sin'.
Olly Alexander (center), in a still from ‘It’s a Sin’.hbo / HBO

Although not always so much consensus prevails. All three agree that the experience has made their work better known and reduced skepticism. But the doubts persist. So much so that they all insist that at no time do they intend to censor or limit directors and screenwriters. “What’s more, having a person on set dedicated to these roles allows a filmmaker to break free from it and focus more on their work,” says Morris. In a recent report by The Hollywood Reporter, the creator of the series Dead to Me, Liz Feldman, stated that having a privacy coordinator had brought her “some relief.”

“There may be resistance. Actors who don’t want to rehearse or get more nervous, producers who invite you to check everything with the performers and then step aside, or directors who feel like you’re stepping on them, ”O’Brien lists. Sometimes part of the team has even pointed out to the production that they considered the presence of an intimacy coordinator unnecessary. “I’ve worked on sets where you tried to force performers to do things they didn’t want to. Most have very serious limits when it comes to being naked and in the end it is their body that will remain on screen for eternity, ”adds Blumenthal. Both ensure that contracts and castings Ambiguous remain sources of conflict. An actress was stunned when Blumenthal He asked her if she was ready for the bare-chested sequence she was going to film, something she was unaware of.

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, in a sequence from 'Normal People'.
Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, in a sequence from ‘Normal People’.Hulu / THE COUNTRY

But problems can also come from the privacy coordinators themselves. Morris, of Panamanian origin, is one of the few workers in the sector neither white nor 100% Anglo-Saxon. With less than a hundred professionals on the entire planet, the representation of different ethnic groups, sexual orientations and identities or geographical origins is very limited. In Spain there is an apprentice of O’Brien that she is just taking her first steps, according to her trainer. Women dominate, in any case, the profession. Of the 60 coordinators that Blumenthal knows, only five are men.

Some professionals have also shown little training and too much desire for prominence on the set, according to the article of The Hollywood Reporter. Hence, Blumenthal has collaborated in the recent development of guidelines issued by the US actors union to further professionalize privacy coordinators. Among other measures, it is compulsory to accumulate training and experience and an official record. They themselves agree to reinforce the guarantees. It is, after all, your field of work: trust.

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