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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

ICYMI: There’s A Job Where You Choreograph Intimate Scenes

Whenever you tune into one of HBO’s spicy and record-breaking series such as Game Of Thrones and Euphoria or check out Netflix’s sensational period drama Bridgerton, there are more than just actors running around on set. Scenes with nudity and/or simulated sex need more than directors, they usually benefit from the help of intimacy coordinators or an intimacy director. These individuals are on set to help actors secure protection over their genitals, facilitate safety and emotional comfort during each scene, and literally create and direct movements.

While myriad articles discuss the behind-the-scenes world of TV and movie sex scenes, it seems like there are fewer sources detailing what goes on when nudity and sex scenes take place in a live setting. When there are no cameras and editing tricks, how do plays, concerts, etc. make sure every performer is safe? In this case, certified intimacy directors step in.

They serve as “an advocate for actors, and a liaison between actors and production for scenes that involve nudity/hyper exposed work, simulated sex acts, and intimate physical contact in live performance,’ according to IDC Professionals, a certification organization for intimacy coordinators and directors.

According to Ohio-based intimacy director Emelia Sherin, coordinating for film requires different skill sets, but the intention is the same when working with live performers. “For example, when filming [for] movie/TV, actors, and the intimacy coordinator, have the opportunity to stop filming, re-film, or use movie magic or tools to re-create movements or a scene,” Sherin tells Her Campus. “On stage, when performing, you have one opportunity and it needs to be very detailed with consent, boundaries, and having alternatives in case an actor(s) are uncomfortable with a particular movement that performance. It’s so important to let actors set their boundaries and to respect one another’s requests. That’s why we choreograph to make sure that every movement is safe and consensual.”

It may sound wild, but intimacy coordinators and directors only recently became standard on sets and stages in 2018, coinciding with the #MeToo movement. Sherin knows this rather new and blossoming field is important because consent is key, onstage and offstage, and maintaining boundaries is a top priority.

“No matter the difference, participating in any form of intimacy for art is a very raw and vulnerable experience that takes a lot of communication regarding your overall boundaries and how you’re feeling that day, as well as humanizing actors, rather than treating one another like objects,” she shares with Her Campus. “You are humans creating art— that takes a lot of trust and accountability. All actors have the right to say no and we encourage transparency. ‘No’ never needs a reason and we respect that.”

With her certification, Sherin is currently intimacy directing Die Mommie Die by Charles Busch and RENT by Jonathan Larson. She is thrilled for the opportunity to foster truly safe and respectful environments in this way.

“I’ve been able to apply my skills by choreographing scenes for either show that have a broad range of intimacy. I get the opportunity to foster an environment of normalizing boundary exercises, teaching consistent consent and respect, and helping actors feel comfortable and confident with their craft,'” she says.

Bryanna, 21, a music theatre major at Baldwin Wallace University actually participated in Weston Theatre Company’s production of Hair, a musical with nudity.

“We had multiple conversations and we would go in a circle everyone and hold hands and take deep breaths together,” she shares. “Hair overall is a very touchy show so we would also talk about boundaries before each rehearsal and show and if anyone was having an uncomfy day or had injured themselves we would let the whole cast know.”

Becoming naked onstage was not a standard rehearsal process. The actors were slowly immersed into their roles by first miming taking their clothes off and rehearsing. Then, rehearsal entailed keeping clothes on, but getting into robes offstage like the actors would do after a nude scene. At a later rehearsal, the cast was fully nude with solely the intimacy director present. “After we did it for real, we discussed issues and did it until it felt seamless,” Bryanna says. Slowly but surely, the intimacy director was joined by the stage managers and band, and later, the whole crew was in the auditorium.

Bryanna says that no one was uncomfortable with the scene, in general. “The first time we did it, it was the feeling like you are about to fall on a roller coaster and you know what’s happening and your stomach is in your throat. After that it just felt normal, we all have bodies and it was just part of the job.”

Beyond the excitement of being in such an iconic show, Bryanna also grew in her self-love and body positivity through the nude scene in Hair. “After the experience, I was grateful [my body] allowed me to sing and dance and share this story instead of a whole bunch of body parts I didn’t like. It has become one of my favorite shows and I would love to do it again.”

If intimacy coordination and direction sound of interest to you, Sherin assures Her Campus that learning these skills are both important and simple. “There are different processes for different training programs! Some are in person and some are virtual. With my busy schedule of having a full-time job and a part-time job, taking virtual courses really helped make this possible,” she says.

“There are some programs that are self-guided with supervisors to assist you, and there are some programs that are held at scheduled dates and times,” Sherin notes. “Either way, these programs are made easily accessible because this skill is so important, and more people need to take advantage of these opportunities to grow their practice in the arts to make it a safer environment for all.”

Head to IDC Professionals to find out more about their certification process, and check out CEO Jessica Steinrock’s TikTok to learn about the magic of intimacy work.

Maria Serra is the SEO editor at Her Campus Media, providing updates to evergreen content across all brands including Her Campus, College Fashionista, and Spoon University. She also writes new fashion content for College Fashionista, foodie finds and shopping tips for Spoon U readers, and sex and wellness stories for the HC girlies. As a certified emo girl, it’s no surprise that her previous work includes a wide array of music stories. In the recent past, she served as the assistant editor of Alternative Press magazine where she interviewed her favorite groups including The Aces and The Maine. She also worked with music PR firms including 2bEntertainment, and served on campaigns for rockers such as My Chemical Romance and Mod Sun. Currently, she works as a freelance writer with idobi Radio where she shares music and alternative news with fellow pop-punk lovers. She is planning to expand her work into the freelance world with everything from modern rock tunes all the way to more sex and wellness works. After all, she does have a minor in human sexuality and is quite proud to have that necessary and cool academic background. In her free time, she is a stand-up comedian, sketch performer, and improviser in the Cleveland area working primarily with Imposters Theater. Additionally, she is a dog mother to a perfectly round chihuahua-pug named Bobbie who has four teeth but is still a delightful companion nonetheless. She is debating on whether or not Bobbie needs her own TikTok account… we’ll see. mariaserra@hercampus.com