- Insider spoke with three prominent intimacy coordinators about common myths of their jobs.
- Intimacy coordinators aren’t the “fun police,” they’re there to make intimate content safer.
- They can help actors separate their character’s intimacy from their own personal experiences.
The title “intimacy coordinator” was only coined about five years ago, so it’s no surprise people have some misconceptions about the job.
The professionals on film and TV productions focus on the well-being of cast and crew members during intimate scenes that include things like nudity and simulated sex.
Insider spoke with some of the industry’s top intimacy coordinators to debunk the most common and frustrating myths about their jobs.
Intimacy coordinators are there to focus on the characters’ intimate life, not the actors’
David Thackeray, a professional intimacy coordinator who’s worked on shows like Channel 4’s “It’s a Sin” and Netflix’s “Sex Education,” told Insider his job is strictly professional. In fact, actors are encouraged to separate their characters’ approach to intimacy from their real-life experiences.
“It’s all about saying to the artist, ‘OK, so you are in your personal body, and now I want you to come into your professional body before we start each scene’ … What are you gonna do to come into that character?” he said. “The character’s intimacy is gonna be different from your own.”
Thackeray added, “No one’s interested in anyone’s personal intimacy here. How does the character have sex?”
Intimacy coordinators are ‘not the fun police,’ they actually want the actors and crew to enjoy filming
Thackeray told Insider that many people think intimacy coordinators are there to remove all levity from filming sex scenes.
“Yeah, I am not the fun police,” he said. “Early on it was very much like, ‘Oh, am I allowed to say that?’ But you can have fun. These scenes should be fun as well … just like any other scene.”
Alicia Rodis, one of the pioneers of intimacy coordination who works for HBO studios, similarly told Insider, “We’re not the sex police.”
She continued, “People will be like, ‘Oh, I can’t make that joke when you’re around’ … If I’m helping you to hold on to that bad joke, you’re welcome, but I’m not HR. Let’s get the job done and make sure everyone’s OK.”
Having an intimacy coordinator on set doesn’t mean films or TV shows are censoring their content
According to Rodis, who worked on HBO’s “The Deuce,” the presence of an intimacy coordinator doesn’t mean there’s less nudity or sex on screen.
“We’re not there to censor at all … I’m literally going in to work on an orgy scene tomorrow. It doesn’t take it away,” she told Insider. “What it does is just make sure we’re all honoring what the vision is. And if that vision is gratuitous nudity, awesome, I’m here for it. So let’s just make sure everyone’s aware of it and go from there.”
If anything, having an intimacy coordinator on the production team helps the actors and crew more effectively produce intimate scenes.
“When people feel that they are safe, that’s when, oftentimes, they’re free to do their best work because they’re not worried about getting harmed, so they’re able to really live and embrace it,” Rodis said.
The hardest part about the job is dealing with people who don’t respect or understand its importance
Ita O’Brien, another pioneer in intimacy coordination, told Insider the hardest aspect of her job is dealing with production staff who don’t respect or understand her work.
“I’ve had productions where it’s a full-on rape scene that is central to the storytelling, and yet the production said, ‘Oh, you’re here for the girl,'” she said. “And when I’ve set out that this is a pathway of taking care of abusive subject matter, I’ve been told neither the director nor the actors want the choreography. So I wasn’t allowed on set, and yet I was there, so that’s challenging for me.”
O’Brien said that feeling a lack of respect has sometimes made her want to leave sets.
“How do I actually feel that I’m doing my job?” she said. “Or is it actually right that I say, ‘Do you know what? If you’re not employing me to put in place the skills that I’m here for, then I should just walk away from this production.'”