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  4. Explained | What are intimacy directors and what's their job on a movie set

Explained | What are intimacy directors and what's their job on a movie set

An intimacy director understands the vision of the film's director, offers alternatives, helps in creating a safe environment for the shooting of lovemaking and intimate scenes besides counseling and providing workshops to the performers.

Devasheesh Pandey Written by: Devasheesh Pandey New Delhi Published on: February 01, 2022 14:29 IST
Explained | What are intimacy directors and what's their job on a movie set
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Explained | What are intimacy directors and what's their job on a movie set

Highlights

  • Intimacy directors understand the vision behind a lovemaking scene and offer alternatives
  • They offer psychological support and guidance to actors who will be involved in an intimate scene
  • Intimacy directors restrict people on set while shooting scenes and make sure no leaks happen

Even though on-screen intimacy is not a new concept in the Indian film industry, how it is portrayed has seen a major change over the decades. From days when on-screen lovemaking was only suggested, to today, when actors are more open to doing 'bold' scenes for the sake of realism in the movie, things have come a long way. Not just in terms of what is shown, intimacy is also evolving in the way it is picturised on a film set. The buzzword today is intimacy directors and with the launch of the upcoming film Gehraiyaan, people seem all the more curious about this specialised field in filmmaking. So what exactly are intimacy directors and what's their job on a movie set? We try to explore. 

Also read: Deepika Padukone opens up on shooting intimate scenes for Gehraiyaan: 'Not easy'

What are intimate scenes?

On-screen intimacy does not necessarily mean scenes that show the characters having sex. An intimate scene may be as simple as kissing to as heavy and complicated as characters in various states of nudity. Like a fight sequence, dance choreography or a dialogue scene, intimate scenes are also discussed and even rehearsed before filming. Directors and actors rehearse, choreograph, or even improvise sex scenes on the spot. Like every other scene in a movie, intimate scenes are shot in the presence of a crew.  

Now that we understand that intimacy is as integral to storytelling as any other film sequence, sometimes even more important, we get to who are intimacy directors. 

The intimacy directors and their team 

Intimacy directors sometimes referred to as intimacy specialists are critical to the movie's intimate scenes and how they are shot on set with the actors. Right from the discussion about the said scene with the actors to rehearsal and filming, intimacy directors are integral to how such scenes are visualised by the directors and executed by the actors.

When it comes to filming sex scenes, the actors are naturally in a vulnerable state, sometimes women more than men. In such a situation, the performance may get compromised and the desired emotion may also go for a toss, resulting in re-shoots or tacky-looking scenes. Additionally, there may be overriding psychological issues like trust in the mind of the actors which may come in the way of performance. 

An intimacy director addresses every such issue that helps out with the proper execution of a sex scene. They act as a bridge between the film director and the actors. They discuss and understand what the particular intimate scene entails and the logistics for it. In cases of nudity, they offer alternatives to directors in terms of shooting angles.

Then they share with the actors the minute details of the intimate scenes and how they will be shot. They help in clearing out the issues of consent and boundaries before filming such scenes so that the actors are not caught unaware when the set-up is in place and filming happens. This helps in creating a safe space for the actors to perform without any riders or unmentioned demands on behalf of the director.

The role of intimacy directors

Intimacy directors' job is to help with the proper execution of the film's intimate scenes. The right mood and manner is the most significant aspect here. They may have a small team to help out with the various departments. Costume and editing are such areas. An intimacy director's assistant or intimacy coordinator will be in touch with the costume department to ensure there is no miscommunication about what state of undress the actors are supposed to be in and make sure the related logistics are taken care of by the production. Nothing that is not acceptable to the actors will make the cut.

Intimacy director and their team are also in charge of making sure that no one who is not required during the filming of such scenes is allowed to witness the shoot. This means making a list of the exact number of people that are needed on set during the time and making the performance area a closed one. 

When transferring footage, they make sure no leaks happen. 

Before shooting commences, they are also in charge of taking workshops, if required. They also help actors overcome any performance-related anxiety before and while filming.

If an actor is uncomfortable with a particular shot going into the final cut, intimacy director and the team will create a space for open discussion between the film's director and the performers. 

How they help create a safe environment on set

Since most of the discussions related to sex scenes have happened beforehand, the element of surprise is eliminated. Now, shooting can take place without any major hurdles. 

An intimacy director also helps set the right tone and manner for the shooting of lovemaking scenes. Unlike directors, they do not press authority on the set but rather discuss each and every facet of such scenes before and during execution.

On the set, they ensure the viewing monitors are flagged properly so that leaks are checked.   

During filming, if something that was not a part of the plan happens, the intimacy director steps in to sort out any communication error and issues new directions if required.

Intimacy directors also provide the director's team with the riders so that the editing process can be without any hiccups.  

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