Rolling Stone reports that the updated SAG-AFTRA agreement with the AMPTP has placed emphasis on the encouraged use of intimacy coordinators on set during sex scenes. Intimacy coordinators aren’t presently part of the union. Steps will be taken in the coming years to get them union representation, as it has been established that they provide a significant service to movie and television productions.
Though the updated language in the agreement doesn’t necessarily have an effect on how sex scenes are portrayed to a viewing audience, it’s a massive milestone for union members who have been advocating for a safer, more inclusive environment on-set for actors.
What Does An Intimacy Coordinator Do?
An intimacy coordinator is a choreographer who advocates for actors who are involved with productions that have sex scenes or intimate physical contact. Functioning as a liaison between actors and production staff, an intimacy coordinator is instrumental in assuring that the on-set environment for actors is one that makes them feel safe while performing in scenes that could potentially be uncomfortable or even traumatizing.
In other words, the presence of an intimacy coordinator will allow actors to focus on performing, rather than advocating for themselves should their role require sexual acts.
In the past, actors weren’t necessarily notified ahead of their auditions or interviews that they’d possibly be performing in sex scenes, or scenes that require nudity.
This is a step in the right direction for SAG members who are tasked with performing in sex scenes, because the language in the agreement places emphasis on non-discrimination, anti-harassment, and transparent reporting processes that protect an actor’s best interest in regard to sexually explicit scenes, or scenes involving nudity in general.
The language in the updated 128-page contract stipulates that producers will “use best efforts to engage an intimacy coordinator” for sex scenes. But more importantly, the contract also protects union members who request an intimacy coordinator in the sense that producers cannot retaliate against acting talent for doing so. Additionally, if union members feel like a line has been crossed while performing in sex scenes, there will be clear instructions on how to report an incident through the proper channels.
Union members see the inclusion of intimacy coordinators for productions with sex scenes as a big win because it will help establish a safer environment for acting talent.
What’s more, the tentative agreement, which SAG members have until December 5 to ratify, has language that protects background actors. In the past, actors weren’t necessarily notified ahead of their auditions or interviews that they’d possibly be performing in sex scenes, or scenes that require nudity. This added level of transparency will require studios to give appropriate notice to acting talent, who many not be comfortable performing sex scenes for an audition.
This updated agreement between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP marks the first time that the implementation of intimacy coordinators are mentioned in a contractual sense. At the present time, the union doesn’t outright require intimacy coordinators for productions with sex scenes. But as this practice is further encouraged, and more registered intimacy coordinators become available, future contracts will hopefully allow them to become union members now that their importance has been underscored.
Union members see the inclusion of intimacy coordinators for productions with sex scenes as a big win because it will help establish a safer environment for acting talent. And moving forward, as the practice becomes ubiquitous, stronger safeguards can be put in place that ensure that every actor involved in a sex scene feels safe while working on-set.