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Sex on set: don’t screw it up!

Sex on set: don’t screw it up!

The world of cinema trembled when the #metoo-scandals became public. And even though some great steps were taken in the wake of these publications in order to prevent this behavior in the future, we still have a long way to go according to intimacy coordinators Philine Janssens and Marjan Lammers.

Intimacy coaches are gaining popularity in the film industry. And not without results. Ever since it’s obligated for American production companies to hire an intimacy coordinator on set, it’s proven that actors are guaranteed a safer work environment.

What does an intimacy coach do?

An intimacy coach helps actors by doing physical exercises with them and by functioning as someone who can advocate for them in meetings with the producers and writers. Also, they make sure that the actors’ wishes are granted when it comes to visible nudity on screen. “It’s an important task,” says Janssens, “because by doing this work, I’ve been able to make adjustments in the scripts for many actors and actresses.” Her clients, but also writers and producers, often times commend her for her work. “It’s not a hype; it’s needed,” she concludes.

Accordingly, Janssens’ experiences in the field are supported by Lammers. “Sometimes you’ll see a sex scene and you think: was this a necessary scene to support the story? Or was the director looking for an easy way to apply some tension to the film, which ultimately doesn’t deliver anyway? As a film enthusiast and an intimacy coach, it breaks my heart when I see such a scene, because it neglects both quality of the film as the body code for actors.”

‘Merely a checkbox’

There are cultural differences when it comes to shared knowledge about urgency of intimacy coaching. Production teams in the UK and in the US are often ahead of the curb, especially compared to European countries. Janssens says: “When I was in Italy for a production from a large production company, I was merely a checkbox. The producer asked: ‘do we have an intimacy coach yet? Yes? Great.’ And that was it. That doesn’t help the cause, obviously. But still, it’s better than nothing, because I wield power in that role. The only thing is that I need to be stricter than on other sets.”

A good example

The hit show Sex Education is renowned for its good work with intimacy coaches. “This is potent in the series and adds to the quality of the acting,” says Lammers. “They show how sex is both natural as well as awkward, with a hint of typical British humor.”

Philline Janssens and Marjan Lammers held a keynote during the Industry Day of Go Short Nijmegen 2022 on this subject. The information and quotes in this article were extracted from this keynote.

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