The First Nudity & Sex Scene Guidelines For UK Directors Have Been Released

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Intimacy coordinators are becoming an accepted part of filming protocol. Their job is to choreograph sex scenes and advocate for actors to ensure they feel comfortable before, during, and after filming. But official guidelines were still somewhat lacking until now. Thanks to Directors UK, the first nudity and sex scene guidance advising directors on how best to work with actors, writers, and producers to create a safe set has been released.

Acknowledging the power dynamics of the casting process and the vulnerability that actors face when performing simulated sexual acts, the BAFTA-supported guidelines are aiming to become "standard working practice" in the industry.

They include banning nudity in all auditions and call backs. (If bodies need to be shown, actors can instead wear swimwear.) Semi-nudity is also banned in first auditions. If a performer is called back for a second audition, they should be given 48 hours' notice of semi-nudity requirements along with the full script and a chance to bring a chaperone on the day. Written consent should also be obtained for any filmed or photographed semi-nudity.

The audition-related guidelines are extensive. As well as the above, they advise only holding castings in professional spaces within working hours and avoiding sex scenes completely in first auditions. It is also important, say the guidelines, that assumptions about the performer's comfort levels are never made — regardless of whether they've performed nude before.

Writers should also be consulted and asked if nudity or sex scenes are essential to the story. For example, does an act of sexual violence need to be shown or can it merely be suggested? "Don’t underestimate the audience’s level of screen literacy; they can piece together the on-screen clues, so we don’t always have to put performers through traumatic acts to reveal a character," the guidance states.

When it comes to filming time, Directors UK recommend making ample time to plan and rehearse intimate scenes. Intimacy coordinators may also be introduced. Again, no semi- or full nudity should occur in rehearsals and actors should be given the opportunity to express personal boundaries and stop filming at any time.

Interestingly, the guidelines also advise against using humour during such scenes. Instead, crew should use proper biological terms for body parts, should ensure sets are closed with no phones, and check everyone is okay after each take.

If taken on board, these guidelines should put an end to acts of intimidation, objectification, and assault. Just this week, Emilia Clarke spoke about her experiences on the Game of Thrones set. Appearing on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, Clarke explained how the nudity and sex scenes were "the catch" she didn't realise until reading the scripts.

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"But I'd come fresh from drama school and was like, approach this as a job. If it's in this script, then it's clearly needed," she continued, adding that Jason Momoa (who played Khal Drogo) helped her through a particularly challenging scene. Now though, she said she is "a lot more savvy with what [she's] comfortable with." But she admitted she'd "had fights on set before where I'm like, 'No, the sheet stays up,' and they're like, 'You don't wanna disappoint your Game of Thrones fans.' And I’m like, ‘F**k you.'"

Alicia Vikander also recently spoke to Harper's Bazaar about the importance of making sex scenes technical: "I probably did my first sex scene at 20 and it's always been technical, as it should be; it should never be anything but technical. I tell the crew it's a one-taker. That way, everybody on set is on point, because you have to get it done in one take. Like a dancer, we [choreographed it] the same way."

And Aisling Bea, star of Netflix comedy Living with Yourself, unwittingly showed how vital the likes of intimacy coordinators are on set. When filming a sex scene with co-star Paul Rudd, Bea noticed the nipple covers she was wearing had fallen off.

"The camera didn’t pick up that we needed to stop filming as we were trying to do the scene in one take to ensure it had good continuity, so [Rudd] was still in character and trying to protect my dignity from four other guys and a fella holding a boom mike, covering my boobs with his arms and elbows," she told Sunday World magazine.