How Intimacy Coordination Is Changing the Way We Make TV for Good

Video Source: Youtube

The following interview for our Spring 2021 BackstageFest, a virtual celebration of the year's best and buzziest TV, was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming interviews and to submit your questions.

From ensuring actors are comfortable in intimate scenes to working with the director on the choreography of a sex scene, intimacy coordinators do it all. Senior staff writer Casey Mink spoke with four practitioners who hold this position—Claire Warden, Amanda Blumenthal, Teniece Divya, and Sasha Smith—about the importance of their job and how it can become more routine in the industry. 

Blumenthal values meeting each performer wherever they are in their acting career.
“Every actor is different and the background every actor is coming in with is going to be vastly different. There are performers we work with who don’t have actor training, so they may not have much craft themselves yet. It’s really important to meet each performer where they are in their process, and work with them based on how they like to work. Some performers like choreography, others like to improv more. As long as we’re having conversations and making sure everyone’s styles jive with each other to create in a way that still creates this container of safety, then from there, we can figure out how the intimacy coordinator can support this process.”

To Warden, the advantage of an intimacy coordinator is the ability to bring out the best in the actor.
“One of the crucial things an intimacy coordinator brings to the process is they are the person who is there to think about all the things that need to be considered when we are going to do a scene like this. A director has so much to think about and deal with, so I think the real details and the place to soundboard ideas and visions off might sometimes get lost. That opportunity to have someone who understands this genre of artistic expression, to be able to help clarify vision, and realize the vision around actors’ boundaries [is unique]. Everyone breathes a little easier and relaxes more knowing there’s someone they can turn to. In that state of confidence, we can get really powerful work.”

Intimacy coordinators can help actors feel less anxious, Smith says.
“So much anxiety lives in the unknown. The more we can bring clarity and specificity to the work, [the more we can] relieve that. We still have this container of safety, but as much clarity as we can bring through the storytelling [is helpful]. All of the details still live in our bodies, just because we’re not using words doesn’t mean we’re not saying something, so having professionals there that are specifically looking at that has been tremendously helpful in storytelling overall.”

Though the field is improving, Divya says there is always more work to be done.
“We’ve seen a lot of artists speaking out in theater and we’ve done a lot of work, but we still need to continue to make this field intersectional. We need to continue doing the work with antiracism using restorative justice and nonviolent communication. We are responsible for advocating for all directors, all actors, and all producers. It’s imperative that we continue to change what we look like as an industry, specifically meaning more Black and global industry practitioners.”

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