How to Become an Intimacy Coordinator

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Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Navigating sex scenes on camera can be tricky—that’s where intimacy coordinators come in.

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What is an intimacy coordinator?

Intimate scene from 'Bridgerton'“Bridgerton” Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

An intimacy coordinator, or intimacy director, is a professional who facilitates, choreographs, and establishes boundaries for actors during scenes that involve intimacy, from kissing all the way to full-on sex scenes.

What does an intimacy coordinator do?

According to SAG-AFTRA’s “Standards and Protocols for the Use of Intimacy Coordinators,” this role involves:

  • Serving as a liaison between actors and production
  • Making sure that performers and behind-the-scenes personnel follow safety protocols
  • Helping the director realize their vision
  • Choreographing movement to make scenes feel more believable
  • Working to build a safe environment, which means clearly outlining expectations for actors during “hyper-exposed” scenes and making sure they give their “informed and continued consent”

“One of the crucial things an intimacy coordinator brings to the process is that 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,” says intimacy coordinator Claire Warden. “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].”

How are intimacy coordinators trained?

Intimate scene from 'Euphoria'“Euphoria” Credit: Eddy Chen/HBO

Those interested in intimacy coordination field can earn professional certifications, such as those offered by Centaury.Co, the Intimacy Coordinators Education Collective, Intimacy Directors & Coordinators, and the Intimacy Professionals Association, all of which are accredited by SAG-AFTRA. The union requires a mix of training and work experience in order to join their intimacy coordinator registry. 

To gain work experience, SAG advises aspiring intimacy coordinators to “demonstrate intent, develop your skill set, and network. Let people know about your interest in this new field by getting involved in industry discussions. Join relevant groups, attend networking events, establish relationships with employers, identify potential mentors for advice, and look for assistant or shadowing opportunities.”

What qualifications do you need to be an intimacy coordinator?

  • Passing a state and federal background check
  • Earning intimacy coordinator certification from a SAG-AFTRA–approved training program
  • Educating yourself about sexual storytelling, communication, modesty garments, consent, gender, sexual diversity, sensitivity, movement coaching, masking, and power dynamics from a SAG-accredited training program
  • Learning to understand union contracts that discuss simulated sex
  • Seeking mentorship from an established intimacy coordinator

Those interested in the field should also get experience working with actors and filmmakers. Many intimacy coordinators start out as actors themselves or begin as a stunt or fight coordinator. 

“Coming up as an actor, I mostly worked in theater,” Alicia Rodis says of her path to becoming an intimacy coordinator. “As I became a fight director, I was also working in theater, and then began working in stunts. And that was my transition into film: working as a stunt performer. It was during that transition that I also started working as an intimacy director.” This type of experience provides much-needed knowledge of the intricacies of working on a set.

How much do intimacy coordinators make?

Intimate scene from 'Sex Education'“Sex Education” Credit: Sam Taylor/Netflix

Intimacy coordinators earn minimum daily rates under SAG-AFTRA contracts. Since they get paid per job, their salaries may vary greatly. According to consent expert, sex educator, and intimacy coordinator Jean Franzblau, intimacy coordinators should earn between $1,100 and $1,450 per day.

Notable intimacy coordinators

  • Vanessa Coffey, intimacy coordinator for “Outlander” and “Happy Valley”
  • Lizzy Talbot, intimacy coordinator for “Bridgerton” and “The Witcher
  • Alicia Rodis, intimacy coordinator for “Watchmen” and “We Own This City”
  • Ita O’Brien, intimacy coordinator for “Sex Education” and “I May Destroy You”
  • Marcus Watson, intimacy coordinator for “Bros” and “American Horror Story”
  • Amanda Blumenthal, intimacy coordinator for "Euphoria" and "The White Lotus"

Insight on the position from a professional intimacy coordinator

Intimate scene from 'Insecure'“Insecure” Credit: Raymond Liu/HBO

Here’s an interview with Amanda Blumenthal, who founded the Intimacy Professionals Association and has worked on projects including “Euphoria,” “Pachinko,” and “Being the Ricardos.” 

How did you first get into the field?

I was working as a sex and relationship coach before becoming an intimacy coordinator. I also have a background in advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and in doing sex-positive education work. Plus, I come from a family of filmmakers, so intimacy coordination seemed like the perfect blend of [those] two worlds. When I heard about the opportunity to interview for an intimacy coordinator job on an HBO show, I applied immediately. I happened to get that job. [“Euphoria”] was the first show I worked on as an intimacy coordinator.

Do you think this position would have risen to prominence without the influence of #MeToo and Time’s Up?

Honestly, I think these movements created the social climate and awareness around issues related to consent and harassment that were a necessary precursor for this job. Without the culture shift that these movements spawned, I don’t think the industry would have been willing to embrace intimacy coordinators like it has.

What is the Intimacy Professionals Association?

IPA is a network of knowledgeable intimacy professionals that promotes safe, high-quality work on topics of intimacy, and we connect these professionals with productions. It includes intimacy coordinators; trans consultants; and expert consultants on a variety of topics related to gender and sexuality, including BDSM, kink, polyamory, and trans and gender-nonconforming identities. IPA also trains and certifies intimacy coordinators.

You started doing intimacy coordination early on. Were you ever stumped by the requirements of a particular scene?

I’m not sure I ever felt stumped by any particular scene, but there are definitely some scenes that have forced me to get creative when it comes to things like modesty garments and barriers. I’m always experimenting with developing new types of barriers for actors to use during simulated sex.

What can an actor do to ensure that they feel safe going into a scene that involves simulated sex and/or nudity?

I think the simplest and most effective tool any actor can implement when doing nudity or simulated sex scenes is to simply make sure they communicate clearly and proactively with their scene partner [or partners] and with the director about their boundaries. I always encourage actors to spend some time ahead of shoot day thinking about anywhere they don’t want to be touched or if there’s anything they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. Getting really clear with your own boundaries and then taking the time to talk about them with those you’ll be working with before the camera rolls can go a long way in making for a more pleasant experience during these sorts of scenes. As an intimacy coordinator, I help to facilitate these sorts of conversations, because without someone making a point of them, they often don’t happen.

Have you ever encountered directors or other creatives who have had doubts about how you might affect the power dynamics on set?

I find that a lot of the fears that directors have around working with an intimacy coordinator come from misconceptions about what we do. They’re often afraid that we are going to sanitize the sexuality or nudity components of a scene, or that we are going to talk actors out of doing something; but that’s simply not the case. As a matter of fact, I’ve worked with many actors who say they are more comfortable going further or doing more nudity in a scene if an intimacy coordinator is present, because they feel safer and more supported. We’re not only advocates for the actors—we’re also there to help the director achieve their creative vision.

What are the best and most difficult parts of this position?

I think the best part of doing this work is when you get to the end of a scene and the actors and/or director are just so incredibly grateful for the support you provided. The most difficult part is when you’re working with a director who just doesn’t want to participate in the intimacy coordination process.

Tell us about your agency that represents intimacy coordinators.

I represent several intimacy coordinators as their agent through IPA. Since I’ve trained all of the intimacy coordinators I represent and I know them very well, I am able to match productions with the [person who is the] best fit for their show. I also represent several consultants who are experts on a variety of topics related to gender and sexuality. The consultants I represent work with productions during the development stage of a project to make sure that the scripts authentically represent the communities and practices they are portraying and are free of problematic tropes. Some of the IPA consultants also do sensitivity training for crews and at the corporate level.

Author Headshot
Marci Liroff
Known for her work in film and television, producer, casting director, and intimacy coordinator Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world. Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light.
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