It wasn't long after deciding to become an Intimacy Coordinator that I found out about Side Order, which was filming here in Portland, OR and still in the casting process. Several actors who had auditioned mentioned it to me, and said that they had mentioned me to the casting agent and the director. I emailed both to introduce myself and find out if using an Intimacy Coordinator was something the director was interested in. Luckily for me, she was!
Working on this project from pre-production through principal photography was absolutely a win for me. Going into my first project as an IC we knew that it could possibly bring up some past traumas and might even determine that being an IC wouldn't work out for me based on those past events. But once we began, it joyfully morphed from fear to empowerment.
Being on the other side of the camera and intuitively knowing exactly how to bring Ashley's vision to life was an incredibly freeing experience for me personally. I felt confident in both my ability to choreograph the intimacy for the camera and to be able to hold the actors in a safe space as we worked through the scenes. Both the cast and the crew were wonderful, professional, and so much fun to work with. Instead of reliving my trauma, I found joy and comfort in this new process that the Intimacy Coordinators have created. I kept thinking, "Why didn't I think of this before?!!"
When the #metoo movement began it empowered women who had never before spoken about their own personal stories of harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace. For the women of Hollywood, it was the catalyst that brought down the house and created space for real change in the industry.
I left Hollywood in 1996 after a series of events that made it impossible for me to continue working in the industry. I will explain them all in another post. But one of the main reasons I left was for the simply that I didn't feel safe on set. I had built my resume up enough to get noticed, but for every job that I accepted I was forced into situations that both mentally and physically put myself at risk. There wasn't a single job that I can recall when I was not harassed or assaulted, or both. It wasn't until #metoo started circulating the internet that I comfortably came forward with just a few of my own personal stories.
In October of 2018, well after #metoo was in full swing, The Rolling Stone magazine came out with an article about Intimacy Coordinators, and the announcement that HBO was the first production company to claim that they would use IC's on every production from that point on. When I read this article it was like a lightening bolt had struck! I absolutely knew with every fiber of my being that this was what I needed to be doing. Not only did I know it, when I shared my idea with my family and friends it was immediately apparent that they felt it too. This was my opportunity to be the change that I had so longed for in the industry.
Soon after announcing my intentions to only a couple of local actors, I was offered the chance to IC on a short film, so I reached out to Ita O'Brien, an IC in the UK who connected me to Alicia Rodis the IC for HBO here in the US. Once we spoke on the phone and she heard my background, she invited me to train with her, which I have been doing for the past few months. This week TV Guide posted an article where they interviewed both Ita and Alicia about the work they are doing and the creation of the role of Intimacy Coordinator. It is our hope that very soon the industry will recognize the importance of having an Intimacy Coordinator on every shoot that requires intimacy for the actors. At the end of my first short film working as an IC one actress came up to me and said, "I will never work without an IC from now on!".
"Outlander has always been one of my favorite books - if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it! When Starz announced that it was turning it into a series in 2014 the book fans went wild. It was during the beginning of the first season when I discovered just how many Outlander fans there were, the Facebook groups were huge. It was also during those first few weeks of the show that I discovered the audience had absolutely no idea how simulated sex scenes were filmed. Fans were having heated discussions about the actors engaging in actual intercourse during the filming. I was absolutely appalled, but decided to use this as a teaching moment.
I began by creating a post that offered an explanation of how simulated sex is constructed for film or television. In less than an hour I had hundreds of replies and multiple requests to create a separate group where women could ask me some more intimate and delicate questions they had about sex on film, or about sex in general. Since that day, my secret Facebook group has been going strong and I have openly and honestly discussed my film experiences with the members.
In the early '90's when I began filming simulated sex scenes it was considered erotica, a somewhat taboo sub-genre of late night cable television programming. It was often advertised to look like pornography, and some refer to it as "Soft-porn". But let me tell you, there is a huge difference between simulated sex and actual pornography, and herein lies the problem with the audience's misconceptions. What was once a taboo sub-genre is now quite acceptable, seen frequently on television and often in the most popular shows, such as Outlander.
Simulated sex requires the actor to convincingly pretend to be having actual sex while their genitalia is covered (privacy patch or "cock-sock") and, ideally, not making direct contact at all. That was how it was supposed to be, but Hollywood inadvertently created a huge problem, no one was discussing HOW to do this! Actors were almost always left to their own devices and more often than not, asked to remove their coverings for the camera. This was not only emotionally damaging to actors, it was also physically dangerous. Pretending to have sex with no physical barrier to protect actors from bodily fluids or penetration became the norm, which eventually led to the horror stories coming out of Hollywood attached to the #metoo movement.
#metoo and the Intimacy Coordinator... to be continued.