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MeToo, Hollywood & the rise of intimacy co-ordinators

Written by Film

Ever heard of an “intimacy co-ordinator”? Nah, me neither. Here’s why:

The Weinstein case recently came to an end follwing a lengthy trial and allegations that have been in the news for years. It was my first exposure to the injustices and toxicity of Hollywood – and whilst I’ve seen a lot more come to light since then, I can only say I’m relieved Weinstein has 23 years in prison. At 67 and with health issues, that could well mean a life sentence to a man who has caused so much pain and suffering for so many women. This intensely high-profile case seems to have triggered a mass change, with others sharing their story in what now feels like a safer Hollywood, and the two New York Times reporters that broke the original Weinstein story even releasing a book – She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement – to give a fuller understanding to more people about the misconduct. But why has it taken so long for the film industry, both in the US and UK, to realise where they’re going wrong? Does it really take an arrest to trigger change – and what does that change imply?  

Alicia Rodis wants intimacy co-ordinators to become the norm on all Hollywood sets. Image:IMDB

After Weinstein’s sentence, ‘intimacy coordinators’ are undeniably going to become some of the most important people on set. The job title might sound somewhat convoluted, but the US actors union SAG-AGTRA has already issued regulations that sex/intimate scenes should be monitored by intimacy coordinators on-set. Essentially, they ensure everyone involved in these scenes are safe and comfortable with what is happening. They describe them more as a series of ‘muscle-movements’ that are coordinated and choreographed, so nothing unexpected or unwelcome can occur, as has so often unfortunately happened before. 

But why has it taken the film industry so long? Alicia Rodis (a full-time intimacy co-ordinator and co-founder of Intimacy Co-ordinators International) thinks the fact that stunt co-ordinators have existed for so long, yet intimacy co-ordinators are only relatively new, isn’t good enough: “when it comes to intimacy and nudity, which is another high-risk situation, there was no consideration at all. It is shocking”. Whilst some productions are more concerned about intimacy co-ordinators slowing the production down, money certainly shouldn’t be considered more important than an actors physical and mental wellbeing. Emilia Clarke stepped forward to speak about her experiences on Game of Thrones, where she had no idea nudity would be required until after she had signed the contract for her role:

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke has spoken candidly about her discomfort with the way nudity was done on the show. Image:IMDB

I’d come fresh from drama school, and I approached [it] as a job – if it’s in the script, then it’s clearly needed. I’d been on a film set twice before, and I’m now on a film set completely naked with all these people, and I don’t know what I’m meant to do and I don’t know what’s expected of me, and I don’t know what you want and I don’t know what I want”. 

It’s taken so many women to step forward and bravely share their stories about men who have wrongly abused their power; Asia Argento, Lysette Anthony, Lucia Evans, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette are among 50 women that made allegations against Harvey Weinstein, according to a Guardian article back in 2017. It’s taken so many years to reach this point – intimacy co-ordinators have to become the norm to avoid such a horrific abuse of power to ever happen again.

The next step for the film industry? Inclusion riders. In 2019, a year after Francis McDormand’s legendary Oscars speech on the importance of inclusion riders (which you can watch in full below), the New York Times reported that “it is hard to identify more than a handful of productions that have adopted the rider outright”. With the coronavirus setting back multiple productions, maybe 2021 will be the year we see intimacy co-ordinators and inclusion riders on every major set. Weinstein might be in jail, but make no mistake: we’re still fighting.  

Last modified: 19th March 2020

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