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How intimacy coordinators are changing the way intimate encounters are filmed

How intimacy coordinators oversee romantic movie, TV scenes
How intimacy coordinators oversee romantic movie, TV scenes 08:08

In "From Here to Eternity," to "Body Heat," to "Sex and the City," sizzling scenes have become an accepted, and expected, part of what we watch.

But in the era of #MeToo and the "Time's Up" movement, there's a new focus on how these scenes are made.

Emily Meade played Lori Madison, a prostitute who becomes a porn star, on HBO's series, "The Deuce." But in 2018, as the show's second season started, she felt increasingly anxious before shooting explicit scenes.

Correspondent Rita Braver said, "Some people might say, 'Hey, this is what they sign up for, come on. They know what they're getting into.'"

Actress Emily Meade. CBS News

"Sure, but there's a safe and better way to do it, and a worse way to it,' Braver said. "I wasn't signing up to be an exploited porn star; I was signing up to play one."

"What was the response from the producers when you raised this?"

"I would like to think they would have responded this way no matter what the time was. But I think especially in this moment, they were nothing but open and receptive to that."

Meade says her request for help also came in the wake of criticism of the show for continuing to employ one of the series' co-stars, James Franco, after several young actresses accused him of sexual misconduct. Franco denies the charges, and neither Meade nor anyone on "The Deuce" said they'd experienced any problems with him.

But within a few days of Meade's asking, the producers hired Alicia Rodis. "I'm pretty sure no intimacy coordinator was brought on any mainstream show until I got on 'The Deuce.'"

Her job as intimacy coordinator is to learn the director's vision, and then confer with each of the actors, to map out every move during a sex scene.

Intimacy coordinator Alicia Rodis on set. CBS News

Rodis is a pioneer in her industry, one of the founders of Intimacy Directors International, established in 2015.  It all began when she and some colleagues who worked as fight scene directors started thinking about how sex sequences, which can be risky in a different way, were staged.

"That violent scenes we could choreograph, we could talk about. But when we got to intimate scenes, no one really knew how to approach it, or really have a common language about [them]," Rodis said. "And the interesting thing is, that we had already created our company well before #MeToo happened."

But the industry had not embraced the idea until "The Deuce."

Rodis even provides protective gear for actors on set: cups and modesty garments. In one "Deuce" scene with Meade and Ryan Farrell, when a hand went to his crotch, he was wearing a cup as a barrier. 

Braver asked Meade, "What are some of the ways in which you feel like [Rodis] made a difference?"

"Having somebody there to help with the communication part allowed me to be a lot more honest," she replied. "And in the end, it's not that I actually didn't do anything that was asked; it just didn't feel scary."

And if you are wondering whether intimacy coordinators inhibit sex scenes, Braver asked a director of several steamy "Sex and the City" episodes, David Frankel.

"I just worked for the first time with an intimacy coordinator on a show I'm doing now for Netflix, and it was an eye-opening, wonderful experience," Frankel said. "All the discomfort that I had felt in navigating sex scenes with actors, I no longer had to do."

Frankel directed films like "The Devil Wears Prada" (which had very tame encounters) and "Hope Springs" (where Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones definitely got into it) without an intimacy coordinator. But now, he said, he always wants to work with one.

Braver asked, "Some directors are saying, 'Hey, they're figuring out that now to make scenes even sexier.' Are you seeing that at all?"

"For sure," Frankel said. "The intimacy coordinator is standing watching at the monitor as we're rolling, and she'll say, 'Wow, we can make that hotter.' All those things combined make the intimacy coordinator spectacularly helpful."

There are infamous examples of films that pushed actors too far, like 1972's "Last Tango in Paris," once lauded for its sexual audacity. Actress Maria Schneider later charged that director Bernardo Bertolucci and co-star Marlon Brando made her feel abused and humiliated.

And some of that still exists today. 

Braver asked intimacy coordinator Clare Worden, "What are the kinds of things that you've heard from actors over the years that made them uncomfortable?"

"It ranges from the just really awkward and uncomfortable, to finding tongues in your mouth when you don't expect a tongue in your mouth, and it all goes all the way up the scale to, you know, full-on sexual assault," she replied.

But Worden said the climate is changing dramatically. Working for films and TV and on Broadway, she finds that more and more actors expect sets to be safe spaces: "This work, and this discipline, is understood and being requested, and becoming part of the actual standard of the industry," she said.

Just last month, the Screen Actors Guild announced new guidelines calling for intimacy coordinators "to be used for any scenes involving nudity or simulated sex."

And young actors like Martin K. Lewis and Eboni Flowers told Braver, it's not just protection for women. 

Intimacy coordinator Clare Worden rehearses with actors Eboni Flowers and Martin K. Lewis. CBS News

Lewis said, "It gives me the freedom to be open about the boundaries I have, or the fears that I have working with my partner."

Flowers added, "I imagine, at least, I mean, in the age of #MeToo, having protection for that navigation of the experience is really important for the guys in these equations, too."

And as for the actor who started it all? Meade said, "Overall conversations have been so much more honest and open, and I think that's helped things get changed."

Braver called Emily Meade the patron saint of the intimacy coordinator movement.

"Thank you! But I like that idea!" she laughed.

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Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. 

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