It’s a role that is fast becoming an integral part of stage and screen productions. Intimacy coordinators ensure scenes of an intimate nature are carefully choreographed to create a safe working environment for performers in film, TV and theatre.
Vanessa Coffey is one of the UK’s leading lights in intimacy coordination. This month, Vanessa will lead a two-day online course, Introduction to Intimacy Coordination, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland that’s designed for directors, producers, actors and movement practitioners who wish to learn more about how intimacy coordination works and how best practice in this area can be incorporated in all aspects of production. That course is now sold out with a waiting list applied for future dates.
Vanessa, who is Scotland’s first intimacy coordinator, also lectures on the BA Acting degree programme. Her recent credits include Sky’s I Hate Suzie and Wolfe, BBC Scotland/ Black Camel Pictures’ Float and Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga and she was one of three Intimacy Coordinators who advised on and contributed to the Directors UK guide: Directing Nudity & Simulated Sex – Creating a Safe Environment for Daring Work. It’s the first set of guidelines for work of this nature within the UK.
Vanessa is also a co-founder of The Intimacy Practitioners’ Guild (IPG), which is dedicated to ensuring there are suitably qualified intimacy practitioners working within the media, arts and entertainment industry across the EU.
WHAT IS AN INTIMACY COORDINATOR?
Intimacy coordinators are trained professionals who help performers and productions navigate highly sensitive scenes that feature nudity and simulated sex. They are involved throughout the entire production process, liaising between all parties to ensure there is an explicit mutual understanding and agreement of what is required for the scene.
WHAT DOES INTIMACY COORDINATION INVOLVE?
“It provides a framework and a language,” says Vanessa. “A fight scene will be carefully choreographed to look realistic and keep the actor safe but there has been no such thing for a scene involving nudity or intimacy.
“Moments of sensual proximity need to be handled with the same degree of professionalism and be appropriately choreographed, otherwise there is a chance for either a poorly executed scene or the potential for improper behaviour.
“Intimacy choreography helps shape a scene that requires any kind of sensual proximity. Intimacy coordination may do the same, but is generally more focussed on liaising between all parties to ensure there is an explicit mutual understanding and agreement of what is required for the scene.”
WHY WAS THE ROLE OF INTIMACY COORDINATORS INTRODUCED?
The role of intimacy coordinator was pioneered by American Alicia Rodis, a stunt performer and actor, who was hired by HBO to work on The Deuce, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and set in the porn industry in the early 1970s.
Following the #MeToo movement, the performing arts industry has seen a rise of this role on sets and in theatres, with directors and producers being keen to ensure a safe, respectful and appropriate environment for actors to work within.
“The role is becoming increasingly important and I hope that it becomes industry standard,” says Vanessa, who contributed to new guidelines, developed by Directors UK, for scenes featuring nudity and simulated sex, the first of their kind in the UK.
WHAT WILL INTRODUCTION TO INTIMACY COORDINATION SHORT COURSE INVOLVE?
Participants will look at the Directors UK’s guidance on directing nudity and simulated sex, as well as talking through approaches to scripted material. It will also explore why it’s a ‘coordination’ role, focusing on the collaborative nature of the work.
The group will have the opportunity to discuss issues associated with ‘intimate’ work from different perspectives: what is it like for an actor to rehearse and perform intimate scenes? How can a director or producer get the content they need while being as supportive as possible with the actors?
The course also examines:
- Explore what is meant by ‘intimacy’.
- Learn what being an intimacy coordinator involves, and why the role was introduced.
- Look at how an intimacy coordinator works with actors, directors and production teams.
- Discuss key issues related to this type of work and how they can be approached.
ABOUT VANESSA COFFEY
Vanessa, who is originally from Sydney, Australia, was a corporate lawyer before she re-trained as an actor. She lectures on the BA Acting programme at RCS and her experience as a working professional, educator, intimacy coordinator and movement director means she negotiates sympathetically between actors, directors, casting directors and crew.
“My experience between acting, movement directing and teaching allows me craft a scene to achieve the desired outcome, while keeping performers safe – my main goal and purpose as an Intimacy Coordinator.”
LISTEN: Vanessa explains how sex scenes are being filmed during the pandemic.
READ: The Guardian
Keira Knightley speaks out on past experiences on set that wouldn’t happen now thanks to the implementation of Intimacy Coordinators on set. Vanessa is interviewed in the article.
READ: Harper’s Bazaar
Vanessa talks about the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the entertainment industry and her work as an intimacy co-ordinator.
READ: The Independent
Vanessa’s piece on the effect the Covid-19 epidemic has had on the film and television industry.