TV, Venue

The Role of Intimacy Directors

In the wake of #MeToo, this past decade has seen a rise of intimacy coordinators in the Film and TV industry.

Intimacy coordinators are just as vital a role in filmmaking as a director or producer – their role is to ensure the wellbeing and safety of actors involved in a sexually explicit scene. On top of that, they choreograph scenes of intimacy in the same way a professional would arrange a stunt or dance.

It’s great that the role is becoming commonplace on production sets as intimacy coordinators can help balance the power structures set in production.  Previously a director could easily abuse their powers and enforce their viewpoint on how a scene should be. Intimacy coordinators instead offer the space for actors to communicate what they do or do not feel comfortable doing when filming. We as viewers may forget that while sex scenes can be hot and heavy to watch, being naked and performing to a camera may be a vulnerable and awkward experience for an actor. Creating a relaxing atmosphere on set should be in the director’s best interest.  

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, who played Connell and Marianne in the hit BBC series, Normal People, had a very positive relationship with their intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien. Their work together helped to create sex scenes that were not only authentic in its representation of ‘first times’, but demonstrated consent in an informative AND sexy way. Sally Rooney, the author of the novel the series is based on, saw the sex scenes she wrote as “another form of dialogue” which revealed the beauty and connection between Connell and Marianne – I really think O’Brien as an intimacy coordinator honoured her writing on the screen.  

Ita O’Brien has also worked for the series I May Destroy You, a distressing story about sexual assault. Michaela Coel, who wrote and starred in the show, expressed her gratitude for O’Brien’s work: “thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe. For creating physical, emotional and professional boundaries, so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of power without being exploited or abused in the process.” The role of an intimacy coordinator must be sensitive when handling triggering topics, and O’Brien certainly achieves that.

It’s clear that O’Brien is in great demand for her field of work – she was even the first intimacy coordinator to be hired by Netflix for their acclaimed series, Sex Education. We as viewers can learn a lot from intimacy coordinators – their positive and healthy conversations around sex can be brought to our personal lives and relationships and make us more mindful.


About Author

Laura Patterson

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June 2022
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