Canada's Actors Union Updates Guidelines for Nudity, Simulated Sex Scenes

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ACTRA's best practices go beyond intimacy coordinators to protect actors during nude and simulated sex scenes from auditions and closed sets to the edit suite.

Canada's actors union, ACTRA, on Friday unveiled "best practices" to protect actors in scenes involving nudity, intimacy, simulated sex and sexual violence.

The Canadian guidance includes the use of intimacy coordinators as already recommended stateside by SAG-AFTRA. But the ACTRA guidelines, hammered out in the wake of the #MeToo movement, also cover auditions and nude, intimate and simulated sex scenes from preproduction through to postproduction.

That includes auditions, wardrobe fittings, contracting, closed-set protocols and restricted access to footage of sex scenes in edit and post suites. "Scenes with nudity, intimacy, simulated sex and sexual violence, especially while they involve stunts, are difficult content for performers and should be done efficiently and professionally," the union states in its best practices document.

"Excessive takes, needlessly prolonged shots and demand for unscripted actions may be indicators of an improper purpose," the protocols additionally warn. The ACTRA guidelines for pr-production call for no auditions in hotel rooms or private homes during casting and strict requirements and expectations from directors and other creative on set during sex scenes while the cameras roll.

During rehearsals, ACTRA additionally calls for performers to be notified beforehand if "they are working in a scene with another performer who will be nude or partially undressed." And total nudity should not be required at auditions or interviews, and performers "shall be permitted to wear 'pasties' and a G-string or its equivalent."

During actual film and TV shoots involving nudity, simulated sex and sexual violence, the cameras should roll only on closed sets, with preplanning and walk-throughs to ensure privacy and security for workers. "Before performers disrobe, production should confirm the set is closed and all non-essential persons have been removed," the ACTRA guidelines state.

And no performer should be coerced on set by a director to disrobe for additional nudity beyond what had been initially agreed with written consent. "Verbal assurances, for example, 'it's necessary to get a shot,' 'it won't appear in the frame,' 'those shots won't be used,' or it'll be edited in post,' are not acceptable," the ACTRA guidance states.

And during editing and postproduction, footage of intimate scenes should be marked for "restricted access" and should be handled in closed and secure facilities. The ACTRA resource, which does not supersede union agreements with North American producers shooting film and TV projects in Canada, aims to promote worker safety.

The actors union said it took steps to protect performers from harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence after "ACTRA Toronto members came forward with stories of harassment" in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

The best practices document also follows complaints that the country's professional guilds and unions did not adequately protect performers against sexual harassment before the outcry raised during the #MeToo movement by multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against Hollywood producers, directors and other creative players.

Canadian actress Mia Kirshner (The L Word) was among the most prominent figures condemning ACTRA, saying it did not protect her against an "ordeal" with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and that actors still fear speaking out against sexual predators to avoid putting their careers in jeopardy.