SAG-AFTRA Reveals Qualifications and Protocols for Intimacy Coordinators

SAG-AFTRA Generic - Getty - H 2020
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The actor's union requires a federal and state background check for individuals in the role, as well as the completion of a "shadowing or mentorship experience."

Nearly half a year after SAG-AFTRA announced it would standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators, the actor's union revealed requirements for workers in the role and a set of protocols for projects using them, from pre- to postproduction.

The document, which covers only two pages and can be downloaded on SAG's website, requires the following experience, expertise or training for intimacy coordinators, experts in helping actors perform in sensitive scenes that require nudity or are sexual in nature: awareness of onscreen sexual and intimate storytelling; communication; power dynamics; movement coaching and masking techniques; knowledge and collaboration regarding the use of modesty garments and barriers for safety, comfort and sexual health; navigation of on-set culture and understanding of on-set etiquette; understanding of guild and union contracts that affect nudity and simulated sex; movement and safety in facilitating the physicality of scenes; consent; bystander intervention; anti-harassment; mental health first aid/trauma; and gender and sexual diversity or sensitivity.

The union also requires intimacy coordinators to undergo a federal and state background check and have completed a "shadowing or mentorship experience" as well as the ability to execute protocols on different sets.

The role's responsibility in preproduction, the union adds, includes meeting with production leaders to determine, precisely, the extent of nudity or sex simulation required, communicating that to actors and determining whether they provide consent both initially and during rehearsals. The intimacy coordinator will also work with assistant directors, props and makeup to ensure that the costumes, barriers and prosthetics reflect everything in an actor's nudity rider.

On-set responsibilities comprise ensuring scenes follow SAG-AFTRA guidelines and close-set rules; being available to directors and assistant directors on consent, choreography and safety issues; ensuring that performers provide consent throughout the scene; and protecting minors according to union rules. In postproduction, intimacy coordinators will be available to performers to answer questions and concerns and guarantee that the final cut reflects agreements in nudity riders and contracts.

“These guidelines directly address the problem of sexual harassment on sets,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White said in a statement. “This is a home run for our members and the entire industry. Having intimacy coordinators on sets where simulated sex and other forms of intimacy are present, better protect SAG-AFTRA members and all other professionals involved in such scenes." 

SAG-AFTRA says it developed the policies in concert with experienced intimacy coordinators and individuals from Intimacy Directors International and Intimacy Professionals Association. "I’m excited about the release of SAG-AFTRA’s guidelines for intimacy coordination because I think it signals to the industry just how important it is to do what we can to make sets safer and to protect performers. Additionally, I think that these guidelines strike the right balance between describing the roles and responsibilities of intimacy coordinators while still allowing for flexibility from show-to-show so that the process can be customized to work with each unique production,” Intimacy Professionals Association founder Amanda Blumenthal adds.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, which first gained momentum in 2017, intimacy coordinators have gained prominence on major sets: HBO is staffing all sex scenes with intimacy coordinators, Netflix's Sex Education and Glow use them, as does Amazon's Electric Dreams.