Sex, Consent and Rock & Roll: Why We Need Intimacy Coordinators for Music Videos
From sex on a kitchen countertop in Justin Timberlake’s TKO to the entanglement of nearly-naked models caressing each other in Halsey’s You Should Be Sad, intimate content is not a rare find in music videos. But how are their creators approaching this material?
After a year of training, in 2020 I was certified by Intimacy for Stage and Screen, a UK-based organisation supporting the growing need for Intimacy Directors and Coordinators. Intimacy Coordinators are professionals who facilitate and choreograph intimate scenes for the screen. This includes nudity, simulated sex, kissing, intense physical touch, and much more. Our training is comprehensive and rigorous and we work with consent-based practice to ensure the best quality content is made while upholding the wellbeing of everyone involved. Luckily, we’re being brought onto TV and film shoots more frequently (i.e. Teniece Divya Johnson on FX’s Pose, Lizzy Talbot & Enric Ortuño on Netflix’s Bridgerton, Jennifer Ward-Lealand on Māori Television’s Ahikāroa).
However, most music video shoots are yet to incorporate Intimacy Coordinators. Choreographer and Intimacy Coordinator Sara Green has used Intimacy methods when working with dancers and actors, but most Choreographers don’t have this training. Intimacy Coordinators Canada has made headway in Canada’s music video industry, but we haven’t seen the same progress around the world.
Without Intimacy Coordinators present, there is – at the very least – discomfort and awkwardness, and many actors have some horror story about an intimate scene (i.e. Henry Cavill getting an erection while filming for The Tudors). In the worst instances, workplace sexual harassment occurs under the guise of the creative process, as infamously occurred during Last Tango in Paris when Maria Schneider “felt a little raped” after an unplanned simulated sex scene. The #MeToo movement exposed that these abuses are widespread. While TV and film companies are implementing changes, there’s a chance that music video shoots are being left behind. We need a new standard, for the sake of our creatives’ safety and to generate dynamic and detailed material.
I spoke to Intimacy Coordinator Adelaide Waldrop about working with British singer-songwriter Anna B. Savage on her music video for Chelsea Hotel #3. “I helped translate [director] Molly Daniel’s vision into specific notes for Anna’s physical movement. With such a close shot, all the physical storytelling had to be contained within Anna’s face, neck, shoulders, and hands. We were really specific about every sensation in order to maintain the clarity of her character’s sexual journey towards the ultimate climax.”
We discuss how her work on Chelsea Hotel #3 was an unusually enjoyable experience when it comes to Intimacy Coordination. “Firstly, the crew and creative team largely consisted of female, trans and non-binary queer artists. But also, everyone was totally on board with my role and responsibilities on set, and I was met with absolutely no resistance or scepticism which is still unusual for this job, and particularly unusual – I’d imagine – on other music video shoots.”
The brilliant nuance, specificity and variation in the music video is a testament to the creative input that Intimacy Coordinators can have, and Anna B. Savage’s Instagram shout-out to Adelaide proves why Intimacy is so beneficial to artists. She thanks Adelaide for “making the shooting of this potentially scary/overwhelming vid for me such a joy.”
Maintaining wellbeing for everyone on set, elevating creativity and artistic vision, and making everyone proud of the work that they are doing, Intimacy Coordinators should be a staple of any music video with intimate content. Let’s hope we see a new normal for music video shoots in 2021 and beyond.
Robbie Taylor Hunt is a Director and Intimacy Director & Coordinator trained and certified by Intimacy for Stage and Screen.
Image from Yahoo