How the Actors’ Union Is Trying to Keep Talent Safe During Sex Scenes

SAG released new guidelines for Hollywood’s ”intimacy coordinators”

Since the start of the #MeToo movement, Hollywood has been struggling to keep up with a rapidly changing environment. On Wednesday, after almost three years of attempting to address such issues as on-set abuse during scenes involving sex and nudity, and trying to eliminate the casting couch, SAG-AFTRA has released guidelines regulating the recent rise of “intimacy coordinators” on many productions.

One of the earliest discussions of the need for on-set chaperones began in 2017, when actress Samara Weaving abruptly quit Showtime’s SMILF, accusing showrunner Frankie Shaw of violating SAG-AFTRA rules when Shaw allegedly allowed the filming of a sex scene to be displayed on monitors despite the fact that Weaving had requested a closed set, with limited crew and outside monitors turned off.

Shaw has denied any wrongdoing.

In February, 2018, SAG released a code of conduct codifying actors’ rights when performing simulated sex scenes. The union quickly followed up in April with Guideline No. 1, forbidding auditions to be held in hotel rooms or private residences.

That October, actress Sarah Scott was filming a pilot for the show Mogulettes when, she claims, co-star Kip Pardue became aroused during the filming of a sex scene and placed her hand on his crotch. She further accused Pardue of inviting her to his dressing room, where she says he then masturbated in front of her.

“This isn’t a #MeToo thing,” he allegedly said. “I’m not your employer. It’s not like I can fire you.”

Pardue apologized for putting Scott’s hand on his crotch, but denies the rest of her account. SAG found him guilty of misconduct in July.

In the wake of these complaints, and others, several studios—including HBO, Netflix, and Amazon—have hired intimacy consultants to monitor what goes on in adult scenes on some or all of their shows, and to step in if lines are crossed. But apparently the consultants still need a little more vetting across the industry.

Today’s new SAG rules mandate that intimacy consultants meet a battery of qualifications, including passing federal and state background checks, and do things like make sure performers give consent throughout sex scenes and, after shooting is done, make sure that edits conform to performers’ nudity riders.

“This is a home run for our members and the entire industry,” the union’s national executive director David White says. “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.”

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