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How do I make actors comfortable during sex scenes?
July 19, 2008 11:31 PM   Subscribe

How do I make actors comfortable during sex scenes?

I'm about to start directing an adult TV series that features nudity and simulated sex. I've never dealt with this as an actor or a director before.

I know the basic ideas of closing the set and having robes handy, but I really want to make sure I cover all the bases and be as obliging and high-class as possible. Most of the nude scenes involve series regulars and I don't want to scare any of the performers away.

Does anyone have any experiences from the set? Any do's or don'ts?

Lessons from pornography will of course be welcomed, but let me reiterate that this is NOT porn. I'm not filming actual sex acts.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
 
Fortunately, your actors probably have dealt with this before. Talk to them. :)

Your job is to make it look real (or how we think reality ought to be). This may require the actors to be able to portray intimate and loving familiarity with each other in one scene, furtive guilt in another scene, coercing and being coerced in another scene. As you well know, in every scene they are in they have to simultaneously (a) be totally aware of the camera and the set and the director etc; (b) totally ignore the camera and the people behind it. From that point of view, why would a sex scene be any different? Whatever you need to do to make that work, that's what you do.

Unfortunately, behind-the-scenes nude pictures sell. There's a whole parasitic industry devoted to that sort of crap. As I understand it "closing the set" and so on is primarily for the actors' "meta-comfort", ie for their comfort as their celebrity/media selves, and secondarily for their comfort as the actors performing the scene. As the characters they are just doing acts that they in-character intend to do.

In summary, it's going to be something you'll need to work out with the actors, with their agents, with the camera operators, with the rest of the crew, and with studio management who (I've been told) have a bad habit of assuming that clearing the set of unnecessary personnel does not apply to them.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:06 AM on July 20, 2008


One more thing:

but I really want to make sure I cover all the bases and be as obliging and high-class as possible

sounds like you're on the right track already.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:07 AM on July 20, 2008


Actors should be comfortable with this. You shouldn't worry too much.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 2:36 AM on July 20, 2008


Use as small a team as possible. The smaller the audience, the more intimate the performance.
posted by Baud at 2:43 AM on July 20, 2008


Actors are professional humans.
Talk with them quietly and honestly and you'll get what you want.
Everything else is commentary.
posted by Dizzy at 3:52 AM on July 20, 2008


i remember reading an interview with some actress who had to do a sex scene and was very nervous about it. the director's solution was for everyone to work naked--him, the cast, and crew. that might be a bit much, and if you're working with erotic film actors anyway, they are probably ok with it anyway.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:20 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


On a rather big set, we made fabric and tripod "rooms" right on the set that the actors could go to between takes, instead of all the way back to the dressing rooms. Also hair and make up were normally on a different floor, for nude scenes we had them work right on the set. Also see merkin.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:41 AM on July 20, 2008


Have a couple of weeks of minimally-clothed yoga classes for yourself and the principals with a great instructor.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2008


Having filmed far too many bed scenes, I've vowed to never write another one again, I may have a solution...

Choreograph it to death. The nervousness comes from them not knowing what you want and what to do. Let them know as clearly as possible and even go through the motions yourself with one of them or with someone else. You should be able to give them the shots and the movements on paper beforehand, THAT'S how much planning you should have done before the scene. If they know that you've done the work, they'll want to do their part. Leave room for improv if you can, but don't expect it. Time is always short.
posted by CarlRossi at 9:23 AM on July 20, 2008


Keep a handle on your own nervousness. I've done near-nude scenes in theater, and a calm director makes a big difference. Take a deep breath, laugh at how weird your job is, and don't do that thing where you frantically don't know where to put your eyeballs.
posted by desuetude at 10:18 AM on July 20, 2008


Ensure privacy and make sure all the technical details are worked out well in advance. You owe your actors discretion and professionalism.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:51 AM on July 20, 2008


While it may not work for all actors and all types of scenes, I've read several interviews with actors about their sex scenes where they mention a great deal of free booze on set. You obviously wouldn't want to tell someone to get lit. But you could just make it available as part of whatever normal craft services set-up you have.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2008


From my very limited experience I'd recommend lightening the mood if possible. As in so many situations, a bit of (appropriate) humor can go a long way toward making all involved feel more comfortable.
posted by zoinks at 2:24 PM on July 20, 2008


Tight underpants for the male actor, so any "semi" is er... restricted and can't get up and say hello.
posted by A189Nut at 4:54 PM on July 20, 2008


Tight underpants for the male actor, so any "semi" is er... restricted and can't get up and say hello.

The weird stuff I share on the internet. My fellow actor did this, actually with two pairs of underwear. He reported that it was both successful and unsuccessful. Yes, he was, uh, not protruding, but it also kept him hyper-aware of the level of confinement, which was distracting. In retrospect, he wished he just worn regular-tightness briefs or a speedo to keep things from bouncing around. On my part, it's not as if I wasn't aware that he was not semi-erect -- it is pretty predicatable physical reaction to rolling around on a bed half-naked, after all. In rehearsal we exchanged a sheepish look, a shrug, and a chuckle, which pretty much kept us from being embarrassed or busting out laughing during performance.
posted by desuetude at 7:30 PM on July 20, 2008


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