Sex Education Creators Hired A Dedicated ‘Intimacy Director’ To Help Coordinate Sex Scenes
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In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the seismic #MeToo movement that followed, the entertainment industry has had to take a long, hard look at itself in the mirror - using the crisis point to rethink how everyday business is conducted, with the hope that this may set a new precedent.
It's something the creators of Sex Education, Netflix's standout teen series, were conscious of - so much so, in fact, that they hired a dedicated 'Intimacy Director' to help them tackle those tricky sex scenes.
Speaking to LADbible, writer Laurie Nunn and director Ben Taylor explained that going into the project, they knew they'd need to tread carefully.
After all, while the show is, on the one hand, a blissfully nostalgic, light-hearted comedy set in a make-believe world of bright colours and varsity jackets, on the other it's also a sincere and poignant study of difficult relationships and sexual shortcomings.
Taylor told LADbible: "It's difficult when you break down scripts with actors, and especially young actors.
"You want to be able to say why you need that from them for that scene, and with nudity it's always a trickier conversation.
"But I think the way the scenes are written it's always that they're there for character, and there for comedy, so the aim is that there's nothing that ever feels gratuitous in the show."
Taylor and Nunn approached a woman called Ita O'Brien, who set up a company called Intimacy on Set, which provides 'services to TV, film and theatre when dealing with intimacy, sexual content and nudity'.
"When we first started making series one, when we met we said, 'I wonder if a character like this exists'," Taylor explained, referring to the possibility of someone who could help with how intimate scenes are conducted.
"After a bit of research we found this lady called Ita O'Brien who came in and met us. We told her what we were making and how we wanted to approach it, and the sort of duty of care of what is primarily a really young cast - and that there were some quite difficult and specific scenes written.
"She came to us very much on the same page, as she had a manifesto that was sort of it tied in with the #MeToo movement.
"It was something that a number of people had been working towards - the way she explained is that if you have a fight scene on a show you have a fight coordinator, and if you have a dance scene in a show you have a choreographer, and why do we not approach intimacy scenes like that?
"That's the role that she and her team fulfil, which they are there to help you do it really well, help you do it really safely and they take care of the cast and the crew before during and after those scenes and hopefully take away some of the fear and anxiety that can come up around shooting sex scenes."
Taylor explained that since hiring O'Brien for the first series, she's seen her line of work 'boom', and she's had to grow her team.
Taylor said: "She's at the forefront of it - she's now the busiest woman in show business.
"During this series she just wasn't always available, so she has since trained up other people.
"An amazing guy called David [Thackery] came on board and did several days with us.
"It was great, it was a big help to the new cast this year, but also continue support the old cast who were used to having Ita around."
Lovely to attend the screening for @sexeducation @NetflixUK last night. Congratulations to cast and crew! Had an amazing time as #intimacycoordinator with @ItaOB @IntimacyOnSet Very excited for you all to see it. #tv #sexeducation #film #netflix pic.twitter.com/G0sRO24wi0
- David Thackeray (@DavidThackeray1) January 14, 2020
While the first season grappled with everything from abortion to erectile dysfunction, Nunn's second series script builds on this by taking on some tough new storylines, including one in particular that echoes the #MeToo movement, which the writer said was 'sad' but 'really exciting' to create.
Without wanting to blow the load before you've had a chance to binge-watch season two, let's just say you're in for a treat as we return to Moordale High - where late bloomer Otis is hoping to master his newly-discovered sexual urges, Maeve and Aimee's bond is growing ever stronger and the school is in the throes of a Chlamydia outbreak.
Jean, meanwhile, develops an unlikely friendship with a certain headmaster's wife, and manages to bring the repressed housewife out of her shell.
Nunn told us: "I really enjoyed developing Mrs Groff, Mr Groff's wife. I think in series one she had about 10 lines, she was very in the background.
"I think we definitely got the sense she was this quite unhappy woman that we didn't really know much about, whereas bringing her to the forefront has been a real joy."
The second season of Sex Education is out now on Netflix, where you can also catch up on series one.